Last week in the Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute posited that we are in the throes of a “new nationwide crime wave.” She blamed the chorus of police reform advocates and critics of police brutality since the Ferguson protest last summer. She claimed the criticism and efforts to hold police accountable were causing cops to become disillusioned, cynical, and afraid to do their jobs.
Mac Donald’s piece itself was incredibly cynical. It tied into a growing backlash against police reform from law enforcement groups, police unions, and the law-and-order crowd, and has circulated widely among those groups. Implicit in her argument is the idea that the average police officer is incapable of doing his job properly if other police officers are getting criticized, rebuked, or held accountable for misconduct. It’s hard to think of another profession in which holding bad actors accountable evokes such mass anger and resentment among others who do the same job — not even in the military, where war zone soldiers face much more of a day to day threat than your average cop.