Last Saturday night, two Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers were shot while making a traffic stop on the city’s Southside. Officer Ella French, 29, three years on the job, was killed and her partner, a six-year veteran, was critically wounded. As Americans, we mourn and pray. But many of us also feel a growing outrage, knowing that if decent Americans don’t come together to change the narrative now, the attacks on police will continue and may increase.
Police are the “thin blue line” that separates civilization from chaos — this has never been clearer. But the men and women who maintain law and order are under attack, and the line is eroding.
Across our country since the beginning of the year, according to the National Fraternal Order of Police, more than 185 officers have been shot and 35 were killed by gunfire. Ambush attacks have increased 126 percent over last year, with at least 52 so far this year. In Chicago, before the past weekend’s tragedy, 38 CPD officers had been shot at — 11 were shot since January. Seventy-nine officers were shot at or shot during 2020 — a 500 percent increase from 2019. Violent gang members and criminals are enabled, emboldened and motivated to kill cops. This is a deep crisis.
So, how did we get here?
For seven years, anti-police activists, progressive Democrats and some in left-leaning media organizations have put forth the myth that American policing is “systemically racist.” Unfortunately, this narrative has been publicly disputed by too few Republicans and even fewer police leaders. We are seeing the results: Police officers are being killed.
The common thread is the falsehood that the United States is an illegitimate, inherently racist and irredeemable nation, and that the police are racist defenders of this evil order. What happens as a result? Dehumanizing hate results in violence and, to some people, justifies attacking or assassinating the police. Demonizing the police as racist oppressors and murderers puts a target on the back of every officer in America.
This lie has been the motivating factor behind the “defund the police” campaign, which has been enthusiastically supported by many Democratic mayors, city councils and lawmakers — with disastrous results. Not only have funding and manpower been stripped away from some police departments, but in New York, the “defund” mentality has resulted in anti-police, pro-criminal legislation eliminating qualified immunity and abolishing cash bail. Such radical measures can cripple the ability of police to effectively perform their jobs and make it more dangerous by allowing violent criminals to remain on the street.
The final diabolical strategy of the left’s “war on cops” has been the orchestrated takeover of state attorneys’ offices by “progressive” prosecutors who won’t prosecute many misdemeanor crimes. These prosecutors apparently do not see their role as protecting law-abiding citizens, seeking justice for victims of crime, and punishing criminals, but rather as officials who can help to dismantle the system from within. Thousands of felony cases and warrants have been dismissed in Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and other cities. When laws are not enforced for low-level crimes, criminals and gangs are emboldened to pursue violence — in some cases, to kill cops.
Violent criminals and gang members operate without fear if the risk of incarceration and prosecution is minimal. In Chicago, Cook County Prosecutor Kim Foxx has undermined the work of CPD officers by dropping more than 25,000 felony cases. Instead of being held accountable, criminals can roam Chicago’s streets, victimizing citizens and, as we saw this past weekend, attacking police.
This is a time of prayer and mourning — Americans of goodwill are praying for the family of Officer Ella French and for the full recovery of her partner, as well as for his family. We pray for all of our nation’s police officers, that they may return home safely to their families every day. But we must do more than pray. Americans must connect their hopeful prayers with action and stand together to defeat the left’s pro-criminal policies and anti-police propaganda. The war on cops is a war on all of us.
Maurice Richards is the former chief of the Martinsburg Police Department in West Virginia. He served as chief from 2015 to 2020 after a 24-year career with the Chicago Police Department. He is a proponent of community policing strategies and police-school-community partnerships.