Changing it from seeing police as the problem to seeing them as the solution to the problem is crucial, as this article from City Journal explains.
Donald Trump vigorously defended law enforcement during his presidential campaign. He pledged to restore order to the nation’s cities—where violent crime is surging—and to reinvigorate the rule of law. His appointment of conservative Republican senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general was a strong signal that Trump’s words were more than campaign rhetoric. Now that the Trump administration and the Sessions-led Justice Department are up and running, where should they focus their efforts?
The most immediate goal of the Trump administration should be to change the elite-driven narrative about the criminal-justice system. That narrative, which holds that policing is lethally racist, has dominated public discourse since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. In response, officers are backing off of proactive policing, and violent crime is rising fast: 2015 saw the largest one-year spike in homicides nationwide in nearly 50 years. That violent-crime increase has continued unabated through 2016 and into the early months of 2017. A Trump administration official—perhaps Attorney General Sessions, or the president himself—should publicly address the question of what we expect from police officers: Do we want them to be proactive and to try to stop crime before it happens? Or do we want them to be purely reactive, responding to crime only after someone has been victimized? The administration should explain that data-driven, proactive policing made possible the country’s 20-year, 50 percent violent-crime decline that began in the mid-1990s.
In February, Sessions made a good start in turning around the false narrative about policing, addressing the National Association of Attorneys General. Sessions warned that the nation’s violent-crime decline is now at risk, while acknowledging that the crime increase is not happening in every neighborhood. Yet we are diminished as a nation, he said, when citizens “fear for their life when they leave their home.” (To be blunt, the violent-crime increase has hit almost exclusively in black neighborhoods. Nine hundred additional black males were murdered in 2015 compared with 2014, bringing total black homicide deaths that year to more than 7,000. It is a marker of the perversity of elite rhetoric about race that both Trump and Sessions have been fiercely attacked as racist for pledging to save black lives.)
Sessions noted that officers have become reluctant to get out of their cars to conduct discretionary stops and other “up-close” preventive policing. The administration should go further: it should convey the charged, hostile atmosphere in which officers in many urban areas now operate, thanks to the hatred spread by the Black Lives Matter movement. Gun murders of officers increased more than 50 percent in 2016, led by the targeted assassinations of cops.
A frontal assault on the dominant narrative about a racist criminal-justice system will require laying out the stark racial disparities in criminal offending and victimization. The public has been kept in the dark for decades about how vast those disparities are: blacks commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, for example, and die of homicide at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. Lifting that veil of ignorance is necessary to explain why officers operate more actively in minority neighborhoods—in order to save lives. The public must also understand that it is law-abiding members of high-crime communities themselves who beg the police to maintain order, and that such public-order policing was central to the now-jeopardized 20-year crime decline.
The federal government will be vigilant against abusive policing, the administration should say, but it will not deem police departments and police officers biased for proactively fighting crime.
The federal government’s practice of slapping years-long consent decrees on police departments calls out for reform. There is zero chance that civil rights attorneys in the federal government know more than police departments do about how to fight crime constitutionally and successfully. Yet the Obama administration opened 25 “pattern-or-practice” civil rights investigations, based on the false notions that police bias is widespread and that federal lawyers are qualified to recommend effective police practices. The Department of Justice is currently enforcing 14 consent decrees with local departments, which grew out of such investigations. At a minimum, the Trump administration should publish data on how much the Obama-era investigations and consent decrees have cost those departments.