(Published in the Op-Ed page, Florida Today, 5/24/2021)
DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE ABOUT SYSTEMIC RACISM
By Marshall Frank
Americans are often made to believe that systemic racism is widespread throughout our nation, particularly on the part of law enforcement agencies. It has become a constant drumbeat. Purveyors want the public to believe that black people, in particular, are the victims of such attitudes.
Not only is that grossly exaggerated, it’s simply untrue. Not in 2021. If anything, police today go through a plethora of training and education to ensure such biases do not exist. Yet, the media and some leftists relentlessly invoke fervent assertions that cops are programmed as monsters who seek out blacks for unfair treatment or physical abuse. Some holdovers from the old days, may privately harbor ill-feelings toward blacks, (or other minorities). But to allege that police are systemically biased across America is absurd.
Cops are among the finest public servants in America. I’ve been immersed in law enforcement for sixty years, half that time an active duty cop in Miami-Dade, Florida, where I served for 30 years, working Homicides 16 years. Police officers, white, black, male and female, or whatever, are all breathing, feeling human beings with needs and responsibilities like all citizens, while raising families and caring for the oppressed.
Number one priority on a cop’s list is to come home every day in one piece from the streets – mentally and physically. Police officers pray daily hoping they will not have to engage in any violent confrontations. Thirdly, police (for the most part) are immaculately professional, and protective, as they inch closer to a lifelong pension at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
There are 800,000 cops in America. It is their job to run toward, not away from, the most dangerous of scenarios to save lives and enforce laws to keep us safe. That’s not a choice, it is required. They risk their lives, not just for paychecks, but to protect you and me, and people of all nationalities and colors. On rare occasions, a cop will screw up. But it is not systemic.
The 911 system reports roughly 240 million calls a year are dispatched for police, fire and medical needs. Of those, 12 million (or five percent) involve potential dangers for police. That’s a huge number of volatile conditions in a single year. In 2020, 119 officers lost their lives in the line of duty, mostly from firearms. This doesn’t include 145 police officers who died from contracting Covid19 on the job.
The last thing any cop wants to do is participate in any form of violent action. Sometimes, there is no choice.
I know about systemic racism. It was around me in early childhood growing up in segregated Miami, until well into my police career. When hired, racism prevailed in Miami-Dade. And, it was definitely systemic. Less than one-percent of the department’s police were black. Rest rooms, drinking fountains and restaurants were unwelcoming to blacks. They weren’t the only victims of racism. Some Miami Beach hotels displayed desk signs that printed, “Gentiles Only.”
But changes occurred. Eventually, many folks worked jobs shoulder to shoulder with others and schools were integrated. Police agencies also changed enormously. The notorious beating death of Arthur McDuffie by a ring of Miami-Dade cops in 1979 ignited the positive changes that followed. The department modernized rules for hiring and training, with emphasis on treatment of minorities. In the early 1980s, blacks became important members of management teams in police agencies throughout America. Today, 44 percent of the police chiefs amid the fifty most populated cities are black. Systemic racism has evolved into a 180 degree turnaround.
No cop wants to hurt anyone, black, white or purple. But it’s true that blacks, in general, are disproportionately victimized by violence far more than whites or Latinos. According to the FBI, 89 percent of blacks killed in 2018, were killed by other blacks.
Racists? I don’t think so.
Better to say: All Lives Matter.
Marshall Frank is a retired police captain and the author of 15 books. www.marshall frank.com