It was an iconic moment in the coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol: CNN anchor Don Lemon wept at video footage of police officer Daniel Hodges being crushed in a door by the mob. Officer Hodges survived but suffered headaches for a week.
If Lemon has cried over previous or subsequent attacks on officers, an informal search of the record does not reveal it. The rest of the media were similarly — and uncharacteristically — moved by the Jan. 6 assaults. The New York Times and other outlets ran long reports on the emotional trauma experienced by the Capitol defenders, none of whom was lethally injured in the attacks. In what might be a first in modern media history, the lieutenant who killed the unarmed Ashli Babbitt was even given a sympathetic interview on NBC, after half a year of media inattention to the seemingly unjustified shooting. The interracial aspect of that officer-involved killing (black officer, white victim) was not deemed noteworthy, unlike officer-involved killings where the races are reversed.
On Dec. 16, 2021, Police Officer Keona Holley was assassinated sitting alone in her patrol car at 1:30 a.m. in southern Baltimore. Travon Shaw, 32, a violent felon awaiting trial on a gun possession charge, shot her from behind, according to his accomplice — striking Holley twice in the head, once in the leg and once in the hand. A week after the ambush, Holley was removed from life support and died, leaving behind four children and a stricken police force.
A bystander filmed the aftermath of the shooting and posted the video on Instagram. He can be heard urging viewers not to report the assault, since the police harass members of the community.
Much of the media seem to have taken his advice. The New York Times has not run one story on the murder, though it has published in the interim several long features on police shootings and alleged police racism.
The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post have covered the incident, but elsewhere, the coverage has been thin to nonexistent.
And yet the murder of police officers is, on a per capita basis, a far more significant problem than fatal officer shootings of civilians. And the killing of police officers by black civilians is a far more significant problem than the killing of unarmed blacks by police officers. As of Nov. 30, 2021, 67 police officers had been feloniously killed by criminals. Conservatively using the 2019 national headcount of 697,196 sworn officers (now undoubtedly lower), 9.6 officers per 100,000 officers were feloniously killed through November.
As of Dec. 27, 2021, four unarmed black people have been slain by police officers since the start of the year, according to The Washington Post. The Post’s “unarmed” category includes violently resisting crime suspects. Those four unarmed black people represent .000008 percent of the nation’s nearly 47 million self-identified blacks, or less than 1/100 of one person killed by a cop per 100,000 blacks.
Historically, black males have made up over 40 percent of cop-killers nationwide, though black males are 6 percent of the population. Conservatively estimating that 40 percent of the cop-killers this year have been black, 26 officers have been killed by a black suspect in 2021, for a rate of nearly four cops per 100,000 officers killed by black civilians. A police officer is about 400 times as likely to be killed by a black suspect as an unarmed black is to be killed by a police officer.
Murders of police officers were up nearly 56 percent through the end of November compared with 2020, a year that already saw surging anti-cop violence in the wake of the George Floyd race riots. Like the assassination of Baltimore officer Holley, those killings get almost no attention from the national media, since they occur disproportionately as part of the daily gun violence that afflicts inner cities and that is also beneath media notice.
Yet such officer killings strike at the very heart of our civilization. A society that turns its eyes away from attacks on law enforcement (except when they confirm a favored media narrative) is a society that is heading for anarchy. The crime wave of the last two years suggests that we are well on our way to just such a disintegration of law and order.
Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.”
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