Washington Post's Balko Blasts Conservative Media's "Fact-Free Fearmongering" Over A "War On Cops"
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The Washington Post's Radley Balko called out Fox News and other media outlets for pushing "fact-free fearmongering" about a nationwide "war on cops."
Conservative media have consistently worked to undermine and smear the Black Lives Matter movement by blaming them for the recent deaths of police officers in Illinois and Texas, even labeling the movement a hate group that inspires violence against police.
In a September 10 opinion post for The Washington Post's The Watch blog, Balko explained that so far this year, there is no evidence to support claims of a "war on cops." Writing that 2015 is on track to have "the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades," Balko also outlined that "the number of police has generally gone up, while the number of officers killed has generally gone down" and that this year is on track to be "the second safest year for police ever, after 2013," which had an "abnormally and historically low" number of police fatalities. Balko went on to suggest that the media's obsession with hyping this false narrative is creating a dangerous environment for both police and communities across the country:
Any murder of a police officer is a tragedy. (As is any murder of a non-police officer.) But media outlets, politicians, and police advocates do real damage when they push this false narrative about a rising threat to law enforcement. First, this sort of propaganda weights the public debate and discourse. When there's a fictional "war on cops" blaring in the background, it becomes much more difficult to have an honest discussion about police cameras, police militarization, use of lethal force policies, police discipline, police transparency, training, police accountability, and a host of other issues. Of course, that's precisely the point.
But there's also a much more pernicious effect of exaggerating the threats faced by law enforcement. When cops are constantly told that they're under constant fire, or that every interaction with a citizen could be their last, or that they're fortunate each time they come home from the job in one piece, it's absolute poison for police-community relations. That kind of reminder on a regular basis would put anyone on edge. We're putting police officers in a perpetually combative mindset that psychologically isolates them from the communities they serve. Incessantly telling cops that they're under fire can condition them to see the people with whom they interact not as citizens with rights, but as potential threats. That not only means more animosity, anger and confrontation, it can also be a barrier to building relationships with people in the community -- the sorts of relationships that help police officers solve crimes and keep communities safe.
An over-emphasis on and obsession with a "war on cops" would be dangerous and counterproductive even if it were true. But by every imaginable measure, it just isn't true. When this false narrative comes from police organizations and their supporters, it's at least somewhat understandable. When it comes from politicians, it's grandstanding and demagoguery. When it comes from media organizations, it's journalistic malpractice. And it's almost certainly getting people killed.