Rogue cops are bad. So are rogue citizens.

Violent criminals and bad actors need to be off the streets if we want a good society for all.

The Liberal Patriot’s banner is Norman Rockwell’s famous depiction of FDR’s equally famous “Four Freedoms” address from 1941: freedom of speech; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. Although Roosevelt intended this last one as the basis for a new international approach to war and disarmament, freedom from fear is critical to liberalism’s conception of a good society at home. 

Most political theory throughout history centers on the state’s role in promoting and ensuring social order and eliminating chaos and violence for people. The Four Freedoms itself served as the basis for future international human rights frameworks, including Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which clearly states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person," (emphasis added).

A person’s guaranteed liberties and freedoms don’t amount to much if they constantly step outside their door—or send their kids out to play—full of fear that they or their family members may be shot or attacked by someone. 

Yet sadly, this is the case in far too many places in America today, such as in my hometown of Baltimore where 10 people were killed just last week, and 14 severely injured, including a 14-year old girl shot in the leg in broad daylight. Baltimore has 85 homicides in just the first few months of this year, many of which will never lead to prosecutions or jail-time for anyone. None of these deaths came at the hands of the police.  

You would think this would be an overarching concern for leaders in any city. But the current Mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott, could only muster up this mush in response:

“We as a city have to look ourselves in the mirror,” Scott said during the Thursday afternoon press conference. “The stupid, petty disputes have to stop leading to someone getting shot, especially our children.” 

That’s it? Look ourselves in the mirror and criminals and violent actors with guns will just go away? How about prosecuting them, locking them up and locking down their guns, and making sure they aren’t in a position to harm innocent people anymore until they’re ready to reenter society in a non-violent manner?

This comes in the same week as Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly patted themselves on the back for overriding Governor Hogan’s vetoes of a number of policing reforms—some good ones, like limits on no-knock warrants and night home raids, and some potentially dumb ones with unintended consequences, such as altering the use of force standards for when police can intervene to stop crime.  

Every bad cop who violates his or her duties and responsibilities should be held fully accountable by law. But the amount of time and media attention that goes into police reform far exceeds the amount of effort dedicated to concrete actions by leaders to produce safe and secure neighborhoods for all people at a time of rising murder rates and violence in our cities. Unfortunately, a lot of police reform activism is just political theater by elected officials that overlooks the source of most threats to human life—fellow family members, violent neighbors, or organized gangs of criminals killing people with impunity. 

Bad cops who use deadly force or unwarranted violence on innocent people erode community trust and violate people’s rights. So do gun-wielding criminals who go unpunished after shooting someone or robbing an old person or carrying out carjackings that result in good people dying. Effective political leaders should be able to put in place policies to deal with both problems. Broadcasting that you are no longer going after certain classes of criminals certainly doesn’t help, as Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby recently pronounced. And neither does tearing down police budgets when Americans across party and racial lines say they would feel safer with more police patrols in their neighborhoods, not less safe.

Police reform is only one part of the public safety equation. Tackling the perpetrators and sources of violent crime is equally, if not more important, for the personal freedoms of all Americans. 

If grandstanding politicians won’t do what is right and necessary to protect our cities, liberal patriots should take the lead to ensure that all people live in safe and secure communities—with “freedom from fear” as President Roosevelt promised long ago.

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