Stunned. Shocked. Horrified. Sickened.
These are just a few of the words that people used to describe how they felt as they watched the news coming out of Chicago Tuesday evening. In the Auburn Grisham neighborhood, 15 people were injured (some critically) in a drive-by shooting. The victims were 10 women and 5 men and ranged in age from 21-65.
Sadly, the number of times this has happened in recent years might have made the country collectively numb to such news. But this time was different. This time the targets were those attending a funeral. It was a time of grieving. A time of loss. A time that many consider sacred. But, alas, this event informed the nation that nothing was sacred. Nothing would stop those intent on doing harm from doing so.
Police say at least 3 individuals, driving a stolen vehicle, drove by the funeral shortly after 6:30 on Tuesday evening and opened fire on the crowd. After several attendees returned fire, the suspects drove on and crashed the vehicle a little further down the road. At which point, they all fled in separate directions. Victims were taken to five area hospitals including Advocate Christ Medical Center and the University of Chicago Medical Center.
At this point, no arrests have been made but Police have questioned one person of interest.
This happened after police received a tip off that such an event might occur. According to ABC news, two police cars were stationed in the vicinity with a tactical team a short distance off as a precaution. According to David Brown, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, “Every funeral with any evidence of any type of gang affiliation is treated the same way.”
This horrific event punctuates what had already been a rough year for the city when it comes to crime. According to the Chicago PD shootings in the city are up by 47% over the same period as last year with a 51% spike in murders. More than 100,000 of the city’s residents are affiliated with a violent gang of some sort. These are divided and subdivided into so many groups that it can be difficult to keep track of.
Chicago is not isolated in this phenomenon either. Most major cities in the U.S. are experiencing spikes in violent crime. While there are many reasons for this, there is at least one common thread that runs across all of the cities that are seeing this. That thread is a widespread distrust and disregard of the Police that seems to have been ignited by the death of George Floyd at the hands (or rather the knee) of a police officer. This is not only true of the civilians in these neighborhoods, but it is true of the political leadership as well.
In many large cities, the mayors and city counsels have caved to political pressure from angry mobs protesting (and sometimes rioting over) Floyd’s death. In response, many cities have chosen to defund their police department or at least are in the process of considering it. The best example of this is America’s biggest city, New York City, where a billion dollars has been stripped from the NYPD and crime is now running out of control.
Even in cases where funding hasn’t been stripped, political leadership has still made it clear that they do not morally support the police.
For his part, President Trump has come down on the side of the police and law and order. He has even gone far enough to say that if the mayors and governors do not take control of their city streets, he will do it for them with federal law enforcement. On Monday, in the Oval Office, President Trump said, “New York and Chicago and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore…we’re not going to let this happen in our country. We will have more Federal law enforcement. That I can tell you.”
We’ve already seen some of this in the city of Portland where law enforcement from the Department of Homeland Security assisted in quelling riots on Friday. In the wake of that, accusations of unidentified federal agents snatching people off the street have surfaced along with other outrages.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired back at the President on Twitter, “Under no circumstances will I allow Donald Trump’s troops to come to Chicago and terrorize our residents.” Ironically, this Tweet from the Mayor came at almost the same moment as the funeral home massacre.
So, we come to the question; should the President send federal law enforcement into these cities to maintain order. I think the answer is a resounding no. I say this for several reasons.
First, it sets a bad precedent. By sending federal law enforcement to maintain law and order now, Trump sets the stage for future Democratic Presidents to enforce their own pet laws. Those of a conservative mindset can find this table turned on them real quick when this as-of-yet-to-be-named President chooses to use federal police to enforce his (or hers) draconian gun laws, or unreasonable environmental regulations, or (dare I say it) national quarantine orders.
The second reason it’s a bad idea for Trump to send in the feds is that it gets local officials off the hook. Already too many cities are toying with the idea of defunding the police. Too many already have. The results are obviously devastating even at this early stage. If these cities come to realize that the federal government will show up and take care of policing issues for them, then they will find further incentive make this move, or (in the case of those that already have) expand it. Local governments need to take responsibility for their problems. Local citizens need to hold their local officials accountable. They need to solve the issues that are plaguing their cities and they will not do so if the Federal Government bales them out.
Finally, sending federal law enforcement into these cities would be a bad idea from an electoral stand point. This takes two forms. The first of which is that by sending in these officers, President Trump opens himself up to a line of attack and criticism that he wouldn’t otherwise be subject to. We’ve already seen it in Portland. Democrats have compared these federal officers to Hitler’s Brown shirts and called them Trump’s private enforcement squad. They have said unidentified troops are snatching people off the street and throwing them into unmarked vehicles and driving away. Most, if not all, of this is obvious hyperbole. But that doesn’t matter, it will be used by Democrats in the upcoming election to the fullest extent possible and if Trump expands this policy to other cities, then the potential for more criticism and more attack along these lines extends with it.
Now I can hear some of you saying that the Democrats are going to blame Trump no matter what. If he doesn’t do anything to quell this unrest, then they will blame him for not taking responsibility. If he does send in federal officers to assist, then they will say he’s being a dictator. And you’re right. But most people recognize that law enforcement of this type has always been a local issue in this country. If Trump doesn’t send in the feds, then criticism along those lines will be recognized for the political opportunism that it is more easily and blame will eventually circle back to where it rightfully belongs, the mayors and city counsels.
Another way this policy is bad from an electoral standpoint is that it eliminates, at least in part, an example of what liberal governance results in. The vast majority of these big cities have been under unchallenged Democratic rule for decades. The results of this one-party rule serve as a glittering example that Republicans can use every election about just what awaits the country under the Democrats. These cities routinely have the worst schools, worst infrastructure, worst housing problems, highest taxes, highest crime rates, and most corrupt officials. The best argument for conservative governance, is the example of unrestrained liberal governance in these cities. If Trump, or any Republican leader, bails these mayors out, then that example is lost, at least in part.
Returning to the funeral massacre. Yes, it was and is a tragedy that the nation ought to shed tears over. It may seem cold hearted to use this as an opportunity to have a political debate, and it is. I would certainly counsel that city leaders, state leaders, and even national leaders wait till the high emotions have simmered down before making any policy changes based on what we’ve seen in Chicago and the other cities that are currently experiencing high crime. But if and when that time comes, we would do well to remember who’s been in charge of these areas. We would do well to remember what policies have been in place. And we would do well to remember what the results of those leaders and policies have been.