Strange things happen in Westport. I know, because I office there.
Enough strange things happen that I had taken to calling my neighborhood “The Westport Autonomous Zone,” WAZ for short, after Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ. As the ethnically sensitive will understand, when the denizens of CHAZ decided to rename their fiefdom the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest, or CHOP, I prudently stuck with WAZ.
One day in May, I heard screaming outside my office, which fronts on Westport Road. I thought nothing of it. At least a couple times a day, someone will scream either at a friend, a passerby, or sometimes just at the moon. When the screaming persisted, I went downstairs to check it out.
What I saw was unnerving. A policeman was kneeling on the neck of a large woman as she struggled to get free. Meanwhile another officer was trying to corral her little boy, who was running about wildly, understandably upset by his mother’s predicament. This was an unusual sight, even for Westport.
My first thought, I most confess: thank God she’s white. Otherwise, given that the police officer was also white, her arrest might well have led the evening news. Not knowing what the woman had done to deserve her fate, I chose not to kibitz as onlookers tend to do now to provide narration for the video they feel obliged to shoot.
The policeman restrained the woman with his knee for upwards of five minutes as he waited for back-up. When the back-up arrived, the new officers slipped a Hannibal the Cannibal mask over the women’s head, suggesting she may well have bitten the officer earlier in the encounter. If so, I missed that part.
On the average day in America, law enforcement officers arrest 28,000 people. This woman would have been one of 560 arrested—or 2 percent—that chose to resist. Coming from a family of police officers, I can assure you police do not welcome these encounters. Something bad usually happens to the perp, to the cop, or to both. Increasingly, something really bad happens to the community because no such arrest looks good.
The arrest of 25-year-old Deja Stallings certainly did not look good. The pregnant Stallings reportedly grabbed a Kansas City officer while he was trying to arrest a local activist. Stallings appears to have resisted her own arrest, which ended with her being forced to the ground with a knee lightly placed upon her back.
In that Stallings was black and the officer white, the incident promptly resulted in a series of protests including a camp out in front of City Hall, calls for the arrest of the officer in question, and the firing of Police Chief Rick Smith, arguably the best chief Kansas City has had since Clarence Kelly.
Protesters seem to be fully indifferent to the larger consequences of their action on the city in general and the black community in particular. So, unfortunately, do the media. Some background is in order. In August 2014, Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson, Mo., shot and killed Michael Brown.
Although Wilson was cleared by a grand jury and eventually by President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice, activists and their media enablers had no use for due process. They declared Wilson a murderer and proceeded to destroy Ferguson.
More Africans Amer-icans are likely to have been murdered in Kan- sas City than will have died of COVID-19. And yet activists want to defund the police? Why not defund the hospitals while they are at it?
Shortly after the incident, I spent an afternoon with Wilson in a modest St. Louis home he had to buy through a proxy. He and his wife took the death threats seriously, especially since they had a newborn. While the 28-year-old Wilson pushed the baby in a swing, we discussed the future that he no longer had.
After Ferguson, police everywhere got the message. They knew they, too, could face termination, criminal charges and death threats, even if they did everything right. Understandably, they began to pull back from actively policing black communities. The criminal element understood the dynamics and moved into the void.
The results of the so-called “Ferguson effect” were catastrophic. The murder rate in the United States had been declining steadily from 2006 to 2014, the net effect being 3,000 or so fewer murders in 2014 than in 2006.
After Brown’s death in August 2014, the trend reversed itself. In 2015, the homicide rate rose nearly 11 percent, its steepest one-year increase in a half-century. The trend continued in 2016 with an 8.5 percent increase over 2015. In sum, nearly 3,000 more Americans were murdered in 2016 than in 2014, as many as 2,000 of them black.
Missouri really took it on the chin. Statewide, the murder rate nearly doubled from 2014 to 2017, making it the most dangerous state in the nation for African Americans—and it wasn’t cops who were killing them.
If the Ferguson effect was bad, the Minneapolis effect has been far worse. As I write this Kansas City, Mo., has already passed the 2017 record 151 homicides, and there are more than two months left in the year. By contrast, the more populous Johnson County has had seven homicides, none within the past three months.
Last year, 77 percent of the Kansas City homicide victims were black, and there is no reason to believe that the numbers will be less this year. In fact, more Africans Americans are likely to have been murdered in Kansas City than will have died of COVID-19. And yet activists want to defund the police? Why not defund the hospitals while they are at it?
Given the mayhem, Chief Smith reacted with alarm to the city’s proposed 11 percent budget cut. “To make that number,” he wrote on his blog, “we would have to reduce about 400 employees, and the remainder would have to take two-week furloughs.”
The Kansas City Star editorial board responded by calling Smith’s blog post “more than a little hysterical.” But what do they care? Most of the board members, last I checked, live in Kansas.
At this point, I can’t say I blame them.