After a year in which we’ve witnessed far too many politicians and activists work overtime to undermine the reputations and capabilities of law enforcement in America, our nation stands divided and decimated by violence.
My hometown of Milwaukee is a good case study in this tragedy. From 2019 to 2020, the number of homicides in the city doubled from 97 to a record-breaking 189. Milwaukee’s trendline is in keeping with cities like Chicago, which saw an increase of 50% in shootings and murders in 2020 over 2019 totals, and New York, where shootings increase by 97% and murders jumped by 44%. Across America, major cities recorded a 33% increase in homicides in 2020.
This past Sunday evening, we all got a glimpse of what this violence looks like to those who live amid it in Milwaukee. A part of the city that is no stranger to crime, but hardly a war zone on a normal night, was alive with the sound of gunfire. Police estimate that roughly 300 shots were fired in the exchange. This is open combat on American streets.
Leftist politicians that govern the cities most affected by violent crime are quick to blame guns, while also alluding to the dispiriting effects of seemingly endless COVID-19 lockdowns (that they have ordered). But some of the immediate causes of this recent uptick in violence are more obvious.
For starters, whether or not they use the term “defunding,” major cities are cutting police forces. In the case of Milwaukee, in 2020 the force was reduced from 1,864 to 1,804. The mayor and common council then cut it by another 120 officers in 2021. All this occurred as bullets flew across the night sky, and as children were murdered.
Adding to Milwaukee’s mess, Police Chief Alfonso Morales – regarded as an effective and caring leader – was removed from his role by a corrupt Fire and Police Commission in August of 2020, amid a surge in protests and violence. Meanwhile, over the past year, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisolm refused to prosecute 60% of the felony charges requested by police in his jurisdiction.
With this chaos as the backdrop, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers was quick to blame a cop for a shooting in Kenosha when he issued a statement on Aug. 23, 2020 reading: “While we do not have all the details yet, what we know for certain is he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or in our country.”
Evers’ aspersions encouraged the Kenosha riots that occurred that night and in the following days. Ultimately, after a formal investigation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the officer was “found to have been acting within policy and [was not] subjected to discipline.” A use of force expert – personally selected for the job by Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) – also conducted an independent evaluation of the Jacob Blake shooting, and concluded that the use of force was justified. Following this, Gov. Evers never issued an apology for besmirching law enforcement or encouraging lawlessness.
But the words and actions of Evers did their damage – just as the words and actions of so many others did their damage over the past year. Communities burned, violence raged, and law enforcement was vilified.
Milwaukee, a city of about 600,000, is a sad case study for what is happening all across our nation. The surreal and alienating conditions of the poorly thought out COVID-19 lockdowns have allowed leftist politicians to sew further dissent in our nation.
The American left, with the help of allies in the mainstream media, has worked to sully the moral character of the law enforcement professionals that serve our communities each and every day. In doing so, they have curtailed the ability of cops to do their jobs – and, ultimately, have also put the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society in even greater danger of experiencing violence in their communities.
Recently, the nonprofit I lead, No Better Friend Corp., gathered a number of law enforcement professionals, along with hundreds of attendees, to a “Backing the Badge and Building Bridges” event in the Milwaukee area to unite law enforcement and the communities they serve to find a better path forward. As those in attendance listened, law enforcement speakers made it clear that the real solutions to this plague of violence include better schools, less drugs, intact families, and economic growth. They are correct in saying this, but none of these problems have a quick fix. Given this, we need to take many practical steps forward to immediately reduce violence before the underlying problems can be addressed.
It’s time to call on district attorneys across our nation to do their job in prosecuting crimes; to call on city councils to fully fund police; and to call on governors, and mayors, and every other elected official to form special law enforcement units to temporarily augment local departments (as needed) in order to put an end the raging violence. Put simply, this is what it will take to stem the violence until we can get our society back on track.
Kevin Nicholson is president and CEO of No Better Friend Corp., a conservative public policy group in Wisconsin. He is a combat veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps (Iraq, 2007, and Afghanistan, 2008-2009) and was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @KevinMNicholson.