Buffeted on one side by a surging crime rate, and by growing public hostility on the other, the police find themselves besieged and bloodied. More than 120 police officers have been murdered this year in the capital city alone. Across the nation, violent gangs, acting with breathtaking brazenness, target police in ambushes and assassinations, stealing their weapons and killing police who refuse to take bribes.
Such is the situation in Venezuela, a country where “violence is so commonplace that only the most spectacular of crimes (murders of celebrities, at funerals and in broad daylight) seem to make the news,” reports the Miami Herald. In that country, the expression “War on Cops” is not mere hyperbole on the part of petulant police unions and their media allies.
If police in the U.S.A. had suffered violent on-duty deaths at the same rate as their Venezuelan counterparts during the first ten months of 2015, “it would be the equivalent of 6,572 police murders,” the Herald points out. As of November 19, 112 U.S. police officers have died in the line of duty this year – fewer than the number of Venezuelan police who have been killed in the Greater Caracas area during the same period. Of the on-duty police deaths in the U.S., only 43 were the result of criminal violence. Notwithstanding the incessant media attention to the supposed “war on police,” line-of-duty deaths are down three percent in 2015 – and the decline would have been more pronounced were it not for a substantial increase in the number of fatal automobile accidents.
Available statistics similarly dispel the claim that violent crime is spiking because of the so-called “Ferguson Effect” – a growing timidity on the part of police officers to confront violent criminals out of fear that their actions would be captured on video, provoking social media outrage and public protests. This has supposedly led to a “spike” in violent crime nation-wide.
The violent crime rate is up in Baltimore (which was severely over-policed under future Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley, thereby alienating citizens who might otherwise cooperate in efforts to combat violent crime), and in Chicago, where police have been anything but timid. However, there is no substantive evidence of a dramatic increase nationwide. In New York City, for example, the past summer was the safest in years, according to the NYPD.
The situation is dramatically different in Venezuela.
“In recent weeks, gangs have ambushed police stations with hand grenades and machine guns,” reports the Miami Herald. “Patrolmen are being hunted for their motorcycles, body armor and weapons.”
“The police want to wage war against us, but they can’t,” boasted a man identified as “Enrique” and claiming to be the leader of a criminal gang. “Our weapons are meaner.”
In October, according to Enrique, his gang killed a police officer who had arrested a member of the gang and refused to release him in exchange for a bribe. “He didn’t take the money and our guy is still in jail so he had to die,” claimed Enrique. “It was just revenge.”
“To be a policeman in this country right now requires a great degree of heroism,” insists Jesus Eduardo Lamas, assistant director of police in Miranda State. “The criminals are far better armed than we are…. They even have access to weapons we’re not allowed to carry.”
The population at large would probably balk at using the term “heroism” to describe Lamas’ police force. Like police everywhere, law enforcement agencies in Venezuela serve the interests of the political class, and any protection they provide to persons and property is incidental to that primary mission. Extra-judicial killings and other abuses by Venezuelan police are commonplace.
In Venezuela, the boundaries between the military and domestic “security forces” have always been indistinct. In 2013, Nicolas Maduro, the country’s increasingly dictatorial left-leaning president, enacted a “Secure Homeland Plan.” This was coupled with a disarmament law that resulted in nation-wide firearms confiscation raids and the destruction of an estimated 84,158 “illegal” weapons. This did nothing to disarm the criminal element, but instead enhanced its ability to prey on an increasingly terrorized population: There were 24,764 homicides in Venezuela in 2013, as compared to 13,472 in the much larger United States during the same year.
Citizens of Venezuela – including any conscientious police officers who actually try to uphold the law — are caught in the crossfire between an emboldened criminal underworld, and an overtly criminal political “over-world.” That country is actually experiencing the kind of pandemic criminal violence described in the lurid and self-pitying rhetoric of police unions in the United States.
One popular and entirely uncorroborated claim made by what we could call the “Blue Lives Matter” movement is that “every six minutes a police officer is assaulted.” If this were true, each year would bring at least 87,660 documented incidents in which cops are shot, stabbed, ambushed, or beaten in the heroic performance of the duties.
In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 49,851 reported “assaults on law enforcement,” which – although a much smaller number than what we would see if the “every six minutes” claim were true – is a pretty formidable total. However, according to the FBI, fewer than one-third of the “victims” of such assaults sustained any injuries.
In addition, nearly eighty percent of those assaults involved “personal weapons” – that is, hands, fists, or feet. What this suggests is that the overwhelming majority of such “assaults” take the form of desperate, ineffectual efforts by unarmed suspects to resist arrest at the hands of an armed police officer. It should also be remembered that it is common for police to file “assault” charges whenever they encounter resistance.
On the available evidence, the only way the “every six minutes” claim could be valid is if the “assaults” in question refer to social media criticism or similar violations of the occupational “safe space” demanded by privileged and self-preoccupied American police. If they want to know what a real “war on police” might look like, American cops should cast their eyes toward Venezuela.