The War on Cops - Encounter Books

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The War on Cops

How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe

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Publication Details

Paperback / 256 pages
ISBN: 9781594039683
AVAILABLE: 9/19/2017

The War on Cops
How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe

Violent crime has been rising sharply in many American cities after two decades of decline. Homicides jumped nearly 17 percent in 2015 in the largest 50 cities, the biggest one-year increase since 1993. The reason is what Heather Mac Donald first identified nationally as the “Ferguson effect”: Since the 2014 police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, officers have been backing off of proactive policing, and criminals are becoming emboldened.

This book collects and expands on Mac Donald’s groundbreaking and controversial reporting on the Ferguson effect and the criminal-justice system. It deconstructs the central narrative of the Black Lives Matter movement: that racist cops are the greatest threat to young black males. On the contrary, it is criminals and gangbangers who are responsible for the high black homicide death rate.

The War on Cops exposes the truth about officer use of force and explodes the conceit of “mass incarceration.” A rigorous analysis of data shows that crime, not race, drives police actions and prison rates. The growth of proactive policing in the 1990s, along with lengthened sentences for violent crime, saved thousands of minority lives. In fact, Mac Donald argues, no government agency is more dedicated to the proposition that “black lives matter” than today’s data-driven, accountable police department.

Mac Donald gives voice to the many residents of high-crime neighborhoods who want proactive policing. She warns that race-based attacks on the criminal-justice system, from the White House on down, are eroding the authority of law and putting lives at risk. This book is a call for a more honest and informed debate about policing, crime, and race.

About the Author

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. A non-practicing lawyer, Mac Donald has clerked for the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has been an attorney-adviser in the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a volunteer with the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York City.

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As the most anti-law-enforcement administration in memory draws to a close, crime is shooting up in cities across the United States. Homicides in the country’s 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015, the greatest surge in fatal violence in a quarter-century, reports the Washington Post. Milwaukee was experiencing its deadliest year in a decade. Homicides in Baltimore were at their highest per capita rate ever by mid-November—50 killings per 100,000 residents. “Crime is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said St. Louis alderman Joe Vaccaro at a City Hall hearing in May 2015. President Obama himself conceded that “gun violence and homicides have spiked—and in some cases they’ve spiked significantly.”

The crime surge was especially troubling in that it reversed a two-decade-long decline, during which American cities vanquished a 1960s-era notion that had made urban life miserable for so many. Breaking the law, the thinking went, was but a symptom of social failure and governmental neglect, or even an understandable expression of protest. Until poverty and racism were eliminated, routine behaviors such as walking down a street, strolling through a park, or operating a store would necessarily remain fraught with fear and the possibility of violence. Under the influence of this “root causes” conceit, acres of city space were ceded to thieves and thugs, to hustlers and graffiti “artists.” Disorder and decay became the urban norm.

A combination of forces eventually reversed this state of affairs. Starting in the late 1970s, legislators demanded that convicted criminals serve more of their sentences; habitual felons were finally locked up for lengthy prison stays. And police leaders challenged the “root causes” concept with a countervailing idea: the police could actually prevent crime and, in so doing, would make civilized urban life possible again. is sea change in policing philosophy originated in New York in 1994 under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney who had campaigned on the promise to free the city from its growing squalor and anarchy. Giuliani’s first police commissioner, William J. Bratton, was a champion of Broken Windows policing, which holds that allowing a neighborhood to become overrun by graffiti, litter, public drunkenness, and other forms of disorder breeds more crime by signaling that social control in the area has collapsed. Bratton had already shown the effectiveness of Broken Windows enforcement in New York’s subways as transit police chief in the early 1990s; now he would have an entire city upon which to test the concept.

Bratton’s deputy commissioners began rigorously analyzing crime data on a daily basis and ruthlessly holding precinct commanders accountable for the safety of their precincts. And they asked officers to stop and question individuals engaged in suspicious behavior—whether hanging out on a known drug corner at 1 am or casing a jewelry store on a commercial strip plagued by burglaries.

Crime in New York City dropped 12 percent in Bratton’s first year in office and 16 percent the next year, while crime rates in the rest of the country were virtually at. e New York crime rout became national news, spurring other police departments to adopt similar data-intensive, proactive tactics. Over the next two decades, crime would fall 50 percent nationwide, revitalizing cities across the country. The biggest beneficiaries of that crime decline were the law-abiding residents of minority neighborhoods. Senior citizens could go out to shop without fear of get- ting mugged. Businesses moved in to formerly desolate areas. Children no longer had to sleep in bathtubs to avoid getting hit by stray bullets. And tens of thousands of individuals were spared premature death by homicide.

Now, that triumph over chaos and lawlessness is in jeopardy. Fueling the rise in crime in places like Baltimore and Milwaukee is a multipronged attack on law enforcement. Since late summer 2014, a protest movement

known as Black Lives Matter has convulsed the nation. Triggered by a series of highly publicized deaths of black males at the hands of the police, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today. at belief has spawned riots, “die-ins,” and the assassination of police officers. e movement’s targets include Broken Windows policing and the practice of stopping and questioning suspicious individuals, both of which are said to harass blacks.

At the same time, a long-standing academic discourse about “mass incarceration” went mainstream. According to this theory, the American penal system practices “systematic imprisonment of whole groups.” The nation’s prison rate is allegedly a product of discrimination, and drug laws are purportedly a means of re-enslaving black Americans. President Obama repeatedly charged that the criminal-justice system treats blacks differently from whites.

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