by: William McGregory
Early Sunday morning, another massive Charlottesville shootout was perpetrated—this time in the parking lot of Fry’s Spring Beach Club. Over a hundred rounds were fired from at least five different weapons, and investigators are working overtime just trying to pick up all the pieces. For a neighborhood that is usually one of the most crime-free in the city, such an attack is shocking.
Most people are unaware that such crimes are not exactly unusual in Charlottesville, although the volume of fire in this case certainly is. For generations, CPD officers working evening and midnight shifts on Friday and Saturday nights have gathered at nightclubs, bars, and other well-attended events to monitor a well-established pattern. As these events let out or bars closed down around 2 a.m.—the cut-off time for ABC-issued liquor permits— brawls, shootings, and drunk driving would break out. Before the destruction of this once-proud police agency, officers standing by could either prevent such crimes through presence of numbers or quickly quell the anarchy with minimal loss of life or injury. Not so in today’s brave new world.
When the police administration declared war on cops and the very act of policing, the mere presence of officers in certain neighborhoods went from a common professional practice to automatic provocation of conflict. Criminals and other persons of ill intent were given a license to pervert the department’s own policies and procedures into weapons designed to give them power over the police, to carry on as they and not the law saw fit, and to destroy utterly those officers that stood up to them. Naturally, the officers that survived the purges fled en masse, leading to historically low staffing that has caused CPD to outright ignore many citizen requests for police assistance. Thew few that felt trapped by pension investments, inertia, or other reasons have made the only rational choice left to them. They have de-policed.
The Beach Club is situated in police District One, historically one of the safest of the eight city patrol areas. With two officers assigned to patrol that district at the time of this shooting, if minimum staffing was met, it is downright irresponsible of a police officer not to take note of events in his area and proactively patrol those areas known to generate outcomes such as this. It is unlikely that both assigned officers were so occupied that they could not address one of the most likely places in the city for a major crime with a directed patrol. Rarely are criminals so brazen that they are willing to attempt a murder in the flashing blue lights of a patrol car. In a day and age, however, when the mere presence of a police officer is verboten and justification for a baseless yet livelihood-crippling complaint, the officer chooses his own welfare over those he swore to serve.
It is this sort of rational cowardice that was always the aim of the organized rioting that brought every urban area in the country to its knees throughout the past few years. There is a word for people who use fear and intimidation to achieve political goals otherwise ordinarily done through means of statesmanship, such as legislation or military action. “Defunding the police” was never about money; it was merely a means to an end. That end was the reduction of the police’s ability to enforce the law, because the law and two hundred years of American jurisprudence stood in the way of those that would see the world recreated anew in their own image. Thus, we see the law subverted in Commonwealth’s attorneys’ offices, judges’ chambers, and police stations nationwide. The enemies of the Constitution and our way of life are tearing down resistance to their objectives from within institutions once upheld across the world as hallmarks of fairness, egalitarianism, and forward thinking.
It is one thing to ask the ordinary citizens of a country to stand up for what is right. Although we in America have some more expectation of such action, as when we threw off the shackles of English rule by force, few would hold the citizens of China or Russia to blame for their lack of action to counter the massive crimes of their governments. It is another thing entirely, however, to excuse American police officers from their dereliction of duty. As sympathetic as we may be to their plight, it is through the willingness to kowtow that has allowed the enemy freedom to act. Police officers are supposed to be the physical embodiment of the law, the most visible and interactive representations of our neutral rules of society that most of us will ever encounter. In a country where our officials never swear allegiance to a man or even to a government, but to an idea, this moral flexibility is a breach of that oath, no matter the justification. This is perhaps no truer for any position than that of a police officer, who solely wields the power in this country to seize the liberty of another human being. No other entity, from the military to the President himself, holds such authority.
It is therefore unconscionable for anyone signing up to serve as a police officer not to do so out of a place deeply grounded in unwavering principle and unbreakable commitment. A police officer exists because he is meant to be the last and final one amongst us to bend the knee. It does not matter if the criminal he faces is violent, politically connected, or even in a position superior to his own—he is expected to investigate, arrest, and bring to justice that criminal, at whatever cost must be paid. His principles must be stalwart, else he may fall prey to the avarices of power, greed, or sloth. If a man does not have this incorruptible, undefiled dedication to himself and to his duty, then he should not be a police officer at all. There are many jobs that pay much better and require far less morality. It is a better service to us all that those not up this task never apply, or that they resign if they find themselves failing, rather than subject all of us to the weaknesses of humanity that we expect them to defy.
If you harbor any doubts about the weakness of the new CPD that emerged scarred and defeated from the purges, look no further than the press releases given about this latest major crime. The first publication gave a decent summary of the facts as they were known, the condition of those involved, and a standard request for witnesses to make statements. The group that was mentioned as a proprietor of the event that the shooting was related to immediately accused the police department of “slandering” their good name. Peace in the Streets, an organization meant to cull inner-city violence before the police need to get involved (a laudable if doubtful goal*), was swift to absolve themselves of any connection to the type of activity they claim to prevent; this is an understandable reaction from a PR perspective. What the police department did next, however, is inexplicable.
They apologized. In the second release, CPD offered more details as to why they had identified the event as being related to this organization. Not only were fliers for the event identifying the organization as the beneficiary of funds raised, but the organization itself was apparently on the ABC permit needed to serve alcohol. In other words, Peace in the Streets was indeed, if not the host as the ABC permit would indicate, directly involved in the event. After all, by their Facebook page, many of their activities involve collecting donations and redistributing this wealth in the form of goods and services giveaways. It is therefore disingenuous and dishonest to apologize for identifying this organization with the event, because CPD’s own statements prove that they were not wrong. Nonetheless, they do not have the moral fortitude to stand up for themselves and explain why an emotional reaction is wrong. Peace in the Streets cannot be blamed for being upset—such an incident does serious damage to their credibility. It is the police’s job, however, to stand up for the truth, thereby maintaining moral authority over equality before the law. We live in a society where blame is instantly and irrevocably assigned and everything must be assigned a moral value one way or the other. Nothing is permitted to just be as it is. CPD never blamed Peace in the Streets for the shooting. The organization inferred blame and acted defensively, which again is an understandable reaction. Clarification, however, rather than deference would have been an appropriate police response.
Especially in the world of crime and law enforcement, too many of our citizens forget that there is ultimately only one person to blame for a crime: the criminal himself. We can infer or read into a myriad of circumstances or conditions that led the choice to commit the crime, but there is always one final choice that that singular person makes to break the law. That choice is God’s gift, for us to use according to our individual responsibility with His gift. None of us are predestined to our fates. Some of us simply use our human freedom in manners afoul of our agreed-upon rules of democratic society. They alone should be blamed for their transgressions. This is why Western law demands proof of intent to break the law before we convict someone of that breaking.
In the wake of disgraced ex-police chief Brackney’s most brazen assault in her war on cops, Charlottesville experienced multiple homicides in an unusually short period of time at the end of 2020. The crimes were shameless beyond belief, involving car chases, machine guns, and prepared ambushes. Police officers were reeling in fear and the city fell to chaos. The seasonal ebbing of violence common to colder winter months finally slowed the killing, and 2021 passed more peacefully. If temporary reliefs in the crime rate were a reason to claim victory in the ongoing attempt to suppress crime, however, then the police could have walked off multiple times a year every year since Sir Robert Peel formed the world’s first modern professional police agency in 1829. Policing is an ever-vigilant watch, because crime cannot be treated as a war. There is no end, no final objective to seize and plant one’s flag in. Rest easy and watch as your efforts are stripped away by the opportunistic and immoral amongst us.
Crimes like this shooting, which would be known by now as a massacre were it not for poor marksmanship, will continue. They have been occurring more than our citizens know, but they will soon realize what the thin blue line really means. The police have long prided themselves as standing between the good and innocent citizens who enjoy tranquility and freedom to pursue their life’s desires free of obstacles beyond those of fate, and the evildoers who seek shortcuts and fulfillment through the victimization of those that would not do the same unto them. Those under the protection of the law, therefore, became inoculated to the ravages of human nature. Unrestrained violence became a foreign concept, as did those that bore its brunt on behalf of the citizenry. The police absorbed all those terrible things that uncivilized us and became strange to those who have never had to endure what they do on their behalf. Removing that barrier between civilization and the horrible things long kept at bay will expose more and more citizens crimes like this, much in the manner that Tanya Wheeler was introduced to that awful world beyond.
We must pray that the citizens of this nation place their faith once more in the best among us, who volunteer to go out and do what needs to be done to maintain our society, rather than the terrible propaganda to which they have fallen prey until now. How many more need die before this lesson is learned? As much as we can hope that they will come around, we need to demand better from the police. We deserve real courage; acting only out of self-preservation and fear is shameful and deserves to be treated as such. There is no cowardice in quitting if you are not prepared to do what policing demands. To hide from what is wrong, instead of standing up for what is right, is contemptible. What has been done at this police department is criminal, made all the more worse by the ones who stood by and watched it happen. So much has been lost already—hundreds of combined years’ worth of professional knowledge and wisdom, driven out by the enemy. How much worse does it have to get for us before the police begin acting like the police once more?
CPD (and they are sadly not even close to unique in this regard) are trying to win a popularity contest with the people that have sworn their destruction by any means necessary. The rest of us should not have to live at the whims of these people. We deserve better. These fallen police departments did not lose their moral authority to the enemy. They surrendered it on bended knee. And we are the ones who will suffer, until the police find it within themselves fight back.
“…Today I shall speak to you on the subject of individual citizenship, the one subject of vital importance to you, my hearers, and to me and my countrymen, because you and we are great citizens of great democratic republics. A democratic republic such as ours—an effort to realize in its full sense government by, of, and for the people—represents the most gigantic of all possible social experiments, the one fraught with great responsibilities alike for good and evil. The success of republics like yours and like ours means the glory, and our failure the despair, of mankind; and for you and for us the question of the quality of the individual citizen is supreme. Under other forms of government, under the rule of one man or very few men, the quality of the leaders is all-important. If, under such governments, the quality of the rulers is high enough, then the nations for generations lead a brilliant career, and add substantially to the sum of world achievement, no matter how low the quality of the average citizen; because the average citizen is an almost negligible quantity in working out the final results of that type of national greatness. But with you and us the case is different. With you here, and with us in my own home, in the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average woman, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high; and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher…
…Still less room is there for those who deride or slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of the great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder…”
—President Theodore Roosevelt, Citizenship in a Republic / The Man in the Arena, given April 23rd, 1910 at the Sorbonne, Paris, France