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Thomas Sowell refutes critics of tough anti-riot police tactics
With his usual keen appreciation for the facts Thomas Sowell responds to those who criticize the implementation of a well-publicized, tough police response to riots that threaten violence against people and property. He points to America's actual experience of the beneficial difference it has made:
But, for those who are still so old-fashioned as to rely on facts, here are a few: Back in the 1960s when ghetto riots broke out in cities across the country, the region with the fewest riots was the South, where racial discrimination was greatest and police forces least likely to show restraint.
In Detroit, with a liberal mayor in the city and a liberal governor in the state, where the police were warned against shooting during the 1967 riots, there was the largest death toll of any city during any riot during that whole decade – 43 people dead, 33 of them black.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post expressed astonishment that such a riot could occur in a city with such liberal policies. But neither of them changed its vision in response to facts which contradicted that vision.
In Chicago, there were three nights of rioting on the westside in 1966. These riots were brought to a halt with what a Chicago correspondent for the Los Angeles Times called an almost “miraculous” low death rate of two. Yet that same reporter called the use of both troops and police a “serious over-reaction.”
Any force sufficient to prevent riots from getting out of hand is almost certain to be characterized as “excessive force” or “over-reaction” by people with zero experience trying to stop riots.
During a later and larger riot in Chicago, Mayor Richard J. Daley went on television to inform all and sundry that he had given orders to his police to “shoot to kill” arsonists – provoking outraged denunciations across the country.
The number of people actually killed during that riot was less than a third of the number killed in kinder and gentler Detroit the following year, even though Chicago had a larger population.
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