Blue Line Update

Back in 2015, the topic of law enforcement was center stage. Specifically, what law enforcement does, how they should be governed, and the subject of abuse of power were all major topics that, while important, ended up largely being split into camps where police were either always right or always wrong.

Back in September, we discussed just about every square inch of the topic in three Midnight Run updates.
Blue Line provided the overview.
Blue Blood focused on attacks on police, both physically and politically.
Blue Bond closed by focusing on the response to those attacks and what has now become known as “Back The Blue.”

This week, we update what we can, based on what little stats we have. Primarily, we will discuss the latest statistics on Line Of Duty deaths, a change in the political climate, and a look back at the 2016 Dallas shooting.

1.) Baseline. As with Blue Line, it is worth stating a few things upfront. In this debate, you have people who believe that police can do no wrong, and people who believe police can do no right. Both are completely asinine at best and fundamentally dangerous at worse. To presume that police are always right, no matter their actions, is essentially to allow for any abuse of power because “there must have been something the suspect did.” Likewise, to presume that police are always wrong is to assume that there is no reason for police to exist, and indeed that society can get along just fine without some sort of central authority, or at least an organization focused on maintaining some semblance of order.

We don’t accept either viewpoint here. We never have.

2.) War On Cops. Since the original Blue Line, there has been a ton of literature on the so-called “War On Cops.” Some outlets, like Reason Magazine, have said that there is not and never was any such thing, pointing to statistics showing that line of duty deaths have never been lower. The Mises Institute has flat-out asked “Where’s the Evidence?”

However, strictly looking at line of duty deaths simply isn’t a good way to discuss whether there is (or at least was) a “war on cops.” In December of 2016, National Public Radio’s Martin Kaste did a report on how events like the Dallas shooting have lead to the perception that law enforcement officers are themselves under siege. In other words, it’s not just about the hard numbers, it’s about whether police believe they are themselves under siege. That perception is changing how police operate, often with much more hesitation than they normally would have.

Part of that perception, of course, is due to the subject becoming politically-charged. According to a July 2016 article in Politico, the head of the National Association of Police Organizations told FOX News that then-President Obama helped to ignite anti-police sentiment.

“I think [the Obama administration] continued appeasements at the federal level with the Department of Justice, their appeasement of violent criminals, their refusal to condemn movements like Black Lives Matter, actively calling for the death of police officers, that type of thing, all the while blaming police for the problems in this country has led directly to the climate that has made Dallas possible, William Johnson, the executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said in an interview with Fox on Friday morning.

Johnson said although the Thursday night shooting of law enforcement officers reminded him of “the violence in the streets in the 60’s and 70’s,” he pointed out how Obama’s response appeared different than his predecessors.

“I think one of the big differences then was you had governors and mayors and the president — whether it was President Johnson or President Nixon, Republican or Democrat — condemning violence against the police and urging support for the police,” Johnson said. “Today that’s markedly absent. I think that’s a huge difference, and that’s directly led to the climate that allows these attacks to happen.”

This “War on cops” has been blamed also for a recruitment shortage, among other things.

(It’s worth noting that, more recently, the head of one of New York’s largest police unions said that a lot of recent NYPD resignations were due to low pay. This news has itself become a political issue, as mayor Bill de Blasio has called it a “classic union play.”)

3.) Trump. The shift from President Obama to President Trump also seems to have brought about a shift in how law enforcement is perceived (in most cases). Trump has regularly praised the efforts of law enforcement, and the new tone from DC has not gone unnoticed. Trump has called anti-police sentiment “defamation” and has called police “the thin blue line between civilization and chaos.”

Jim Pasco, the Exec. Director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told the Washington Times in December of 2017 that “Arguably the most significant thing a president can do is use the bully pulpit to reflect his support for law enforcement. To this point in his presidency, he has certainly gone out of his way to do that. That resonates within the profession, and it’s received very favorably.”

In the interest of balance, it’s worth noting that there has occasionally been some friction between law enforcement and the Trump administration. This seems to have something to do with the investigation into Russia’s work during the election, and specifically former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe has since been fired after it was “determined that he lied to investigations reviewing the bureau’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s email server.”

In general, however, the shift from Obama to Trump has seen a marked change in tone from DC, and the lack of support coming from the DC seems to have kicked down a lot of support for vehemently anti-police movements.

And that, thankfully, seems to have at least somewhat reduced tensions in the debate.

Stay informed. Stay alert. Stay free.

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