President Donald Trump once again announced his decision to militarize police officers and doubled down on his support of the police by calling for the death penalty for those who kill police officers.
The president’s divisive statement came during a speech at the 37th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial. The event was supposed to honor fallen police officers who laid their lives in the line of duty. But, pretty soon, as is natural for Trump, the speech turned into a rant that railed against sanctuary cities, the MS-13 gang and punitive punishment for cop killers.
“We must confront and condemn dangerous anti-police prejudice. Can you believe this prejudice with respect to our police? In 2016, an officer was assaulted in America on an average of every 10 minutes, can you believe that? It’s outrageous and it’s unacceptable,” Trump said. “We must end the attacks on our police and we must end them right now. We believe criminals who kill our police should get the death penalty. Bring it forth.”
He also once again announced his intent to reverse Obama-era restriction on police departments that forbade officers from accessing military equipment to quell civilian protests.
“We are allowing local police to access the surplus military equipment they need to protect our officers and law enforcement agents and save their lives. And they are taking equipment at a record clip. Millions and millions of dollars of surplus equipment is going to our police departments,” he added.
Former President Barack Obama placed limitations on police officers’ handling of military gear, following the August 2014 protests in Ferguson, Mo, after the shooting of Michael Brown. At that time, police officers used a variety of unlawful strategies to subdue demonstrators, including the use of grenades. They also reportedly stood on top of armored tanks and pointed sniper rifles at largely peaceful demonstrators, without fear of repercussions.
However, in August, Trump decided to once again allow the police to use these weapons. Now, he is proposing death penalty for anyone who kills a police officer.
These kinds of acts are consistent with the false narrative that pushes the belief that there is a “war on police.” These kinds of sentiments breed distrust and negatively impact relationship between police officers and the people they serve, particularly at a time when race relations are at their worst and tensions between people of color and law enforcement officers are at a record high.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has largely ignored the systemic racial abuses omitted by police officers nationwide. In a particularly callous exchange regarding the deaths of Eric Garner and Stephon Clark, in March, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said police shootings of black men was not “something the federal government” should weigh into and they should be left to local authorities.
Men and women, particularly people of color, have died as a result of interactions with cops, often through no fault of their own. Their deaths have received no justice and those responsible for their killings have not been held accountable for their misconducts. Some of these cops have a long history of police abuse and misconduct, however lack of repercussion have led them to abuse their power with impunity.
Certainly, not all cops exploit their authority. However, now, because of the Trump administration’s “Blue Lives Matter” policies, those who have a history of doing so, will have even more incentive to be reckless and negligent.
“Eschewing legal requirements and permitting systemic constitutional violations to go unaddressed is the opposite of what our communities need from the nation’s top cop,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in reference to Jeff Sessions’ misguided attempt to “support” the police. “The Justice Department has a unique responsibility to enforce the law enforcement misconduct statute, and our elected officials should stop the Department from shirking its obligations. If the Attorney General and Congress are serious about increasing officer safety, they should double down on policing reform efforts, not abandon them.”
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque