The Boston Globe editorial board recently attempted to dissuade the Fraternal Order of Police from endorsing Donald Trump for president. “Officially aligning thousands of rank-and-file police officers with such a bigoted candidate would feed negative views of the police, chill community relationships, and ultimately make officers’ jobs harder,” the board wrote. It went on to say that Trump’s presidency would “pour fuel on the fire.” The Globe was absolutely right, and standing up to the FOP is courageous, though not as courageous as it would likely be under a Trump presidency.
The FOP went on to endorse the former reality TV host despite the paper’s arguments, citing their priorities of officer safety and whining characteristically about how Clinton had “blown off” the noble men of the thin blue line in one way or another. The cop union endorsing Trump should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, even though police forces have managed to grow—under a Democrat—to the point where they can occupy their municipalities many times over with their military surplus government goody bags. Any candidate who builds his campaign on bigotry, profiling, and bullying is bound to strike a nerve with police.
As though on cue, at the same time Donald Trump is shamelessly pandering to cops by lamenting that they are “afraid” to go out and do their jobs as a result of hostility, a gaggle of Tulsa officers murdered an unarmed black man who had his hands above his head. He needed help with his car and someone called 911 after it blocked the road. When police arrived at the scene, they tased and shot him. It should be unnecessary at this point to say that the man, Terence Crutcher, was not white. It seems like the police are powering through their crippling fear and getting on with the usual, Trump be damned.
The preceding sentence is the one that will have the right imploring me to imagine myself in a cop’s shoes—the uncertainty, the pressure. I have no problem doing this, but I feel the need to first point out two things. First, I am a civilian with no police training and believe that those who do undergo special training to protect and serve their fellow citizens should be held to a higher standard than I would be. This includes a higher standard of controlling reactions to fear and maintaining a cool head under pressure. Second, critics of law enforcement tactics are constantly asked to imagine themselves into the shoes of cops: Why should cops not be forced to imagine themselves into the shoes of a petrified black man who called the police for assistance with his car and was greeted by at least three cruisers full of armed officers? Why should they be able to exploit their own fear of Crutcher while he dies because of his fear of them?
It should be noted in closing that Hillary Clinton is one of the most law-and-order minded democratic candidates in recent memory. Her snub of the police union, which never misses an opportunity to act in accordance with every cronyistic and corrupt stereotype the Right attempts to saddle trade unions with, was the refusal to fill out a questionnaire. The questions on this document ranged from mundane gauging whether or not a candidate would support the FOP’s right to collective bargaining, to outright leading questions. (“There is a very real and very deliberate campaign to terrorize our nation’s law enforcement officers and no one has come to our defense. How will you and your Administration demonstrate support and commitment to our nation’s law enforcement officers?”)
Sadly, Trump’s bigotry, profiling, bullying, and lip service to law and order are a response that sits well with police.