When convenience store robber Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer, the President quickly offered an official statement. He did the same for Trayvon Martin. And again for Laquan McDonald and pretty much every other time a black suspect has wound up on the wrong end of a lethal force situation on the part of the cops. Each case is unique, with some of them raising serious questions about the actions of the cops involved and many, many more being shown to be legitimate, though unfortunate resolutions to violent conflicts.
But those aren’t the only people being shot and killed these days. There’s been a severe spike in the deaths of law enforcement officers in the line of duty this year. Eight dead by the second week of February, with nearly half a dozen in just the last week.
Already this year, eight on-duty police officers have been killed by gunfire — including five this week alone.
The 2016 gunfire fatalities mark a notable increase from the same Jan. 1 through Feb. 11 period last year, when just one officer was shot dead, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
In total, 11 officers have died this year, versus 13 officers in the same time frame last year. But most of the deaths last year were traffic-related, not firearms-related like they are this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund’s tally.
If you follow the news on a regular basis you’re probably detecting a difference in the response from the White House. There’s been essentially none. And people have begun to notice, with Fox News referring to it as a deafening silence.
A Fargo police officer fatally shot responding to a routine domestic disturbance call. A 25-year police veteran killed while trying to serve a warrant outside Atlanta. These are just the latest tragedies of cops murdered while performing their sworn duty — “to protect and serve.”
But while President Obama and the Democratic candidates vying to succeed him are putting America’s police departments on trial in the court of public opinion in response to a rash of deadly police shootings, the murder of police officers on America’s streets is being met with a “deafening silence.”
The relative silence on officer deaths contrasts with the Democratic candidates’ often fiery language on police brutality against African Americans. When it came to the issue of law enforcement at Thursday night’s Democratic debate, the candidates focused almost exclusively on “police reform.” Vermont Sen. Sanders said he’s “sick and tired” of seeing unarmed black people shot by police, likening heavily equipped departments to “occupying armies” – a reference to Ferguson, Mo. and elsewhere. Hillary Clinton hit similar points.
This is turning into something of a border war between the two parties and it’s one I never would have imagined seeing in my lifetime. You can have a hot and bothered debate about racial divisions, and suggestions for improving police – community relations are always welcome. But when it comes to the outright murder of cops one would imagine you could find nearly 100% unanimity among anyone considering running or any elected office anywhere. Where is the statement from the White House on this? Where are the proposals to properly fund law enforcement agencies and ensure they have the equipment, the backup and the resources to save the lives of those who protect and serve?
Even speaking as somebody who writes about political controversy for a living, I can recognize when something comes up which should never be turned into a political football. This is one of those things. The White House needs to draw some clear lines here and thus far it’s not being done.