In the wake of the shooting of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, President Obama has written a letter to law enforcement which concludes, “We have your backs.”
A week ago I pointed to evidence that national law enforcement were very unhappy with President Obama’s reaction to the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. One national leader called Obama the Neville Chamberlain of the “war on cops.” Since then, the President has hosted some of these leaders at the White House. Based on the tone of the letter published today, it appears those meetings have had an impact on the presidents approach.
There is no more effort to straddle the difference between law enforcement officers on one hand and Black Lives Matter protesters on the other. In this letter, police are clearly the good guys:
Some are trying to use this moment to divide police and the communities you serve. I reject those efforts, for they do not reflect the reality of our Nation. Officer Jackson knew this too, when just days ago he asked us to keep hatred from our hearts. Instead, he offered—to protestors and fellow police officers alike—a hug to anyone who saw him on the street. He offered himself as a fellow worshipper to anyone who sought to pray. Today, we offer our comfort and our prayers to his family, to the Geralds and the Garafolas, and to the tight-knit Baton Rouge law enforcement community.
As you continue to serve us in this tumultuous hour, we again recognize that we can no longer ask you to solve issues we refuse to address as a society. We should give you the resources you need to do your job, including our full-throated support. We must give you the tools you need to build and strengthen the bonds of trust with those you serve, and our best efforts to address the underlying challenges that contribute to crime and unrest.
As you continue to defend us with quiet dignity, we proclaim loudly our appreciation for the acts of service you perform as part of your daily routine. When you see civilians at risk, you don’t see them as strangers. You see them as your own family, and you lay your life on the line for them. You put others’ safety before your own, and you remind us that loving our country means loving one another. Even when some protest you, you protect them. What is more professional than that? What is more patriotic? What is a prouder example of our most basic freedoms—to speech, to assembly, to life, and to liberty? And at the end of the day, you have a right to go home to your family, just like anybody else.
I’ll come back to that bold part in a moment but compare the tone of this letter to what the President was saying just a couple weeks ago:
There are biases, some conscious and unconscious, that have to be rooted out. That’s not an attack on law enforcement. That is reflective of the values that the vast majority of law enforcement bring to the job…
So, you know, when people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter. It just means all lives matter but right now, the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.
This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives. This is recognizing that there’s a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens and we should care about that. And we can’t dismiss it.
Since then we’ve had 8 officers killed by shooters who did not believe blue lives matter. I doubt that President Obama has changed his views, but he has changed his tone. Instead of suggesting the fault lies with police, Obama now seems to be echoing a statement made by Dallas police chief David Brown last week (esp. that bold portion above).
“We’re asking cops to do too much in this country,” Brown said. “We are. We’re just asking us to do too much. Every societal failure we put it off on the cops to solve,” Brown added.
“Not enough mental health funding. Let the cop handle it. Not enough drug-addiction funding. Let’s give it to the cops. Here in Dallas we got a loose dog problem. Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs. Schools fail. Give it to the cops. Seventy-percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women. Let’s give it to the cops to solve that as well. That’s too much to ask. Policing was never meant to solve all those problems.” Brown called on other parts of the government to take responsibility for fixing some of the underlying problems.
You can see how this approach would appeal to President Obama. It’s an opening for more programs and more spending and more government intervention in people’s lives. Can you imagine him approaching this in any other way? He’s being given a chance to community organize.
Of course government was never meant to solve all those problems either but that’s probably not something this president is going to recognize any time soon.