Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump vowed to ‘stand up’ for America’s law enforcement community.
Immediately after President Trump took office, the White House website scrubbed several ‘Issue’ pages that were featured by the Obama administration. Among other issues, the ‘Civil Rights’ page was replaced with a tab literally titled: “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community.”
The description of the topic totals more than 300 words and boldly declares:
The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump administration will end it.
President Trump does not outline specifically how he plans to “end” what he terms the nation’s “anti-police atmosphere.” During a GOP debate in January last year, Trump said police officers were the “most mistreated people” in America. “We have to give them more authority and we have to give them far more respect,” Trump said in a Facebook video last February. The country’s largest police union endorsed him.
Trump has largely the opposite relationship with activists and protesters who have railed against police officers’ mistreatments of minorities, policies like stop and frisk and the lack of accountability for those involved in deadly force.
Last July, Trump floated the idea of having the attorney general investigate Black Lives Matter. He said the group has “essentially called for the death of police” and contributed to what his administration now officially refers to as an ‘anti-police’ atmosphere in America.
Black Lives Matter told theGrio.com in a statement:
Whether or not the [White House] website language is directed at us, both the Trump administration and policymakers have made clear they don’t respect the first amendment, a cornerstone of real democracy. Punishing people who disagree with you is not only anti-democratic, it teaches our children that dissent is inherently dangerous.
During President Trump’s campaign, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the organization “anti-American” and “inherently racist.” Giuliani, an avid Trump supporter, was previously on a short list to become Attorney General but was later not offered the cabinet post.
BLM leaders tell theGrio.com that under Trump’s leadership, their mission remains the same, and they have no plans to let the administration compromise their existence.
Time and again, police have proven incapable of being unbiased and non-prejudicial toward Black people, so it’s fitting that our communities are in direct conflict with them and their deadly approach. However, calling us anti-police for voicing our dissent against police brutality is like calling free speech anti-American.
According to records by the Washington Post, black males made up 34 percent of unarmed persons killed by police in 2016 — despite only representing about 6 percent of the total U.S. population.
These statistics combined with increasing attention on cases involving officers’ use of deadly force have led to more scrutiny of police departments by federal agencies and national protests of policing methods and policies. The BLM movement in particular has its roots in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal. The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson took everything to another level.
The Missouri town, its residents, racial resentment and police department immediately became a national story. Protests, riots and military-style police tactics dominated news coverage for months.
Born out of this was the so-called ‘Ferguson Effect’ – an unsupported theory that anti-police sentiment and the potential virality of police encounters captured on video had made officers’ jobs tougher to execute and therefore put their lives in danger.
The theory was promoted by FBI Director James Comey in late 2015. Comey said the ‘restraint’ some officers show out of fear of being disciplined or shamed was partly responsible for crime spikes in certain cities.
David Pyrooz, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, assembled a team of researchers attempting to find evidence a Ferguson effect exists. Pyrooz tells theGrio.com his team found no measurable proof that was the case.
“There’s so much speculation than there was evidence out there on the topic and you know you don’t want to see policies getting driven by speculation, “Pyrooz said. “You want to see polices driven by the evidence that’s at hand.”
According to Pyrooez, his study collected and analyzed crime data from police departments across the country in cities with populations that exceed 200,000 people. Researchers looked at data one year before Michael Brown’s death and one year after to see if there was any discernible change in the crime rate and if the ‘Ferguson Effect’ had any legs.
“Something is happening, it’s just not happening on a national scale.” Pyrooz said. “When you look at violent crime, when you look at property crime, and the aggregate of those two and when you look at overall crime we just didn’t see a redirection taking place in these large cities.”
For the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, representing more than 3,000 black law enforcement executives, the organization says it is ready to work with the Trump administration. NOBLE’s President Perry Tarrant made it known policing is difficult in these times.
“I would agree with the President that attacks on police are dangerous to civil order,” Tarrant said. “I further condemn assaults and ambushes of officers as wrong and not what we as Americans should accept.”
NOBLE worked on Obama’s Joint Task Force to offer solutions for 21st century policing that include improving hiring practices, additional training measures and community policing. As it relates to Black Lives Matter, the group is not placing blame on the organization.
“The whole movement of Black Lives Matter has certainly made a number of folks uncomfortable which is great,” Tarrant insists. “Because it’s now positioned people to be a little more self-reflective about themselves on an individual basis, and more importantly about their organizations. And when it comes to police reform sometimes you have to be made uncomfortable to recognize and realize that change is necessary.”
Trump Administration officials couldn’t be reached for comment for this story.
Ashantai Hathaway is a reporter at theGrio. Keep up with her on Twitter @ashantaih83.