Part 4 of a seven-part series on political issues whose common ground we find it hardest to discover because of the unbridled passion, shaky rhetoric, and lack of empathy often employed in public discussions.
Today, we turn our attention to Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s attitudes toward civil unrest, public grievance, violence in our streets, and the role of law enforcement.
As we approach November 3, 2020, allow me to perform an appraisal of our emperor’s new clothes. To paraphrase fashion arbiter Tim Gunn, do Trump’s clothes “make it?”
Trump’s Hair: Where the Police are Unfairly Vilified by Thugs and Terrorists
Today’s headlines focusing on civil unrest reflect our nation’s long, long, long history of conflict between citizens and those publicly and privately employed to keep order on our streets and in our workplaces. We are seeing much public grievance over police violence against unarmed Black men (c.f. Black Lives Matter).
As a white American, I am horrified and grief-stricken by the unlawful actions of law enforcement officers that have been recorded and shared on social media. A national discussion over proposals to “defund the police” in response to the incidents has been confusing.
The standard Donald Trump operating procedure is to ignore the underlying causes of civil unrest and protests, focus on the few actual reports of violence, and provide full-throated support for the law enforcement structure, mission, organization, and policies. He has called the “defund the police” movement a “fad,” falsely accusing reformers of wanting to abolish police forces.
The “defund the police” movement is an unfortunate name for a set of ideas that police leadership, police unions, elected officials, community activists, and the general public can find agreement, including:
- Shift funding to social services, so that armed police officers are not responding to 911 calls that require expertise and experience that officers do not possess, especially in the areas of mental health and addiction.
- Shift funding to community resources, such as recreational centers and trauma centers that create safe spaces for people in neighborhoods suffering from higher crime rates.
- Shift funding to support the reduction of paperwork required of officers (i.e., funding clerical staff to handle the paperwork) so that officers can spend more time in the community instead of the police station.
To this list, I would also add several other suggestions:
- We should cut back or eliminate the “warrior training” provided in police academies or by police unions, which is having a deleterious effect on our police forces. This training can be replaced de-escalation techniques that are used by police in Canada. The lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and countless others could have been saved.
- We should also increase the amount of training officers receive. In the U.S., training to be a police officer – week or a several months – compares unfavorably to the years of education required in most western European countries.
- We should reconsider whether local police forces actually require tanks and other armed vehicles to handle their duties and responsibilities.
- We should increase compensation for police officers to attract the best candidates for the job.
- We should also rethink the distinctive and corrosive role of police unions, especially given the increasing diversity of police forces.
Donald Trump is the latest president (stretching from John Adams to Ronald Reagan) to claim to stand for “law and order.” He has incited violent responses from police as well as to political opponents, public congregations of citizens with grievances.
Trump has called the people engaged in these acts “terrorists,” “thugs,” “anarchists,” and “a disgrace,” among other things. Oops, my bad. He’s not referring to the murderous police officers caught on video. He’s calling out the people protesting the murderous police officers who were caught on video.
- What Would Tim Gunn Say about Donald Trump’s hair? That concerns me enormously.
“Without police, there is chaos,” Trump stated in June, ignoring the reality that chaos was already spreading on his watch.
On the other hand, Joe Biden has a plan, a holistic approach to criminal justice that focuses on reducing crime, addressing unfair economic and opportunity disparities in communities, addressing unfair incarceration policies, expanding support for mental health and other programs key to reducing confrontations with police, and eliminating incentives for imprisonment by private companies.
Please vote for Joe Biden and encourage others to exercise their right to vote. Thanks for your consideration.
Next: Trump’s Socks: Where Cadet Bone Spurs is Our Greatest Military Leader of All Times
Previous: Trump’s Shirt: When Other People’s Marriages Threaten Your Marriage
The author served as Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities under Republican and Democratic administrations from 2008-2018. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of the department or those of current Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
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