Amid the protests over police brutality following the murder of George Floyd, many Democrat politicians have been coming out against police conduct. Will this last until election time when candidates need to woo and capture police unions and the “police vote”?
Here are 10 things to know about how Democrat states and cities kiss up to powerful police unions at the expense of Black America.
After the 2018 midterm elections, two-thirds of the largest U.S. cities were governed by Democrat mayors. Republican mayors ruled in 23 percent of U.S. cities and 10 percent of mayors of large cities identified as independent, according to CityMayors.com.
When a murder of a Black or Latino resident by the police goes viral in the community and beyond, leaders must perform a balancing act.
“The mayors of America’s larger cities, nearly all members of the Democratic Party and some of whom are Black or Latino themselves, must reckon with political priorities that appear in conflict — living up to their rhetoric as champions of marginalized communities while maintaining a close working relationship with police departments often accused of inflicting harm,” The New York Times reported.
Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, Calif. is a Democrat, the city’s first Black mayor and, at 29, its youngest. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “You’re part of the group that has been historically oppressed by the government, and then you’re in charge of trying to make the government work.”
When it comes time to getting the police vote, some politicians put aside their typical Democratic rhetoric. The political game “can turn the candidate with the most liberal reform promises into a conservative champion of law and order once in office,” The New York Times reported.
With the growth of Black Lives Matter, Democrat politicians are facing a major dilemma. Take Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, for example. The campaign was pushed to support systemic reforms to policing, but the problem was if she did so, she would alienate the much-needed police vote.
President Donald Trump had no problem pumping up the police in the past but in light of the George Floyd protests, he pushed responsibility onto the mayors to control the uprising. He threatens to deploy the military if mayors do not “establish an overwhelming presence until the violence is quelled.”
This leaves the mayors of Democratic cities in a precarious state. “The careful calibration of liberal leaders, between projecting empathy for the protesters and denouncing property destruction and theft, shows their progressive ideals being put to a high-stakes practical test. Some of the mayors navigating this turbulence came of age well after the tumult of the 1960s and are fluent in the language of social activism, seeking a way to stand out from their predecessors,” The New York Times reported.
Since Republicans tend to take a law-and-order stace, they tend to attract the police vote. But nothing is a sure thing.
“At the moment, the law-and-order vote is for the Republican Party to lose,” Ozy reported. Harvard researcher Michael Zoorob found that police-officer political engagement jumped from 2012 to 2016 when it came to volunteering for a campaign, displaying a political sign and donating money, while the general public was less engaged.
Zoorob analyzed the Trump law-enforcement engagement. He found that places where police unions are strongest experienced the biggest shift from Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate in 2012, to Trump.
“Critically, his analysis found the police mobilization effect accounted for more than 13,000 votes in Michigan — greater than Trump’s narrow margin of victory over Clinton — and more than 27,000 votes in Pennsylvania,” Ozy reported.
Some mayors of Democratic cities have taken immediate action lately to avoid the appearance of siding with the police over the community. In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that two police officers were fired and three others were demoted after a local news media video showed them pulling a young Black woman from her car and using a stun gun on a man.
In Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer fired the city’s police chief after discovering that police officers did not record body camera footage during the recent fatal shooting of a popular Black business owner and restaurateur, David McAtee.
And newly elected Ella Jones, the first Black mayor of Ferguson, Missouri, ran on a promise of police reform. It was in her city that an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was shot to death by a policeman. The officer was not indicted for Brown’s murder.
Did Los Angeles learn from the 1992 riots — a consequence of the police beating of Black motorist Rodney King? L. A. Mayor Eric Garcetti seems to hope so.
“We have to figure out a way to humanize both sides of the barricades right now,” Garcetti told The New York Times. “First and foremost, to humanize black people in this country who have disproportionately been dehumanized. But it can’t ever be a one-way street to dehumanize a person who wears a badge. We need them to hear us, but we need to hear them or else we’re going to isolate them into islands that result in the sort of policing we don’t want to see.”
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 72: Jamarlin Martin Part 2. J Edgar Hoover, the first director of the FBI, may not be around but his energy is present in new Black politics.
While it seems that Republicans have had law-and-order endorsements locked it, that might not be the case this time around. At least six former federal prosecutors are running as Democrats for the U.S. House this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
While many Democrats often talk about police reform, in many cases, it’s just talk.
“Like in Minneapolis, police unions across the country have bucked reforms meant to promote transparency and racial equity in law enforcement,” Buzz Feed reported. “Many of these unions have pushed collective bargaining agreements that make it all but impossible for departments to punish, much less fire, officers.”