Keep Your Politics to Yourself

Keep Your Politics to Yourself

By Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith (ret.) 

Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson recently announced that even though he’s the “host” of the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference in Chicago later this month, he will not be attending the IACP speech by President Trump.  Johnson states that he will not be in the audience because the “values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything the president has to say.”  Seriously?!  Does he know the heart (and the politics) of all 3 million residents of the City of Chicago (my former hometown, by the way).  I find this public temper tantrum incredibly weak and disingenuous.  What Superintendent Johnson is actually revealing to the citizens he serves is “I only care about you if you share my personal political views.”  As a former Chicago-area cop and the mom of two Chicago residents who happen to support Donald Trump, I find this infuriating and a bit frightening.

The political divide in this country has enabled some of our so-called “leaders” to behave like petulant children, very often in an attempt to pander to certain special interest groups.  Earlier this month, Thousand Oaks, CA police chief Tim Hagel allegedly put a stake in the heart of a fundraiser earlier this month that was supposed to benefit fallen sheriff’s deputy Ron Helus because conservative entertainers and politicians we going to be involved.  What does someone’s political affiliation have to do with raising money to benefit a murdered cop’s family?  This kind of dangerous attitude by police officials should be roundly criticized and immediately punished.  But like many law enforcement managers, men like Johnson and Hagel present a “do as I say, not as I do” reality for their officers.

Imagine if a patrol officer decided not to take a robbery report because the victim was wearing a “MAGA” hat?  Or a sheriff’s deputy refused to help a burglary victim because the victim had a “Bernie for President” sign in their front yard? These scenarios are absolutely unthinkable for those of us in the police profession, and they are certainly unimaginable for the people we are paid to serve, and yet there are police and municipal leaders who seem to think they can put politics over service.  Some elected officials are even choosing political beliefs over officer safety.  Burlington, VA councilwoman Perri Freeman, who self identifies as a “progressive Democrat,” wants to disarm the local police force, insisting that because some foreign nations have unarmed cops, her police department should follow suit.  She apparently doesn’t care about police officer survival; her priorities seem to be pandering to the extreme anti-gun wing of her chosen political party.

We’ve already lost over 100 American police officers in the line of duty in 2019, and we’ve lost countless more to suicide.  It’s time we stopped using cops as political pawns and got back to supporting them.  If you’re a police officer do what you can to stand up to the double standard so many of us have been forced to live under.  And if you’re a citizen who supports law enforcement, take a stand when you see police or government leaders, regardless of political affiliation, who put political ideology over the safety of police officers and the service of their communities.  It’s time to call out weak leadership and say “enough is enough!”

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