Cops and the Politics of Guns
An ideological chasm often exists between police officers and their desk-bound superiors.
March 2, 2013 - 12:00 am
What do you think of this pro-gun radio ad?
I need you in the game. With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option. You can beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back. … Consider taking a certified safety course in handling a firearm so you can defend yourself until we get there.
As one might expect, response to the ad was swift and vehement. But what is remarkable is that the ad was not produced by the NRA, but by Milwaukee County (Wisconsin, the home of Progressivism) Sheriff David Clarke Jr.:
“People are responsible to play a role in their own safety, with the help of law enforcement,” Clarke said. “I’m here to do my part, but we have fewer and fewer resources. We’re not omnipresent, and we have to stop giving people that impression.”
“After sitting down and thinking about this, I’m thinking `Hey, I’ve got an untapped reserve over here, and it’s the public,’” Clarke said.
Jeri Bonavia, who is the executive director of “Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort,” believes Clark’s ad is dangerous. She compared Clarke’s ad to the Trayvon Martin case, which is confusing (Clarke happens to be black). She also wants Clarke to apologize:
“I feel like this is such an irresponsible thing for our chief public safety officer of a county to do,” Bonavia said. “I think he owes this community an apology. And if he really believes that he’s not capable of providing for our public safety he should get a different job.”
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., President Obama and Vice President Biden met with select police chiefs and sheriffs, including the police chief of Newtown, Connecticut. This too is remarkable in that virtually all of the other police executives preside over densely populated urban areas. Mr. Obama praised his prescience in inviting them:
No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They’re where our rubber hits the road.
Independently of Mr. Obama’s meeting, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly not only agreed with Mr. Obama’s agenda, but added one of some gun control supporters’ most fervent, long-term goals: the banning of handguns:
“In most urban centers of America, the problem really is concealable handguns,” he said, adding that only two percent of people arrested for guns in the last two years had assault weapons. “We don’t want (assault weapons) on the streets, make no mistake about it, but the problem is the handgun.”
Mr. Obama picked police executives of urban areas — and the police chief of Newtown — for political purposes. His anti-freedom agenda long since decided, he’s not listening to anyone, but is instead arranging photo ops and trying to gin up grassroots support fora piece-by-piece dismantlement of the Second Amendment. The message, explicit and implied, is that if police chiefs and sheriffs support Mr. Obama’s agenda, so should everyone else. After all, don’t they live to protect and serve?
There are enormous gulfs between police executives and police officers on many issues, but few are as wide as the gun-control chasm. All police officers, patrolman and chief alike, take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, but like Obama, for some that’s been more a guideline than a rule. This pattern is particularly true of big city police chiefs and sheriffs: some from flyover country send letters to Obama notifying him of their intention to refuse to enforce gun regulations and laws that violate the Constitution, while city police executives like Mr. Kelly instead lobby for those violations.
It’s not well known that most police officers aren’t “gun guys.” Even so, because they deal with issues of constitutional law every day, they generally have an appreciation for the importance of the Constitution. Most working officers have no problem at all with honest, law-abiding citizens keeping and bearing arms. They approach everyone with the knowledge that they could be armed. They know, without question, that the problem for them and for society is criminals, not firearms.
Real cops — for that is how they think of themselves in comparison to police executives — tend to understand with crystal clarity that taking guns of any description from the law-abiding will do nothing at all to make the police or society safer, and in fact do quite the opposite. These unsophisticates believe that criminals actually disobey the law, and will disobey any gun law politicians might dream up. They understand that the public should and will fear and mistrust a police officer who wants to take away their constitutional rights.
No rational police officer is encouraged by the specter of confiscating a citizen’s firearms. Police executives, on the other hand, often hold the opposite view regardless of the Constitution, the reality of criminal psychology, and experience.
Real cops know that once removed from day-to-day policing, officers can quickly lose their edge, lose perspective on reality. Police executives often look down on officers, looking to prevent them from embarrassing their blue-clad betters. There is much mistrust between working cops and executives, and often with good reason.
Some police executives merely want to keep their high salaries — far higher than those of working cops — and perks, and so are willing to support any policy their politician bosses favor. But many are true believers. They can’t be hired in progressive bastions otherwise, and they don’t need to be told what to do or think, regardless of the Constitution or the law. They consider themselves superior, not only to the officers that labor for them, but to the public. They don’t seek to serve and protect, but to regulate and punish.
That’s why Sheriff Clarke is remarkable. Not only is his thinking entirely in sync with the Constitution, it is reflective of reality. Many police executives want the public to be dependent upon them, all the while knowing they not only do not have to protect the public, but that it’s impossible. They want people to think themselves helpless wards of the state, and commonly parrot the sentiments of Ms. Bonavia: if the police can’t always protect everyone in every way, they should at least maintain the illusion. They should do all they can to make people feel safe, even if they have to lie to them about actually being safe.
Sheriff Clarke, having laid off 42 deputies in the last year, has chosen to tell those he serves the truth. He knows the police cannot protect everyone. He knows his resources are limited, and that with the Obama economy, they will continue to diminish. He knows that the Second Amendment affirms the inalienable right of self-defense, a right he accurately sees as an aid to law enforcement and a safe society. He knows feelings aren’t reality.
His ad is nothing more than a commonsense, concise explanation of the rights of citizens and Wisconsin law, and certainly not a call for vigilantism. Sheriff Clarke is truly seeking to serve and to protect: he’s treating the public as adults and is acting in their best interests and in the interests of his deputies.
If a police executive does not understand the history and purpose of the Second Amendment, the executive is not fit to hold the office. Disarming the law-abiding when the police are increasingly less able to function is inexcusable, as is failing to inform the public of the law accurately and in a timely manner. Discouraging the public from defending their lives is a disturbing betrayal of trust.
Working cops know all of this, but they dare not speak up unless they work for a man like Sheriff Clarke. What is interesting is anyone thinking that being deceived by their police is unremarkable. Being deceived by Obama? The status quo.