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Trump's 'law-and-order' pose undermines law and order

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Other police officials across the nation issued similar reactions. The International Association of Chiefs of Police, for example, issued a statement on the use of force by police, saying officers are trained to treat everyone with "dignity and respect."

In an email exchange, Paul Butler, a former District of Columbia prosecutor and author of the new best-seller "Chokehold: Policing Black Men," called Trump's remarks an "encouragement to wanton police violence" and "one of the most irresponsible comments from a president in the last 50 years."

"I'm not surprised that many officers have clapped back on Trump's casual endorsement of violence," said Butler, who now teaches law at Georgetown University. "His view of police as jackbooted thugs who act as judge, juror and executioner will make their jobs harder, not easier."

Still, some police unions and other advocacy groups like Blue Lives Matter dismissed Trump's remarks with the equivalent of, Hey, lighten up; it was a joke.

For example, Detective Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, excused Trump's comments in a statement to CNN as "completely taken out of context by the racially exclusive and divisive profiteers" seeking to question Trump's "support of all law-abiding citizens and the law enforcement (officers) that live and work among them."

As a law-abiding citizen who seeks effective law enforcement, I beg to differ. I oppose Trump's idea of a joke because it gives a simple-minded nod and a wink to the sort of roughhouse policing that alienates police from the communities they're assigned to serve.

Former Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown, who is best known for his handling of the shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers by a sniper in July 2016, learned that lesson on the job. In his new memoir, "Called to Rise: A Life in Faithful Service to the Community that Made Me," he describes how he focused on "locking away villains" until he was assigned to a community policing program in the 1990s.

By having police officers "connect with the people they served" through homeowners organizations and other community activities, Dallas' crime rate took a historic decline between 2010 and 2015, until budget cuts led to staffing shortages.

Alas, I'm not holding my breath waiting for Trump to discover the value of community policing. At present, he seems to prefer cracking heads -- or encouraging others to do it.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2017 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

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