Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, no stranger to radio interviews, had to stop and think about whether he would record one for a Texas outlet. He ended up doing it -- talking about his recent call for Texans to treat officers with respect -- but not without chastising the program's host when he tried to steer the discussion to cases of police violence.It's the press' role to referee these sorts of public policy debates, not work one sides' "corner" or the other. Somebody needs to be in the truth's corner and in this case, Dan Patrick is describing a scenario far removed from reality. The man who allegedly killed Deputy Goforth in Houston is seriously mentally ill and there's zero evidence he was motivated by anything other than his longstanding, well-documented insanity. Regardless, Patrick elaborated his views in a followup Facebook post in which he declared:
"Your type of interview has to stop," Patrick told The Texas Standard's David Brown on Thursday. "Quit focusing on the small percentage of those in law enforcement who have made a mistake or have broken the law themselves." ...
"When I was asked to do an interview on NPR, I thought to myself, you know, do you really want to do this?" Patrick wondered aloud on the air. "They're not in the police officers' corner, and you've proven that by your interview."
I am sick and tired and downright angry at those who demean our law enforcement officers with their verbal attacks. They stir up those who follow up the verbal assault in the streets and on TV with deadly attacks on our officers. The national disrespect for law enforcement must end and end now. The talking heads and loud mouths who constantly attack our law enforcement with their words are putting these men and women in harm's way at a level I have not seen in my lifetime.Having observed this dynamic for two decades, Grits wasn't surprised to see police and politicians smearing their political enemies as sympathetic to cop killers, no matter how far fetched their claims. Such aggressive confrontation tactics come straight out of the playbook. And to be fair, Dan Patrick didn't start this foolishness. In this case, the meme that somehow #BlackLivesMatter was to blame for the death of Deputy Goforth was launched almost immediately.
At a second press conference Saturday [Dep. Goforth was shot on Friday] to describe the arrest, Hickman said anti-cop rhetoric could influence people to commit crimes against police officers, but he said he had "no details as to a motive" in this case.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson told reporters earlier Saturday the "vast majority” of police officers had good intentions, despite a “few bad apples” — an apparent reference to recent, high-profile police shootings of unarmed people that has fueled the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other outcries against police brutality.
“That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement,” Anderson said. “What happened last night is an assault on the fabric of society.”Or as recounted by the Houston Press: "Hickman, who cited the 'dangerous national rhetoric that’s out there today' surrounding policing, was even more explicit. This increased scrutiny of law enforcement (or 'rhetoric,' as Hickman put it) has led to the 'calculated, cold-blooded assassination of police officers,' Hickman said."
Not only has no one in the political movement surrounding #blacklivesmatter declared "war" on law enforcement, in reality it is the safest time to be a cop in living memory. Patrick's suggestion that we're witnessing a "war on police" would seem silly except that, like Sheriff Hickman's comments, it's reported nearly uncritically. Because reporters dutifully show up at PR events and transcribe whatever's claimed, it is easy for police agencies to take an isolated if terrible tragedy like this and use it to manipulate public opinion.
Notably, framing the issue as a "war" implicitly justifies censorship.
It's unseemly and wrong for the Lt. Governor to use Deputy Goforth's murder as a cudgel to beat back legitimate questions about police violence and misconduct. The worst part: doing so conveniently diverts discussion away from more relevant considerations which arise from this episode that the Lt. Governor could actually do something about, like the gaping failures in the state's mental-health system which led to this moment, or how someone with the alleged shooter's violent, mentally-ill record could get a gun. (He'd been declared incompetent in an assault case by a Texas court as recently as 2012.) The only connection between this incident and the Black Lives Matter movement are the crass misrepresentations of a demagogue.
The good news: 2017 is a long way away and a lot can happen between now and then. Other Republican politicians - particularly Tea-Party affiliated members - offered countervailing views in the wake of Sandra Bland's death, so not everyone believes cops' actions can't be questioned. But Patrick's adoption of "war on police" rhetoric and his declaration that the press oversteps merely by asking questions about police use of force bodes ill for the future of police accountability legislation in the Texas Senate. Presumably, he'd view filing legislation as an even greater heresy than merely asking questions. OTOH, much can change in 16 months.
MORE: From Mark Bennett, Robb Fickman, and Erica Grieder.