Police Brutality “Jokes” Are For Comedians Not The President
This is one of my favorite Dave Chapelle bits from his Killing Them Softly special. I implore you to take the time to watch the whole 9 minutes if you have not. It illuminates police brutality literally in black and white:
During a speech he gave at Suffolk County Community College in New York, 45 made comments implying that he was in support of unnecessary police force. The comments drew ire from several departments accusing Trump of normalizing police brutality. While this will reassure many, as a black male, it doesn’t for me. No matter, I think most of us should know by now, to channel my inner Kanye, that Donald Trump doesn’t care about black people.
Police Brutality Is Not A Joke
Dave Chapelle is a comedian. 45 is the President. The former’s job is to make jokes about police brutality, the latter’s job is to take it seriously and root it out. In fact, Article II describes the President duties when it comes to law enforcement:
The Constitution does not say that the President shall execute the laws, but that ”he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” i.e., by others, who are commonly, but not always with strict accuracy, termed his subordinates. What powers are implied from this duty? In this connection, five categories of executive power should be distinguished: first, there is that executive power which the Constitution confers directly upon the President by the opening clause of article II and, in more specific terms, by succeeding clauses of the same article; secondly, there is the sum total of the powers which acts of Congress at any particular time confer upon the President; thirdly, there is the sum total of discretionary powers which acts of Congress at any particular time confer upon heads of departments and other executive (”administrative”) agencies of the National Government; fourthly, there is the power which stems from the duty to enforce the criminal statutes of the United States; finally, there are so-called ”ministerial duties” which admit of no discretion as to the occasion or the manner of their discharge.
Quite simply, the President should be about enforcing the law, not breaking it. This President seems to have a tough time understanding that.
Brandon Del Pozo describes policing requiring dealing with the emotions cops are bound to feel when they witness the worst things one person can do to another. It is criminals who act on these emotions and attack other people. Restraint is what separates policing from vigilantism.
Now we have a President who appears to want police to satisfy their primal urges. Either as a joke — as White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders has now suggested — or as one of many true things that have been said in jest.
I will end with the words of Del Pozo, the chief of police of Burlington, Vermont and an executive fellow at the Police Foundation in Washington who served on the New York Police Department from 1997 to 2015, where he commanded two patrol precincts:
An elected official could only say what Trump said if he didn’t understand policing. People who’ve gained this type of experience know the real possibility of a cop losing his temper, how hard we have to guard against it, and how much it would erode the trust we strive for between police and the people they serve.
It also seems like the President doesn’t understand certain things about America. There has been enough confirmed police brutality here to send chills down the spine of a reasonable person watching the President and a crowd of cops joke and laugh about it. It’s like laughing about the dire consequences of inadequate health care, or the opioid crisis.
It’s also clear that President Trump has never had to fire or arrest a police officer: The cop sits there in front of you, replaying a moment in his mind, wishing he could take it back. He put on the uniform to be one of the good guys, and now he’s on the opposite side of the table. He worries about supporting his family.
The way to get our officers to retirement safely, after a satisfying career, is to lead them through policing’s cauldron. Excessive force could get them fired or arrested. Making light of it is a failure of leadership.