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Congressional Democrats need police, but do police need congressional Democrats?

Congressional Democrats need police, but do police need congressional Democrats?
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Facts have a way of revealing the political spin of those who prefer to ignore reality to serve their own agenda. As the Democratic Party publicly wrestles with an identity crisis, they would do well to keep spiking crime statistics in mind. Attempts by congressional Democrats to steer a middle ground, whether sincere or cynically token, depend on acknowledging facts — and depend on police. 

The diverse New York City police union I have the honor of leading represents the rank at which policy becomes practice. We are the front-line supervisors accountable to both the officers we manage and to brass at the precinct and at One Police Plaza. Police sergeants are uniquely positioned to say what works and what doesn’t. 

While the radicals attempting to drive the Democratic bus off the public safety cliff continue to insist on “defunding police,” and while police in every city, town, county and village are being vilified as part of what’s wrong with America, consider these troubling headlines:

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  • Chicago set a horrific record in 2020 — at least 700 murders and nearly 4,000 shootings;

  • Shootings in New York City have surged to levels unseen in years;

  • Police are being shot, as rising lawlessness encourages the targeting of cops;

  • More than 2,100 people in Philadelphia were shot in 2020, killing over 370 of them, in what has been described as a plague of gun violence that started in 2015 with over 8,500 shootings;

  • Violent crime and property crime surged in Salt Lake City, up more than 20 percent in 2020 from the year prior;

  • The number of homicides in Houston is the highest in at least 15 years;

  • Gun violence in Miami is catching bystanders in the crossfire of daytime shootouts; and

  • 2020 was the deadliest year in Cincinnati's history.

Each crime leaves a life and family irrevocably shattered or changed. Each crime is a story about a person intent on making a victim out of another person, and a victim out of a community. Public safety is the bedrock upon which every social good rests. Without public safety, there can be no economic development, no successful affordable housing plans, no revitalized downtowns, no reliable mass transit, no safe playgrounds or parks. Without public safety there can be no recovery from the coronavirus economic recession. 

Without public safety as a policy priority — that is, without police — congressional Democrats cannot expect to weather the inevitable midterm storm coming their way, especially considering that the vocal anti-police contingent among them almost lost the party its House majority in 2020.

Discussions about policing and issues of equity and transparency can be healthy. Police departments everywhere are integral parts of our civic life and instruments for positive change. We are a part of communities, not apart from them. We are important voices, not outsiders. Police unions, like any union — health care workers, teachers, building trades — represent their members. What the chattering classes and editorial boards characterize as obstacles to accountability, we insist is due process in an exceptionally difficult job.

What police unions and voters plainly see, but what seems difficult for those driving so much of Democratic policy discussions to understand, is that police work is different. We are first responders called to situations that are unique and dependent upon split-second decisions that cannot be replicated afterward. We typically deal with those who do not want to see us. We serve vital principles — public safety and law enforcement — but we are people. 

Police work cannot be handcuffed by social media-amplified protests that are popular with those who insist they discovered activism and that nothing important happened before them. We protect and serve the full diversity of our communities, not just those making noise online and not just those who are running for office every two, four or six years.

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Police unions must speak up for their members or nothing works in a policy area with — as the above headlines tragically show — immediate and consequential impact. Cops must be permitted to do their jobs.

Congressional Democrats need police to speak to the vast and diverse middle of America, center left and center right, who correctly see public safety as complex and necessary. The real question is whether police need congressional Democrats.

Ed Mullins is president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York Police Department. Follow him on Twitter @SBANYPD.