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Donald Trump vs. law enforcement: All the ways he’s hurt policing in America as president

Paterson, NJ, September 3, 2020

Originally published in the NY Daily News.

Donald Trump vs. law enforcement: All the ways he’s hurt policing in America as president

By Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Desperate to deflect from his catastrophic failure to contain the pandemic or help millions of unemployed Americans, Donald Trump is making support for law enforcement a centerpiece of his administration. But even a cursory scan of Trump’s record in office shows that he is no ally of good policing. If anything, Trump may be the most anti-police President America has ever had.

Before arriving in Washington, I was the mayor of my hometown Paterson, New Jersey, the third largest city in our state. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was the importance of community policing and working directly with police to forge solutions. As the co-chairman of the Law Enforcement Caucus in Congress, I’ve applied those practices at the federal level as our caucus tries to deliver adequate funding for local police departments and first responders, often through generous grant programs.

Two programs in particular, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Memorial Justice (Byrne JAG) grants, have for years given local police departments across America support to hire new staff and to provide for training, equipment, and supplies. In New Jersey, we have received $232 million over nearly two decades to strengthen public safety.

Trump has spent his presidency seeking to gut these programs.

In Trump’s first budget proposal, Byrne JAG funding was slashed by 11%, or $43 million (House Republicans went even further, proposing to cut funding for the COPS hiring program to zero). Likewise, Trump’s last three budgets have all sought to outright eliminate the COPS office and cleave over 50% from the hiring program. These draconian cuts failed only because of Congress, specifically many Democrats, stopped them.

Seemingly daily, Trump makes bellicose assertions that his opponents, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Democrats, are trying to “defund” police. The reality is the exact opposite: Trump has personally sought to decapitate state and local police funding every year he has been in office.

Trump’s attacks on police departments extend to illegal sabotage of law enforcement functions. For several years, Trump and the U.S. Department of Justice, first under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then Bill Barr, withheld millions of dollars in Byrne JAG funds to cities and states until they carried out Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

New Jersey was one of the states that refused to comply with Trump’s extortion. After several courts ruled against this scheme, DOJ finally released millions in withheld grants to state and local police departments. At my urging, the House included language in our appropriations legislation this year preventing DOJ from attempting this illegal coercion again.

But incredibly, Trump hasn’t given up, and just this week ordered the blockading of funding to cities with political protests including Seattle, Portland, New York, and the District of Columbia. If successful, Trump would again starve police departments.

If that sounds absurd, Trump has even stopped COVID-related support for law enforcement. On May 15, the House passed the HEROES Act, which included $600 million in emergency COPS and Byrne JAG funding and $900 billion for state and local governments to avoid cuts to essential services, like first responders.

This support is a matter of life and death for law enforcement. More officers have died from COVID-19 than from all other causes this year. More have died than those who heroically lost their lives on September 11, 2001. In our district, we tragically lost two first responders, Frank Scorpo and Israel Tolentino, who died protecting our communities.

These are the lives at stake that need help.

But for 110 days, the McConnell Senate has been blocking the legislation at Trump’s behest. Every day this aid is blocked puts the jobs of thousands of law enforcement officers and the public safety of millions of Americans at risk.

The Trump campaign, too, has repeatedly stiffed police departments. When national political candidates hold public events or rallies, local police departments typically provide support and campaigns reimburse them for the cost. Because of their propensity towards violence, Trump rallies are especially needing of additional protection.

As of now, the Trump campaign owes over $1.8 million to local departments in 14 cities from Tucson, Arizona to Wildwood, New Jersey, a burden that is especially heavy as departments face brutal budget cuts. Last October, I called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate Trump’s deadbeat campaign.

Over and over Trump has demonstrated dripping disdain for law enforcement, to say nothing of his fascistic rhetoric in support of police violence against protesters that dishonors all good cops. That record clashes with the balanced support for police by Democrats.

Democrats have not given any police departments a blank check – either literally or figuratively.

Following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and nationwide protests, the House moved swiftly to transform policing. The passage of the Justice In Policing Act represents the broadest law enforcement reforms in generations. This watershed legislation would end racial profiling, stop excessive use of police force, and reverse the militarization of departments.

Because providing police with the tools they need must be balanced always with law enforcement that has unceasing respect and empathy for the communities they serve.

Trump’s claims of unqualified support for police is a lie. That the man who was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, encourages lawbreaking, and surrounds himself with criminals screams “LAW AND ORDER” is preposterous. But Americans should know that his words and his actions have put police lives in danger and are tearing the nation apart.

Among our national leaders, no one is more anti-police than Donald Trump.


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