It’s Time for Conservatives to Stop Defending Police
There is nothing conservative about government violating the rights of citizens.

The Thin Blue Line in the Big Apple (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)



Imagine if I were to tell you there is a large group of government employees, with generous salaries and ridiculously cushy retirement pensions covered by the taxpayer, who enjoy incredible job security and are rarely held accountable even for activities that would almost certainly earn the rest of us prison time. When there is proven misconduct, these government employees are merely reassigned and are rarely dismissed. The bill for any legal settlements concerning their errors? It, too, is covered by the taxpayers. Their unions are among the strongest in the country.

No, I’m not talking about public-school teachers.

I’m talking about the police.

We conservatives recoil at the former; yet routinely defend the latter — even though, unlike teachers, police officers enjoy an utter monopoly on force and can ruin — or end — one’s life in a millisecond.


For decades, conservatives have served as stalwart defenders of police forces. There have been many good reasons for this, including long memories of the post-countercultural crime wave that devastated, and in some cases destroyed, many American cities; conservatives’ penchant for law and order; and Americans’ widely shared disdain for the cops’ usual opponents. (“Dirty hippies being arrested? Good!” is not an uncommon sentiment.) Although tough-on-crime appeals have never been limited to conservative politicians or voters, conservatives instinctively (and, it turned out, correctly) understood that the way to reduce crime is to have more cops making more arrests, not more sociologists identifying more root causes. Conservatives are rightly proud to have supported police officers doing their jobs at times when progressives were on the other side.

But it’s time for conservatives’ unconditional love affair with the police to end.

Let’s get the obligatory disclaimer out of the way: Yes, many police officers do heroic works and, yes, many are upstanding individuals who serve the community bravely and capably.

But respecting good police work means being willing to speak out against civil-liberties-breaking thugs who shrug their shoulders after brutalizing citizens.

On Thursday in Staten Island, an asthmatic 43-year-old father of six, Eric Garner, died after a group of policemen descended on him, placing him in a chokehold while attempting to arrest him for allegedly selling cigarettes. A bystander managed to capture video in which Garner clearly cries out, “I can’t breathe!” Even after releasing the chokehold (chokeholds, incidentally, are prohibited by NYPD protocol), the same officer then proceeds to shove and hold Garner’s face against the ground, applying his body weight and pressure on Garner, ignoring Garner’s pleas that he cannot breathe. Worse yet, new video shows at least eight officers standing around Garner’s lifeless, unconscious body.

Who can defend this?

And police-department Internal Affairs divisions are nearly as concerning as the cops themselves. Last week, a Miami police officer witnessed a car driving at high speeds in a pedestrian area. When he pulled the car over, the indignant driver stormed out. “Don’t you know the [expletive] I am?” the driver barked. It turns out that the driver was a police lieutenant within . . . Internal Affairs. The department in charge of ensuring proper police behavior consists of gents like this, whose first response is to assume that cops, like members of Congress, are above the law. What happened to the lieutenant? He has been transferred to “Special Investigations,” which, as a local NBC reporter points out, is more a promotion than a punishment.

MRAPs on Main Street
As a growing number of police and sheriff's departments across the country take delivery of surplus military equipment such as the MRAP, some wonder if domestic law enforcement is becoming too militarized. Here’s a look at some of the combat vehicles now seen on Main Street U.S.A.
The MRAP — an acronym for Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected — is a class of vehicle that was developed over the past decade to protect U.S. troops from roadside bombs and other enemy attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pictured, soldiers on patrol with an MRAP in Shinkay, Afghanistan, in 2011. (Photo: Army Staff Sergeant Brian Ferguson)
MRAPs come in various models and configurations, from large-sized four-wheeled vehicles up to towering 10-foot-tall trucks with four or six wheels that weigh close to 50,000 pounds. Pictured, an MRAP in Ghazni, Afghanistan, in 2010. (Photo: Army Sergeant Justin Howe)
Through the Law Enforcement Support Office of the Defense Logistics Agency, some 600 MRAP vehicles have been donated to local law enforcement departments in just the past year. Civilian agencies pay only for the cost of delivery, typically around $5,000, for vehicles that cost the Pentagon up to half a million or more. Pictured, an MRAP in Merrillville, Ind.
A side-by-side comparison between the MRAP and a regular police car demonstrates the step up in size it represents. Pictured, an MRAP with the Eureka Police Department in Eureka, Calif.
MRAPs are typically used by SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) units, which have become more common in recent years. According to figures from the Rutherford Institute, on average 100 SWAT raids occur each day nationwide. Pictured, members of the Clovis Police Department in Clovis, Calif.
Here’s a look at where some of the hundreds of surplus MRAPs have ended up over the past year, as reported in local media. Pictured, Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree stands with his department’s new vehicle in Queensbury, N.Y.
McHenry County Sheriffs, McHenry County, Ill. (June 2014) Sheriff’s department sergeant Alex Emby climbs aboard.
Johnson County Sheriff, John County, Ind. (June 2014) The department’s new MRAP sits next to the sheriff department’s 22-year-old “Peacekeeper” vehicle.
Banning Police Department, Banning, Calif. (December 2013) The purchase was controversial, with city council members saying they were not consulted. While being delivered, the MRAP had a tire blowout and crashed into a pickup, resulting in a claim of more than $42,000 against the city.
Fort Pierce Police Department, Fort Pierce, Fla. (January 2014) The Fort Pierce Police stated on their Facebook page: "Chief Baldwin has some advice for anyone that may find themselves facing the MRAP on the wrong side of the law, 'If you see my SWAT team roll up in this thing… it’s over, so just give up.'"
Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, Dallas County, Texas (Sept. 2013) The Dallas Observer noted of the reasoning behind the purchase: “There’s no telling when North Texas might descend into sectarian warfare and start planting IEDs along Riverfront Boulevard."
North Augusta Department of Public Safety, North Augusta, S.C. (June 2014) The August Chronicle reports that the department’s other military equipment includes “M-16 rifles, aim point weapon sights, chain saws, rifle magazines, extrication tools, weapon-mounted flashlights and firefighter apparel.”
Hamburg Police Department, Hamburg, N.Y. (Feb. 2014). Noted “The vehicle was outfitted for war and had to be modified to make it more practical for officers.”
Justice Police Department, Justice Ill. (April 2014). Justice trustee Melanie Kuban told the Desplaines Valley News: “I imagine it will be used mostly for training and parades. But the police have it if we need it.”
Story County Sheriffs Office, Story County, Iowa (April 2014) Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald told KCCI-TV: “We hope we never have to deploy it, but if we do and if the situation ever develops then I want to know that I've done everything I could.”
Michigan City Police Department, Michigan City, Ind. (April 2014). Police Chief of Services Royce Williams told the Herald Argus: "Our community should be grateful to have a tool such as the MRAP at their disposal if needed. If this piece of tactical equipment saves just one life, it will have been worth it, and that's the bottom line.”
Oxford County Sheriff’s Office, Oxford County, Maine. (June 2014) Sheriff Wayne Gallant told the Lewiston-Auburn: “It’s just going to be a safety tool, it’s not going to be used as a patrol until or anything like that. Maybe it will never be used.”
Preston Police Department, Preston, Idaho (September 2013) Police Chief Ken Geddes told the Idaho State Journal: “‘What are we going to do with that?’ is a lot of people’s first comment. Others might say, ‘Are things that bad in Preston that we need that?’ I hope not, too.”
Cape Girardeau County Sheriffs Department, Cape Girardeau, Mo. (March 2014). Sheriff’s Lieutenant Chris Hull told KCRU-FM: “I think it’s a very impressive machine. It is very heavy.”
Washington Police Department, Washington, Iowa (April 2014) Police chief Greg Goodman presents the new vehicle.
Mason City Police Department, Mason City, Iowa (April 2014)
Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, Jasper County, Iowa (March 2014) Chief Deputy Duane Rozendaal inspects the new MRAP vehicle.
Manteca Police Department SWAT team, Manteca, Calif. (April 2014). Observed “While the MRAP will serve a specific function, its imposing size could possibly act as a deterrent to a gun incident escalating into something ugly.”
High Springs Police Department, High Springs, Fla. (October 2013)
Walton County Sheriff’s Department, Walton County, Fla. (June 2014)
St. Joseph County Metro SWAT, Mishawaka, Ind. (May 2014)
Walla Walla Police Department, Walla Walla, Wash. (April 2014)
Boise Police Department, Boise, Idaho (October 2013)
Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, Lyon County, Nev. (April 2014)
St. Cloud Police Department SWAT team, St. Cloud, Minn. (October 2013)
Door County Sheriff’s Department, Door County, Wisc. (April 2014)
Texarkana Police Department, Texarkana, Texas (Dec. 2013)
South Lake Tahoe Police Department SWAT team, South Lake Tahoe, Nev. (December 2013)
Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, Cheyenne, Wyo. (June 2014)
Updated: Jun. 30, 2014