May 11, 2021
Grassley: Let's End the War on Cops
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Let’s End the War on Cops
Delivered on Monday, May 10, 2021
Today I want to discuss an unfortunate trend that has grown over the last year.
Since March of 2020, the United States has been battling COVID-19. We’ve lost over a half million Americans because of the disease.
But I’m talking about another tragedy today – and that’s the War on Cops. Two months after the pandemic hit, and sparked by the death of George Floyd, cities all across the country broke out into violent riots. Much of that violence has been directed at law enforcement, and it has taken a serious toll.
During the 2020 riots, more than 900 law enforcement officers were injured, including 277 officer injuries while defending the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and 60 Secret Service officers defending the White House.
In September, a gunman ambushed two Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies as they sat in their squad car. In January 2020, a violent mob attacked police defending the Capitol. Just last month, a young man killed a Capitol police officer performing his duties.
Police across the country are suffering from demoralization and fatigue. By the end of last summer, police officers were quitting the force in large numbers.
Last August, 49 officers retired from the Portland Police Bureau in Oregon. That’s more than it lost in all of 2019.
By the end of last summer, 140 officers had quit the Atlanta Police Department by that point in the year. That number had only been 80 in the previous year.
And in Washington, D.C., over 300 officers have quit since last June. Only half of those were retirements. The other half just walked away.
What does that mean for the crime in these cities?
In Portland, murders increased 60 percent in 2020 from the year before. Arsons were up 95 percent.
In Atlanta, murders were up 62 percent in 2020 from the year before. Aggravated assault was up by 15 percent.
And in Washington, D.C., murders were up 22 percent in 2020 from the year before. So far this year, murders are up even more – 33 percent so far in 2021 compared to this point last year.
Professor Paul Cassell at the University of Utah estimates that reduced policing in dangerous neighborhoods last year caused an additional 1,200 homicides in America’s largest cities.
But the problem isn’t just with keeping police officers on the force. There’s also a problem with getting new ones too, including in Iowa.
Recently the Des Moines Police Department reported it had received half the applications they did last year. At the county level, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office usually gets hundreds of applicants for deputy vacancies but recently got only about 50 applications. And the Council Bluffs Police Department told me at one of my recent county meetings that it was having the same recruiting difficulties. This is a problem that police departments are having all over the country, with hundreds of vacancies across cities like Louisville, New York, Philadelphia and Portland.
How could this be?
Well, for the last year, there has been a lot of hatred and vitriol directed at the police. If a police officer uses excessive force, he or she should suffer the consequences. But it often seems like our national media would have us believe that any use of force by police is unjustified. Even Members of Congress sometimes join this sort of demagoguery. A month ago, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib tweeted, “No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can’t be reformed.” Back in January, Congresswoman Cori Bush tweeted, “Defunding the police isn’t radical, it’s real.” This sort of talk is dangerous, especially for people in neighborhoods that depend heavily on police officers to keep them safe.
Law enforcement officers have to make split-second decisions that could be the difference of life or death for themselves or someone they’re trying to protect. That’s what we train them to do. Sadly, we sometimes need them to use force in order to keep us safe.
Now, we’re used to seeing videos on the internet of police officers using deadly force. But if you want to see really good policing in action, I would suggest people look at another video on the internet. Just do a simple search for “Los Angeles deputy Mercedes Benz.” You will come across a video of a Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy doing a routine traffic stop of a driver who had been using her phone while behind the wheel. In this video, the driver repeatedly calls the deputy a “murderer” and then mocks him for being Hispanic and taunts him for supposedly wishing he were white. It will make your stomach turn. But throughout the video, the deputy is courteous and professional.
I suspect nearly all law enforcement officers conduct themselves and their work in that way. They have a very hard job and deal with people who often don’t want to deal with them. Most of them do that job very professionally and respectfully.
I worry that, because of the threat of violence, the condemnation by the media and daily abuses like this one, more and more police officers won’t want to do the job anymore. And I worry that more and more young adults won’t want to start careers in law enforcement. We need more qualified people who want to be police officers, not fewer.
We can’t keep up like this. We can’t keep scaring away our police officers while telling the next generations of Americans that cops are evil. They’re not. They’re our friends and neighbors who made a career out of keeping us safe. When the outside world becomes a dangerous place, they show up. And the outside world is not going to stop being a dangerous place. Let’s make sure cops don’t stop showing up. Let’s end the war on cops.
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