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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sheriff Donini Says Obama Has "Done Nothing" With Concern for "Staggering Enforcement Deaths"

“What’s really frustrating to law enforcement is that President Barack Obama has done absolutely nothing to express his concern with these staggering statistics (of police deaths), nor to provide funding to combat this factual data dealing with the senseless murdering of law enforcement officers throughout our country,” (Sheriff of Scioto County) Donini said. 

“We in law enforcement sometimes wonder and ask ourselves if maybe ‘federal political leaders’ throughout our country feel that a law enforcement officer’s life isn’t really worth much.”

(Frank Lewis. "Sheriff questions Obama’s proposal."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. December 03. 2014)

Wow! Now, our president is accused of caring nothing about law enforcement officers who are “feloniously” killed while performing their duties. Even though Sheriff Donini is a staunch Republican, a member of the opposing party, I believe such a public statement is unfair and boldly accusatory of the leader of the free world.

It seems the current Obama-hating frenzy knows no bounds. Usually, elected officials who serve the public choose their words very carefully (and for good reason); however, these days it is fashionable to throw caution to the wind and let political affiliations bluster the sails of accusation.

In the wake of the Ferguson incident, Sheriff Marty V. Donini says he believes federal officials do not value the lives of law enforcement officers. In fact, he believes the proposed $263 million program to train police officers and offer them body cameras is just a political ploy.

The sheriff has the right to his opinion, and I respect that. What is suspect to me is his motivation. Here is his argument for denouncing the president as an indifferent "do nothing" cop hater:

“I, along with many of my colleagues in law enforcement, strongly believe that the proposed funding by President Barack Obama, suggested on Monday for new funding to purchase body cameras and training meant to help improve relations between police departments and minority communities to the tune of $263 million dollars, is simply a political response to a sad tragedy and resistance to accepting the process of our American criminal justice system just because the outcome of the grand jury didn’t go a certain way,” Donini said. 

“Personally and professionally, I like many of my fellow law enforcement officers, feel the funding could and should be more wisely spent on hiring additional law enforcement officers within our local communities.”

(Frank Lewis. "Sheriff questions Obama’s proposal."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. December 03. 2014)

Donini goes on to cite "countless numbers of law enforcement officers" killed during the past four years, implying Obama's term as president has had a direct result. 

Sheriff Donini makes a good point. Funding for additional law enforcement officers is a much-needed priority. But, he implies Obama is to blame for the unrest in Ferguson and calls the President's proposal for police funding "a political response to a sad tragedy and resistance to accepting the process of our American criminal justice system just because the outcome of the grand jury didn’t go a certain way." These accusations are blatantly unfair and, in themselves, smack of politics.

And, Donini claims to speak for "many members of his fellow law enforcement officers." Do tell? Well, isn't it interesting that Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware says he thinks there are some positive opportunities that could come from Obama’s proposal? I believe the word many may need to be qualified as to what party's "many."

Here is what else is misleading about his comments:

After President Obama met with members of his Cabinet, the administration revealed details of the White House review. The president is pushing a three-year, $263 million program to expand training and resources for local police departments -- on component would be a $75 million fund during that period to help purchase 50,000 body cameras.

The proposed Body Worn Camera Partnership Program would give a 50 percent match to state and local police forces that purchase small, lapel-mounted cameras to record police on the job. The White House has said the cameras could help bridge mistrust between law enforcement and the public.

So, only around 28 percent of the proposed money for police training and resources is allocated for body cameras. The rest of the money -- $188 million -- would go for other policing resources. Plus, the match of money makes Obama's plan for cameras much more palatable.

Law enforcement deaths are unacceptable. Yet, according to many agencies, the truth is many police officers are getting killed in ambushes by violent career criminals with easy access to high-powered weapons. National crime analysts say more powerful guns, hardened criminals, desperate economic times --- all may play some role. These officials see no common thread to explain the deadly assault on police. (By the way, no source I found mentioned President Obama as a cause of death.)

Here is the actual breakdown of police deaths from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund:

Causes of Law Enforcement Deaths

Over the Past Decade (2004-2013)

CAUSE OF DEATH 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
Aircraft Accidents 3 2 3 3 3 4 2 1 3 1 25
Auto Crashes 51 43 46 61 44 39 51 44 27 28 434
Beaten 0 0 1 0 1 0 2 2 2 0 8
Bicycle Accident 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3
Boating Accident 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 3
Bomb-Related Incident 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 6
Drowned 3 4 0 4 1 0 3 4 0 2 21
Electrocuted 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 4
Fall 1 4 0 3 0 0 1 4 4 6 23
Horse-Related Accident 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
Job-Related Illness 19 24 21 19 23 18 21 20 8 13 186
Motorcycle Crashes 10 5 11 10 9 3 6 5 7 4 70
Poisoned 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Shot 59 60 54 70 41 50 60 73 50 31 548
Stabbed 1 1 1 0 2 0 0 2 5 2 14
Strangled 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
Struck by Falling Object 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Struck by Train 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 4
Struck by Vehicle 13 16 16 14 18 11 13 10 14 11 136
Terrorist Attack 1 1 1 5 0 0 0 1 0 0 9
Total 165 163 156 191 147 125 161 171 122 100 1501

So many Republicans are knee-jerking the President's heinie for simply being a Democrat lame duck that it's a wonder he can even sit down. Open season Obama is getting so irrational that many blame him for the Great Flood and for the Holocaust. I, for one, am so annoyed. And, I, Sheriff, think I am speaking for many of my fellow citizens.

To accuse President Obama of not caring about the death of police officers is strong language. Follow the dots to see the possible motivation: Michael Brown... Officer Darren Wilson... Grand Jury Decision... Ferguson Unrest -- Protests and Riots. You do understand that Obama is a seated Democratic, Afro-American president who happened to be in office during a terrible calamity that has drawn national attention to the problem of racial profiling in St. Louis, don't you?

In his defense, the President said in his address to the nation after the verdict of the grand jury, that the grand jury decision was a result "that either way was going to be subject of intense disagreement, not only in Ferguson, but across America."

He continued: "First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law and we must accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make. He also noted some people might agree with the verdict while others would be "disappointed, even angry." He encouraged anyone upset by the decision to express themselves without violence.

Unfortunately thugs and hoodlums rioted instead. They should be arrested for their criminal actions and prosecuted for their despicable deeds. Yet, the peaceful protesters must be allowed to express their disapproval. All Americans live with certain freedoms protected under the Constitution. All good Republicans and Democrats know that.

Unrest had been building for a long time in St. Louis, Missouri. The office of Missouri’s attorney general concluded in an annual report in 2013 that Ferguson police were twice as likely to arrest African Americans during traffic stops as they were whites.

(Wesley Lowery, Carol D. Leonnig and Mark Berman. "Even before Michael Brown’s slaying in Ferguson, racial questions hung over police." The Washington Post. August 13, 2014)

Rich Anderson, a retired engineer in Ferguson, said the "implicit bias" there amounts to deeply ingrained assumptions that people aren’t even aware they make about others. The bias plays out in various ways in policing, from whom the police stop to where they patrol.

“When I have conversations with law enforcement officers, they’ll say, blacks commit most of the crimes, and the data suggest that,” said Khatib Waheed, who has facilitated dozens of workshops on combating implicit bias, including for the commanders of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Waheed stated, “But can we assume that crimes are only committed in the black community or are there crimes being committed in other communities as well? For example, if you go on a college campus, you’ll find just as much drug use as you will in any part of the black community. But are the police policing those areas?”

(Rachel Lippmann. "Despite State Law, Police Departments In Missouri Still Struggle
 With Bias In Policing." St. Louis Public Radio. December 2, 2014)

I remember when the President was afforded common respect for the very office he held. I know Sheriff Donini remembers those times too. After all, it's the highest office in the land, and it should always stand for something that’s good and right about America. Criticizing the President is one thing, but attacking him because of reasons not related to his Presidency is ridiculous.

Former First Lady and Republican Laura Bush said in 2009 President Obama "was doing a good job and our nation needed to respect the President of the United States."

Bush explained, “I think he has got a lot on his plate, and he has tackled a lot to start with, and that has probably made it more difficult.” 

As a related aside, let me quote the oath of the U.S. Armed Forces:

"I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Nothing in the oath states limiting the obligations of "obeying, supporting, and defending" to a Republican or a Democrat Commander-in-Chief. 

In his farewell address, Jimmy Carter summed up respect when he said, “I will lay down my official responsibilities in this office to take up once more the only title in our democracy superior to that of President, the title of citizen.” I believe Carter has set an incomparable example with his "citizen" work since he left office. I admire him so much for his dedication to many humanitarian efforts such as Habitat For Humanity. He has won the United Nations Human Rights Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize. 

I believe President Carter also put a great perspective about working together on the table the day he stepped down from the presidency. The citizens are the heart and soul of a democracy -- the most important people in America. In his comment, he also hinted about how to accept the responsibility of living here. We are a nation of vast differences that requires compromise, toleration, and open-mindedness. With love and common respect we must accept challenges to fulfill a great destiny.  
I know people have lost confidence in elected public officials, but also many question the thin blue line of policing. And for good reason. The facts speak volumes. No public servant should stand behind that line and color issues with political opinion that is unwarranted. Is it any wonder "trust" is lacking when change seems to be an offensive word in the process of living together in the 21st century?

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