Obama To Police: “We Have Your Backs”

Yes, the President of the United States, in the aftermath of the police murders in Dallas and Baton Rouge, has gotten off the fence. Up to now, he spoke in irreconcilable tones in an effort to offend no one, no side, by arguing that police were needlessly killing black men while praising the police for the great job they were doing, when he just said the job they were doing was needlessly killing black men.

But that was then and this is now. If the GOP convention rhetoric about crime and police is disconcerting, then this open letter from the president should be a big eye opening to those who refuse to recognize that this isn’t a one-party issue.


You might think these words were clipped from the script of a police union official, but you would be wrong. Then again, in the aftermath of the police murders in Dallas and Baton Rouge, perhaps the president can be forgiven some hyperbolic tummy rubs to those who have suffered the murders of fellow officers who bore no connection to any specific harm.

To the brave members of our Nation’s law enforcement community:

Every day, you confront danger so it does not find our families, carry burdens so they do not fall to us, and courageously meet test after test to keep us safe.  Like Dallas officer Lorne Ahrens, who bought dinner for a homeless man the night before he died, you perform good deeds beyond the call of duty and out of the spotlight.  Time and again, you make the split-second decisions that could mean life or death for you and many others in harm’s way.  You endure the tense minutes and long hours over lifetimes of service.

Every day, you accept this responsibility and you see your colleagues do their difficult, dangerous jobs with equal valor.  I want you to know that the American people see it, too.  We recognize it, we respect it, we appreciate it, and we depend on you.  And just as your tight-knit law enforcement family feels the recent losses to your core, our Nation grieves alongside you.  Any attack on police is an unjustified attack on all of us.

Notably, this goes well beyond the wrongfulness of the killings, and deep into the cop-tropes of “courage” and “valor,” “split-second” and “life and death” decisions. But at the end of the letter, President Obama closes with a sentence that brings a commitment heretofore unsaid:

Thank you for your courageous service.  We have your backs.

This final sentence has a special meaning. It’s the retort to the old mob threat, “watch your back.” It’s the sentiment of one made man to another in the Family. It’s what a parent feels toward his child. The meaning is that right or wrong, good or evil, he will cover their back. No matter what they do, no matter how bad it is, he will back them up. The president of the United States said this publicly to law enforcement.

Now you know where this progressive administration stands on the issue.

Is it possible that the president didn’t realize the meaning of the words he used? The president’s speeches are deeply vetted, as has been explained at painful length in the discussions of the past few days regarding Melania Trump’s “plagiarizing” of Michelle Obama’s convention speech. Words don’t appear in a president’s speech by accident. They are chosen with the utmost care. These are the words he chose.

What is the significance of announcing that the Obama administration will support the actions of law enforcement without regard to whether they are right or wrong?  According to Paul Cassell at Volokh Conspiracy, it’s not good enough.

The president’s words are welcome. In the wake of recent killings of police officers in Dallas, Baton Rouge and (yesterday) in Kansas City, Kan., they are more important than ever.  Hopefully his letter can help change the poisonous atmosphere that too often surrounds discussions of policing, as Heather Mac Donald has been so eloquently documenting in her posts here, here and here, as well as in her excellent new book, “The War on Cops.”

For those unaware of Heather MacDonald’s book and position, she contends that there is, indeed, a War on Cops in America, and that Black Lives Matter, and indeed, all complaints of police use of force excesses, are lies.

While Obama’s open letter is laudable, one claim in the letter is worth at least some discussion. The letter’s concluding two sentences are: “Thank you for your courageous service. We have your backs.”  I wonder about this last claim — does the administration really have law enforcement’s back? More precisely, has the administration done everything that reasonably could have been done to prevent attacks on law enforcement?

If you get the impression that police are a vulnerable, marginalized group suffering from the microaggressions of an unappreciative public that has failed to give them the respect and adoration they deserve, you would be right.  And Cassell devolves into a 7 Step program he devised after the killing of two officers in New York that, he claims, would protect police from being murdered.

His program is more a bizarre public relations campaign of gestures to show support for police than anything else, because some folks believe gestures stop bullets. Then again, that belief is shared by both sides of this discussion, so one can’t blame Cassell for being as ineffective as others.

But his chief complaint, that saying “We have your back” isn’t the same as actually doing so, isn’t good enough. Promises from presidents and politicians are occasionally broken, you know. And some of the good work done by the administration, such as vigorously fighting all efforts to reform qualified immunity, tend to fly under the public’s radar.

Certainly nothing here suggests that the administration itself is guilty of waging a deliberate war on cops, as some intemperate remarks may have suggested. But at the same time, the administration clearly has failed to do as much as it could have done to support law enforcement, leaving it open to the charge that it has indirectly caused a war on cops.

If you thought the government hadn’t done enough to protect the public from the cops, then you just don’t see the nation through Paul Cassell’s eyes.  If the government doesn’t have cops’ back no matter what, then it is indirectly responsible for their deaths. The cost of having cops’ back is paid by the dead. For Cassell, there is no price too high to have cops’ back.

19 thoughts on “Obama To Police: “We Have Your Backs”

  1. Robert Newton

    Bah, that letter made me throw up a little in my mouth.

    Really hard to stomach lines like this: “When you see civilians at risk, you don’t see them as strangers. You see them as your own family, and you lay your life on the line for them. You put others’ safety before your own . . . “

    1. SHG Post author

      Sorry to subject you to this (nobody likes to throw up a little in their mouth), but if the president says so, well.

      1. Robert Newton

        That’s okay. Give me harsh reality instead of a feel good lies, anytime. Even if I do throw up a little.

  2. Robert Newton

    One thing glaringly absent from the letter is any hint of acknowledgement that the job that supposedly deserves our full support is itself a problem, like for example the elephant in the room of enforcing the war on drugs. The letter portrays an image of police doing nothing but trying to keep people safe from violence, as if all the police dealt with were crimes like murder, rape, or robbery.

  3. John Barleycorn

    There ought to be a drinking game app centered around seeing Patrick Lynch’s name in print and everyone has to do a double when his name appears in a listicle article or his photo is included in the article.

    I should really start hanging out in Starbucks all day with a flask and start me some new trends.

    P.S. Buy ouzo stock because the rules are gonna state that you have to down a bottle of the anise nectar of the God’s if Lynch gets a vip seat at the inauguration and is acknowledged.

    It’s gonna be new and refreshing this time around and bigger too!

    @200,000 thousand cops and some infrastructure too.

      1. JAV

        If this drinking game catches on, considering recent SCOTUS decisions on implied consent, I plan of companies that make breathalyzers. Gonna be a lot of plastered people behind the wheel.

        Is Uber public?

        1. John Barleycorn

          Not yet, but wiskey drunk investors are certain to get fleeced by the “Romans” when the IPO is released later this year or in early ’17.

          Expect roadkill possum blood to be used as ink for the signatory officials submitting the initial prospectuses. 

          FYI; Uber has undergone seven rounds of funding in excess of 7 million and is expected to float neat, not on the rocks, with an initial offering in excess of 50 million.

          But that is really besides the point…

          Having a strangers back, especially if they are an off duty cop is!

          Never drink and drive on public roads, private or public trails, or recently cut greenbelts especially when under the influence of ouzo.

          Anyway, talk is cheap. So if you want to mean it like you own it, happen to own a dune buggy, and run across an ouzo rookie -whose numbers are soon to increase exponentially- and they are not already hallucinating it is your duty to have their back.

          After circumventing the bar tenders wisdom and insisting on an ozou  crystallization shaken over six times its volume in ice and poured neat send an encrypted text to an uber driver known to you on their personal line after inquiring if the ouzo rookie woukd like to experience the fourth century BC via the ‘Merica dune buggy challenge.

          If they accept have your ouzo rookie sit in the front seat of your encrypted Uber driver’s vehicle as safe passage through the gauntlet of curious cops is exponentially more difficult if you are riding one up two in the back.

          After ariving at the gate ask the ouzo rookie to read the no trespassing sign to verify that they have not started halcianiating.

          It will read something like this:

          Peloponnese Foothills Proper

          North American Entrance

          Parliamentary Constutional Republic

          Unitary Actors Will Be Subject to the
          Ninth Century Whims of the Caretaker

          No Trespassing*

          After the lights of your encrypted Uber driver’s vehicle are out of sight head directly to the wet bar in the shop and have your rookie shake up some ouzo in your cast iron shaker. Let him know in no uncertain terms that he or she is not to stop their shaking until you return with your open tin of duty free anise infused Turkish tobacco snuff, once you remember where you left it, pause at least 90 seconds before retrieving it.

          If your rookie ouzo imbiber stops shaking before you return have them clean the light rack on the dune buggy with news print editorial pages lightly soaked in vinegar while you remove the governor screw and fill the nitrous tanks.

          Proportionate to their level of tenacity, cite inverted lines of Greek poetry and make small talk about property taxes proportionately to their tenacity and attention to detail.

          When they are done put a helmet on them, insert a mouth gaurd, and and fit them with hair on, except for the cuffs, full forearm bore skin mittins. Duck tape the cuffs in a manner that will protect their elbows superficially and then tighten the chin strap in a manner that will protect their teeth. You will know when the chin strap is tight enough when their speech is unintelligible.

          Strap them in the five point harness of the passengers seat and then do a helmet  sound check. Black Napkins is just about the perfect length for your own preparations.

          Just before you put your gloves on do a line or two of snuff and give them the raised eyebrow followed by a quick wink  just as the first track of your playlist begins.

          If they are still shaking when you return with the snuff fit them with an appropriately matched seat and adjust the governor screw three turns for every time they sneeze while they assist you bolting their seat in.

          If they sneeze more than three times before their drink is gone you should ride shotgun. If not, set them free after explaining the current condition of the clutch. Let ‘um let their hair down. Don’t even worry about it!

          * If you notice them clinch their jaw after or as they recite the Unitary Actors line or they hang or accunate the the first syllable of Peloponnese send them back from whence they come immediately.

          P.S. Ported and angled vein sucking forearm tape with fun codacrome color inbeded “positives” in the Cop syringe JAV.

          Only a fool would invest his money in breathalyzer technology.

          1. John Barleycorn

            Billion that is. Millions even 7 and 50 million are not enough to arouse interest anymore.

            P.S. It is illegal for the SEC to administer a breathalyzer in an elevator or within 100 feet of an elevator bank.

            1. Billy Bob

              Barleycorn fired up this morning. He must be doing some goood sh!t. Or the coffee is extra strong.

  4. maz

    MacDonald not only contends there *is* a war on cops, she believes there has been one, presumably unabated, since before 2003 — as that was the year she published “Are Cops Racist? How the War Against the Police Harms Black Americans.” Since evidently no one cared about black Americans, her new work is entitled “The War On Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.” I’m not sure if by “new” she implies there is some sort of substantive difference between the old war on police and the current one, or if she’s simply taking the long view (as in “the new War on Terrorism” or “the new War on Drugs”) — but regardless which it is, Heather MacDonald has your back.

  5. Billy Bob

    Robert Romano’s piece yesterday would seem to contradict the thesis here: “0bama’s War on the Police is Real,” NetRightDaily, July 21.
    Here’s the opening line: “The Obama administration has been using the practice of sue and settle to engage in a federal takeover of local police and corrections departments.” Well, the Civil Rights Division does like to sue and settle whenever and wherever it can, when a “pattern of abuse can be shown or demonstrated”. They refuse to get involved with individual cases.

    Look, you’re not going to find the Easter eggs unless you look for them. And you’re not going to find patterns of abuse if you do not look for them, either. The people at Civil Rights do not like to get their hands dirty. They’re just place holders waiting for the ACLU to hand up their cases on a silver platter, so that the functionaries can put out a press release and then go to the federal magistrate without looking too stewpid. These people could never get a real job. Neither could the Prez if he were not a Constituitional law prawf. It’s funny how some people drawn to this kind of work are so lousy at it.

  6. Miles N. Fowler

    Haven’t read Mac Donald’s book yet, but I can’t believe she says ALL complaints of excessive force are lies, because that isn’t plausible. Even the most conservative, pro-cop Mark Levin allows that there MUST be some bad apples. Also Harvard econ prof. Roland Fryer’s analysis has found excessive force against but not excessive killing of blacks by police. It stands to reason that if the national media focuses on a particular event every time it happens, it is going look as if it happens all the time, even if it doesn’t. Statistics are funny things. If you quote some and ignore others, that can give a misleading impression. For example, yes, blacks are arrested out of proportion to their percentage of the population, but they also report crime out of proportion to their percentage of the population. Which means only that blacks live in crime-ridden neighborhoods out of proportion to their percentage of the population.

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