Obama Hates Cops

Across policing there is a generally accepted narrative: Former President Obama never supported cops. In fact, he hated cops. Many of my friends, even those who see the need for progressive police reform, tend to share this belief, at least to some degree. The most strident majority has even gone as far as saying that any cop who supports the former president is a traitor to the profession and have the blood of the fallen on their hands.

That kind of inflammatory rhetoric does nothing to help solve any of the issues for policing in this country. I would argue that it is equally damaging to community and officer safety as any anarchists carrying signs or chanting slogans calling for the killing of cops. These equal and opposite reactions only inflame the tensions and harm everyone.

We have to listen more and bully less because learning can never occur if we remain locked in our echo-chambers, only hearing how there’s a war on cops and anyone who questions policing or suggests reforms is the enemy. We blame the media or the former president rather than those individual officers and departments who give policing a black eye.

The Obama-hates-cops line has become so universally accepted in many policing circles, that on some police message boards or chat rooms, anyone who dares to challenge the narrative is shouted down, vilified, and even censured. So much for our belief in free thought. Truth be known, this kind of against-the-grain thinking is the reason for the title of my blog. I find myself agreeing with the objectives of safety and respect for law enforcement, but see the road to that goal differently. Many think the way to gain respect is through dominance and force; I believe it is through compassion and service.

I wanted to understand where this animosity came from against the former president. I searched extensively, truly wanting to find the source. I wanted to defend you. Surely there must be some smoking-gun statement that I could point to and say, “Aha.” What I found was only a man who, like all of us, filters life through his own experiences and tried to get us to see the world through the eyes of someone who grows up Black in America.

Did he challenge us to improve? Yes. Did he condemn violence against cops? Many times. Did he also empathize with the systemic issues that set up the conflicts between minority communities and the police? Definitely. Did he ever disrespect police officers? No. Unless you believe any suggestion of systemic problems that contribute to historical bad blood and violence defines disrespect.

Are we really so thin-skinned that we require our leaders to speak only of blind allegiance?

The more I read and searched for the answer to this hatred of the former president, and effusive enthusiasm for the current president, it struck me that we want a cheerleader, not a leader. But, leadership is what we desperately need. We need honest reflection to improve. Discussions about the hard topics. Ferguson, Chicago, and Baltimore exposed serious systemic problems that made their crime-fighting ineffective and destroyed the trust of their citizens. Policing 101 teaches us that we cannot effectively conduct our mission without the support of the citizens we serve. Without it, crime increases and cops are in more danger. All the feel-good speeches bragging about supporting cops do no good if we don’t fix the deep-seated problems exposed by each flashpoint. And the next one is surely coming.

Most of my white friends told me Barack Obama disappointed America because he had the opportunity to do so much more on race relations and he didn’t. He divided us further.

Long, careful reflection has made me conclude something entirely different.

When we complain about what our first African American president didn’t accomplish our bias is on full display.

I think we really mean we voted for a Black man expecting him to prove that racism is over in America. We expected him to wag his finger and scold Black America. We wanted him to tell them to get their shit together, because it’s their own fault if they haven’t succeeded. His great sin was asking white Americans—and policing—to confront biases that made us uncomfortable. Police wanted him to tell Black people if they would just do what their told, they wouldn’t have a problem.

Instead, he told us that he understood the frustrations of African Americans. He asked us to think about ways to stop shootings instead of escalating violence. He asked us to consider systemic racism in ways we didn’t want to. None of this is anti-police. It’s a plea to find ways to bridge the divide. Yes, part of that is acknowledging very real concerns with how some departments and individual officers conduct themselves. He tried to shine a light into the dark corners we don’t want to see.

His refusal to become the excuser in chief for the racial tensions that continue to divide is what really bothers us. As though his presidency might magically erase the legacy of two centuries of harm.

We should think about that.

24 thoughts on “Obama Hates Cops

  1. Love it…non minority people, including police officers will ever admit there is rampant racism in law enforcement. Their first reaction is to blame the “bad guy”. For example, Eric Garner choked to death for selling loose cigarettes. “He shouldn’t have been committing a crime., say the police and non minorities. Dylan Roof massacres 7 African American church members. ” Hey kid are you hungry? We’ll run you by Burger King”. No outrage from the white community, and if there was, it sure wasn’t breaking news. President Obama definitely caused even those white cops who always swore “I’m not racist, I have black friends” types to show what was really in their heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Early in my career, I saw the signs, but like many I shrugged it off and kept telling myself it was this isolated person or that one. After a while, I realized it’s just as big of a problem that the larger “whole” allows these folks to continue on. That’s when I started to reflect and I have to say, part of what changed me was Obama’s humanity through it all. I know there are really good people in policing, we need leadership to insist on the highest of standards, not turn a blind eye to the undercurrents of bias that affect our communities every single day. Thanks, Yoli.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that part of the problem inherent in police policing themselves is that if they do so successfully, it is by nature, going to be a quiet thing that the media won’t report, ( which will end up looking like the media isn’t reporting on the injustices.)

        But this is an interesting take on why White people voted for Obama. I haven’t read much about the reasons for that.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m interested in issues of race and policing for both personal and professional reasons, as I was the first minority cop in one police department, and I was the first minority captain in another (where I’m still employed).
      I’m not dismissing anyone else’s perspective, but “rampant racism in law enforcement” hasn’t been the reality I’ve lived for 22 years. In fact, I’d suggest that, as a group, the cops I know are probably less racist than my colleagues in other professional circles.
      As to Eric Garner, reasonable people can debate the wisdom of criminalizing the sale of loosies. However, that’s not particularly relevant to his obligation to comply with officer’s instructions. It seems pretty clear that allowing suspects to dictate whether, or how, they’re arrested is neither reasonable nor practical.
      Once Dylan Roof was in police custody, the police were responsible for his welfare. Regardless of how heinous the allegations against him, the officers had to provide food. The police are required to meet the basic needs of arrestees. They can’t arbitrarily deny food, water, access to restroom facilities, medical care, etc…

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      • I can’t speak for Yoli, but it seems like you are sort of making her point. In too many cases there is a vast difference in how we respond depending upon race. A white man says, “Officer, I have a CC permit”, the officer says okay, move slowly, and doesn’t usually overreact. A Black man says, “I have a permit” and gets shot. Or is told to get his paperwork from the glove box and when he does so, is shot. We could go on with many examples. My point is that instead of law enforcement either collectively remaining silent at best, or jumping into defense of these really bad events at worst, we should say maybe those people should not be cops. I think it’s time to re-examine our standards.

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      • (I wasn’t able to comment below yours because the reply link wasn’t there.)

        Perhaps I wasn’t clear, or maybe I was misunderstood, but I was expressing disagreement with the idea that racism is rampant in law enforcement. While we all have our biases, the cops I’ve known are less racist than other professional groups with whom I work. Again, I’m basing that solely on my experiences, and others may have lived a different reality.
        The two examples you cite support the idea that some cops react to situations differently based on race, but I don’t recall widespread support for those uses of force. Also, I’m not convinced Dylan Roof was fed in custody because he was white…
        I agree that we should constantly strive to ensure only the best candidates get into policing. The authority and responsibility given to cops require that we maintain high standards.

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      • I hear you, Ashley. That’s why I said I can’t speak for Yoli’s belief. We are both retired officers, btw. My personal experience is that there is more bias than we care to admit, both racial bias and bias to protect bad cops. Keeping bad cops harms us all. It affects morale, community engagement, and our ability to fight crime. That is my visceral belief. When these folks are identified, they have to go. Additionally, we need much more integrated bias training, that will enlighten us on how bias affects how we do our jobs, even if we don’t think so.

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  2. Amazingly well done (as usual) you tackled a difficult topic for cops — we want cheerleaders and not leaders who may call us to reflect, confront our “shit” and then have the nobility and courage to improve that which we do. The same applies to our ranks. We need leaders who have the courage to challenge us and make us better people and better cops.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think so too. But that doesn’t justify the narrative that he “hates cops”. Additionally, if you google his actual statements, there were many supportive statements. Most never got the coverage. My point is that for the good of our profession, we err when we focus on blaming anyone, rather than strive to improve our ranks. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I agree with most of your points, to some degree but I still think Barack Obama has betrayed both police and citizens by refusing to act on the root causes of crime and prevent them. If he had done so then he could have reduced the danger to everyone.

    By stopping the root causes of violence he makes it much less likely that police will have confrontations with the public in the first place. In Dallas boith Barack Obama and the police chief came up with some good rhetoric but then when it comes to policy decisions they stuck with the same get tough on crime policies that have been proven to fail.

    I went into this in a few more details a few months ago if you don’t mind my posting this.

    http://zacherydtaylor.blogspot.com/2016/08/barack-obama-betrayed-police-veterans.html

    I don’t think Barack Obama hates cops anymore than he hates Black Lives Matter or veterans but his policies betray them all and serve corporate interests.

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    • The Republicans have made it clear that they were not going to work with Obama and they said so out in the public for everyone to hear and any time Obama sent his proposals to the House of the Representatives, the Republicans refuse to act on them. You need to remember: The president proposes, Congress disposes. If your opponent has a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, anything that comes to them from the White House will be either accept by them or will be rejected by them and if it gets rejected, there is nothing the president can do to change it. In addition, the Republicans change the filibuster rules, so again anything that Obama send to them will be voted down.

      You also had corporate leaders tell Obama that they were not going to bring the manufacturing jobs back and made it clear that they were in the driver’s seat and were not going to give someone’s the steering wheel.

      Also, Obama had a slim majority in Congress; however, some of the Democrats were blue dog Democrats or had switched from Democrat to Republican. Also, some Democrats after being elected could not take office because some of the election results were so close that the Republicans filed in court to get a recount.

      Bush, Senior wanted a compassionate nation; however, he did not do a thing to help the people of the USA when it comes to the roots of crimes and his policies only serve the corporate interests and the wealthy people. The same thing can be said for Reagan, Bush, Junior, and the current person in the White House.

      “…. then when it comes to policy decisions they stuck with the same get tough on crime policies that have been proven to fail.”

      Well, it seems that no one really seems to care about tough on crime policies failing when a Republican mayor, aRepublican councilman, Republican county supervisor, a Republican governor, Republican state or federal senator, Republican assembly person/house of representative, and a Republican President was doing them. As a matter of fact, Nixon launched his war on drugs was a screen to destroy Afro-American movements in the country. That was a really extreme form of racism.

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      • I don’t like Republican’s failed policies any more than you; however Obama’s opposition to them was incredibly weak and he caved quickly to their demands without even trying to get grassroots support to pressure the Republicans. He chose Biden as his running mate who supported failed get tough on crime policies more than most Democrats except perhaps Clinton who escalated the prison boom.

        Barack promised to put on a “comfortable pair of shoes” and march with protesters as president if necessary & not to hire lobbyists from corporations and broke those promises and many more. Both parties act as agents of Wall Street & the media rigs it so that they only give name recognition to corporate candidates moving steadily to the right regardless of the will of the people.

        Nixon did launch the war on drugs the first time but both parties abandoned academi8c research supported by Kennedy administration and continued with Johnson administration then relegated to grassroots where only educated communities stood up to demagoguery.

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      • We are getting a little beyond policing with this discussion. And far beyond my point that Law Enforcement, through our police leadership, has to shake off the political noise and get back to the basics of our oath and honor. That is what I advocate.

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      • Oh, and for clarity. Clarke is the Milwaukee Sheriff who is the driver of the Obama hates cop shtick. He would do our profession much more good if he focused on real things we can do to carve the bad apples from our ranks and have more discussion with the citizens we work FOR in how to improve relations. He does exactly what I think is not helpful. People in law enforcement love him for exactly the reason I say they are against Obama–He blames Black people and wags his finger in their face.
        Looking inside at our bias shows this as my point. He is held up by white America as some kind of hero because he is a Black man who lashes out at minorities. That is what we wanted from Obama and didn’t get.
        Thanks for the larger discussion, but I’d like to keep the focus on how policing can self-focus and correct internally.

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    • I don’t mind you posting at all, Zack. It adds to the discussion. As for policies, I don’t really see that Barack Obama could have honestly affected the root causes of crime. That is something that can only happen if we do something about our reps in congress and state houses. Crime and contact with the police, as you know, has much more to do with varieties of social and economic realities. Until we as a country begin to truly address them, we won’t see progress. One of my earlier blogs addresses the ways that our society dumps all of these issues at the foot of the American police officer. Then decries the way it’s handled.

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      • I think the Chief in Dallas, I think it was Clarke or something, made similar statements about not providing educational opportunities or social workers to help advise people. Then he followed up be another recruitment drive for police, which would be fine if it was accompanied by recruitment of social workers for the responsibilities that were being left to police that weren’t trained for that. Their recruitment efforts involved police from the neighborhood they patrol, which is good but not enough.

        When community policing was introduced in Boston area they suggested that social worker might often accompany police on domestic calls. This could involve teaching troubled families to solve their problems without violence and raise children in less violent manners including elimination or at least minimizing corporal punishment. states with the least use of corporal punishment in schools have the lowest murder rates & the South with much more violent upbringing has the highest. This is often associated with religion but there is one exception. Utah is among the lowest murder rates with over half Mormons; Gordon Hinkley spoke out against corporal punishment and I have no doubt that is a major reason for their reduction in violence when other religions that supported violent education kept higher murder rates.

        Regrettably when the initial version of community policing didn’t bring results overnight they abandoned it and became more militarized; but when there was educated grassroots pressure they kept them reducing crime more effectively.

        If the media was willing to report the best research that would go along way to educating the public about this but they use it for entertainment purposes and often ridicule educational efforts that might replace corporal punishment that escalates to get tough on crime polices.

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  4. Nicely done! Policing has become an echo chamber–it is easy to stand up to the bullying when you’re not in the middle of the chamber any more. We have to break that echo chamber apart and get people in policing who are willing to think for themselves.

    When I got hired as a police officer, I remember one part of the psychological phase where the interviewer asked me about how many sports teams I had played on…I played lacrosse in college (poorly) and that was about it. He explained to me that might hinder my application a bit, because cops should be great at being part of a team, sticking together.

    It strikes me that maybe we want more people in policing who don’t want to back their teammates when the teammates are wrong–it’s important to note that that doesn’t make you a bad teammate: it makes you a better teammate because your protecting your teammates form getting into trouble.

    Bless you for being such an important voice in the wilderness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your service. As a military vet prior to becoming an officer, I believe in the value of the team. But as you say, we cannot fall into group think and protection that prevents seeing what’s right. I honestly believe that in so many of these highly publicized cases, back to Rodney King and beyond, where our profession gets into trouble is blind support. How much more credibility would be gained if collectively we said, “These people do not represent our honorable profession and they must go.”

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  5. If prevention is ignored then both police and civilians are endangered. When protesters get outraged by corruption and incompetence of police it becomes the polices jurisdiction to control them even when politicians don’t address legitimate concerns.

    You can’t ignore contributing causes and; otherwise there may be a time where orders from politicians become so outrageous that they can’t be justified. Get tough on crime polices turn people against police when it is the politicians that are setting the stage as part of divide and rule tactics.

    Also one thing I failed to mention about the escalation of violence; I’m guessing your familiar with David Coupers post on Bullying & Hazing in the police department. This is part of military style indoctrination that teaches blind obedience and escalating violence, which is also the problem.

    I notice your a veteran and I’m guessing that you’ve seen similar problems there. I’ve looked into that as well and many veterans have a lot of conflict with police and there are reports of many of them being killed by police. The Dallas and Baton Rouge incidents are much less common that when police kill veterans.

    Like problems with police though, Ive noticed that the people working the hardest to solving the veteran problem are family members and other veterans, who often are the victims of violence from other veterans.

    Indoctrination to blindly obey is a major contributing cause to violence. We kill people in other countries when politicians lie. They don’t like it and retaliate.

    We don’t take care of educational and social problems when politicians lie. Veterans returned and found that politicians and police aren’t protecting abandoned inner cities and often intimidate harrass and occasionally kill people.

    If police obey orders when politicians lie we have a problem.

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