President Biden slammed his predecessor’s support for police Monday in a fiery speech before the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, in a bid to use the U.S. Capitol riot to peel away some of former President Donald Trump’s support among police unions.
Mr. Biden said law enforcement officers were “subject to medieval hell” for three hours on Jan. 6, 2021, while the former president sat idly by in the White House.
“Speared, sprayed, stomped on, brutalized and lives were lost,” Mr. Biden said, recounting the angry pro-Trump mob’s attacks on police offices. “For three hours the defeated former president watched it all happen as he sat in the comfort of the dining room next to the Oval Office.”
“The police were heroes that day. Donald Trump lacked the courage to act. The brave women and men in blue all across this nation should never forget that,” Mr. Biden continued.
“You can’t be pro-insurrection and pro-cop,” he said.
Mr. Biden’s speech sets up a contrast between him and Mr. Trump, who has broadly hinted at another bid for the presidency in 2024.
In 2020, law enforcement unions overwhelmingly went for Mr. Trump, which was a major embarrassment for Mr. Biden, who for more than four decades in Washington was seen as a key ally of both unions and police.
But the fracture between Mr. Biden and police widened after the death of George Floyd, the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests, and calls from numerous Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists (albeit not Mr. Biden himself) to defund the police.
Most police unions, including those that had never previously endorsed a candidate, backed Mr. Trump in the 2020 election.
The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives does make political endorsements, but some of its leaders personally praised Mr. Biden in remarks to media outlets, including The Washington Times.
Since coming into office, Mr. Biden has called for dramatic overhauls to policing and his Justice Department has ramped up investigations into local departments.
He has also been criticized by police unions for failing to speak out against attacks on law enforcement and has offered little praise for officers in speeches. Some officers have complained that Mr. Biden’s silence, from fear of alienating Blacks and/or progressives in his political base, has contributed to a national anti-police climate.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has unabashedly voiced support for law enforcement.
However, some of those unions backed away from their endorsement. Police groups criticized Mr. Trump for not contacting the family of Officer Brian Sicknick who died of a stroke after being injured fending off Capitol rioters.
The Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Mr. Trump in the 2020 election, issued a statement criticizing his tepid condemnation of the Jan. 6 rioters in the aftermath of the attack.
Police unions could play pivotal roles in the upcoming election.
Harvard University researcher Michael Zoorob studied the police union support for Mr. Trump in the 2016 election and found police accounted for more than 13,000 votes in Michigan and more than 27,000 votes in Pennsylvania.
The former number was greater than Mr. Trump’s margin of victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, and the Pennsylvania support provided comfortably more than half his margin over Mrs. Clinton in that state.
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