Presidential hopefuls Chris Christie and Donald Trump used Thursday night’s GOP debate to portray themselves as pro-cop and anti-crime, during an election year in which public worries about crime are rising.
“The police are the most mistreated people in this country,” Trump declared during an answer about domestic jihad. “I will tell you that. The most mistreated people.”
Christie pushed deeper, saying, “The President of the United States and both his attorneys general, they give the benefit of the doubt to the criminal, not to the police officers.”
The outreach to police likely will be welcomed by middle-class voters who worry about crime and recognize that police face increasingly violent protests, citizens with video cameras, and hometown administrations that refuse to back them up.
The GOP frontrunner first addressed the trouble police are experiencing during a segment about halfway through the night when the Fox Business Network (FBN) panel asked former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush if Trump’s supporters are “unhinged” like Jeb thinks Trump himself is.
Bush stumbled through his reply and said that he feels the reason people are “angry and scared” is because of President Obama’s failed policies. But in his rejoinder to Bush, Trump noted that he wants people to feel secure.
“I want security for this country. OK?” Trump said to applause.
The real estate mogul went on to decry Obama’s polices that are creating a border where “people flow over,” causing a “serious problem” as they come here and live and “shoot” American citizens. He also said that radical Islamists seem to have no problem coming right into the U.S., thanks to Obama.
I want to find out why those two young people–those two horrible young people in California when they shot the 14 people, killed them–people they knew, people that held the wedding reception for them. I want to find out–many people saw pipe bombs and all sorts of things all over their apartment. Why weren’t they vigilant? Why didn’t they call? Why didn’t they call the police?
“And by the way,” Trump added, “the police are the most mistreated people in this country. I will tell you that. The most mistreated people.”
But it was Chris Christie who had a more in-depth discussion about America’s police.
Some time after Trump made his brief comment about how badly our boys in blue are being treated, FBN host Neil Cavuto turned to Gov. Christie and asked him how he felt about the “recent statistics that showed violent crimes that have been spiking sometimes by double digit ratings in 30 cities across the country.” Cavuto also noted that many officers “are being less proactive because they’re being overly scrutinized and second guessed and they’re afraid of being sued or thrown in jail.” The FBN host finished by asking Christie how he would address growing crime in our big cities if he were elected to the White House.
Christie started off quoting FBI director James Comey, who said, “There’s a chill wind blowing through law enforcement in this country.”
The New Jersey Governor went on to lay the problem directly at Obama’s feet.
“Here’s why: the President of the United States and both his attorneys general, they give the benefit of the doubt to the criminal, not to the police officers,” he said.
Christie next insisted that Obama “is a guy who just believes that law enforcement are the bad guys.”
Christie then accused mayors and administrations who allow their towns to be “sanctuary cities” of being a major part of the problem.
“That’s where crime is happening in these cities where they don’t enforce the immigration laws.” Christie added that “this president turns his back” on the laws.
Obama, Christie said, will not even enforce federal drug laws. “This President allows lawlessness throughout this country,” he exclaimed.
Winding down his time, Gov. Christie then said that one of his solutions would be to appoint an attorney general who follows the law. He would tell that AG, “General, enforce the law against everyone justly, fairly, and aggressively. Make our streets safe again. Make our police officers proud of what they do, but more important than that, let them know how proud we are of them.”
“We do that, this country would be safe and secure again not only from criminals, but from the terrorist who threaten us, as well. I’m the only person on this stage who’s done that, and we will get it done as President of the United States,” Christie concluded to audience applause.
As Christie noted, Comey not only said that police are growing afraid to act because they feel abandoned by their commanders and city administrations, but he doubled down on that claim, refusing to recant.
In October, Comey wondered aloud, “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?”
Indeed, the worry that police are “standing down” and refusing to get involved to stop crime became one of the accusations thrown at officers in Baltimore in the aftermath of the riots over the death of arrestee Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody early last year.
As the riots spun out of control last summer and in the weeks after the initial unrest when crime wildly increased in the city, opponents of the Baltimore Police Department claimed that the BPD was purposefully “holding back” because they were afraid of getting in trouble with their own leaders and falling prey to the city’s politicians, who are looking for scapegoats.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.