Columns

Blaine’s Bulletin: Supporting Missouri Law Enforcement

Washington, June 26, 2020

How often do you wake up to a strange noise in the middle of the night? Maybe it’s the air conditioning kicking on, one of the kids going to the bathroom, or one of the countless sounds that old houses, like mine, make every day. For most of us, this is common. Usually calmness prevails and we realize before picking up the phone and dialing 9-1-1 it is nothing to worry about.  But what if the sound that wakes you is that of broken glass? 

When Missourians answer the call to become law enforcement officers, they commit to a life where their own personal safety comes second to everyone around them. They put their lives on the line every single day and run directly into harm’s way when the rest of us are trying to get out of it. Just last week, we saw a Missouri state trooper pulling someone out of a burning car, risking his own life to save the driver who was trapped. Flames – just like bullets, bats, and any other weapons – are not deterrents for officers but rather an indication that they’re needed most, and they are there for us at those desperate times.  While headlines and news coverage focus only on the bad, it is important to remember that 99.9% of law enforcement officers serve with dignity and the utmost respect for the citizens they’re charged with protecting.  

Regardless of the profession, no group is exempt from bad actors; even one angel turned into the devil.  Law enforcement also faces that reality, and we saw the worst of it through the video of George Floyd’s death. That video showed us that there are policing policies that must be improved. Unfortunately, instead of striving toward those improvements, there have been numerous efforts and calls to defund law enforcement. That is the absolute worst solution possible.  Police departments and sheriff’s offices are already largely underfunded. That lack of funding reduces the availability of enhanced training and often leaves officers in dangerous situations without a partner or backup in sight. Our neighborhoods are exponentially less safe without a steady, dependable police presence. We only need to look at Seattle’s so-called “CHOP zone,” where three people were recently shot, to see the chaos and danger created by lawlessness and mob rule.  

On Thursday, Speaker Pelosi called a vote in the House on a bill she titled, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Instead of focusing on efforts to improve community engagement and create safer police practices, this bill was designed to diminish and punish law enforcement across the country. It diverts badly needed resources away from police departments and limits law enforcement’s ability to access safety equipment, that they cannot otherwise afford to buy, from military surpluses. I could not support that bill because diminishing our police departments threatens the safety of all of us and puts dedicated, selfless officers at even greater risk. We lost 89 law enforcement officers in the line of duty in 2019.  Even the smallest amount of additional risk is absolutely unacceptable.   

Recognizing that improvements can and should be made to our justice system, my republican colleagues and I have worked with the White House to develop the JUSTICE Act. This bill is designed to make positive changes to the law enforcement system and a difference in communities across the nation. These reforms would allow for more training, transparency, and accountability, and will enable officers and the communities they serve to better work together moving forward. Instead of attacking law enforcement, we have worked with them to establish achievable goals that will actually increase safety and improve police/community relations. The JUSTICE Act is supported by a multitude of law enforcement organizations like the Major County Sheriffs of America, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the National Sheriffs’ Association.

We’re dealing with a very sensitive and complex situation that literally has life and death implications. Tempers have flared, accusations are flying, and the talking heads are having a hay day. What’s lost in the noise is the critical role law enforcement officers play in our lives every day. I’ve never met an officer who took the job for notoriety or fame. They and their families represent the bravest among us, and they deserve our deepest gratitude.