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Trump’s meeting with police union leaders masks the harms of his deportation push

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Trump pledged to keep money flowing despite his attorney general’s warning to “sanctuary cities.” That misses the point.

Fraternal Order of Police leaders meet with the president on Tuesday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

When President Donald Trump hosted leaders from the nation’s largest police union at the White House on Tuesday, the public surface of the meeting was as placid as you’d expect given the Fraternal Order of Police’s fondness for this president.

Beneath that outward comity, however, the FOP’s leadership was ringing an alarm bell. The group is concerned that Trump’s approach to so-called “sanctuary cities” will cinch off law enforcement funding and damage public safety, Reuters reported Wednesday morning.

Plenty of other law enforcement figures have criticized or outright opposed Trump’s approach to law-and-order policy. The FOP’s worries are very different in character — it is broadly supportive of Trump’s immigration crackdown, while scores of top cops around the country have rejected the idea as harmful — but the union’s political alliance with the White House gives their fears a better chance of being heard.

The FOP’s reported concerns appear to be a shift. Just two months ago, FOP leader Chuck Canterbury praised Trump’s executive order regarding deportations and inter-agency cooperation as more modest and appropriate than prior iterations of the policy.

“Previous solutions called for an unequivocal end to all Federal grants for recalcitrant jurisdictions and there was a real concern about this approach on the part of the FOP,” Canterbury said in a January statement. “Instead, today’s order makes the suspension of Federal grants discretionary and we support this balanced approach.”

Something changed between then and now. Despite Pasco warning Attorney General Jeff Sessions that “the union would oppose any move to restrict federal funding for police,” Reuters notes, Sessions’ Monday speech was a broad threat to “any funds awarded” to the cities in question. The next day, Trump promised union leaders he would tinker with Sessions’ policy as necessary to prevent the types of public-safety impacts the group fears.

Kept or broken, that Trump vow misses the larger point about how his immigration crackdown damages public safety. Even if he tripled federal funding to every police department in the country, the hard line he is pushing on immigration warrants would still undermine law enforcement work.

The mass deportation of African immigrants that isn’t getting media attention

By making clear that interacting with a local police officer could land an undocumented immigrant in a deportation cell, Trump has destroyed the immigrant community’s ability to trust cops.

That’s why Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus warned last fall that Trump’s deportations push would “seriously compromise” his department’s work. “We will not compromise our commitment to community policing and public safety by taking on immigration enforcement responsibilities that appropriately rest with federal authorities,” Magnus said.

It’s also why Montgomery County, Maryland, Chief of Police J. Thomas Manger said he was “disappointed” by Trump’s move to override local policies aimed at “retaining the trust of the immigrant communities, not having the immigrant communities afraid of contacting the police.”

The Los Angeles Police Department thinks it’s already seeing the rotten fruits of Trump’s immigration labors. In an unusual move last week, LAPD brass published statistics on reported crimes broken out by the ethnicity of the caller — and showed that Hispanic angelenos have reported 25 percent fewer rapes and 10 percent fewer domestic violence incidents so far this year than in the same period of 2016.

“While there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the Department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized,” the department said in a press release.

The FOP’s Jim Pasco, who voiced the group’s concerns to Trump on Tuesday, has previously dismissed these concerns by saying that “no cop on the beat with a good heart” would ever arrest victims of crimes. But the stakes are so high for the undocumented community — they could be returned to dangerous circumstances abroad or see their families split up — that such anecdotal realities are cold comfort.

None of this is new, and Trump’s team have had ample opportunity to absorb these structural realities. Scores of prominent police organizations and law enforcement officers have made these points repeatedly, but — as the Washington Post’s Radley Balko noted recently — Trump doesn’t seem to listen to cops who don’t agree with his preconceived notions about crime.

The same principle Trump ignores in immigration enforcement is also a key thread in black civil rights groups’ campaigns to overhaul law enforcement standards. The violence, injustice, and indignities of status-quo police procedure for non-white Americans are directly connected to police departments’ struggles to combat actual crime.

When the police become agents of repression, they lose community trust. People stop calling 911 after abuse-of-force cases make the papers, as one recent study of calls to police in Wisconsin showed. They also start looking for revenge when they realize the police will not bring them justice, as the relationship between Chicago’s high murder rate and the Chicago Police Department’s low clearance rate on homicide investigations illustrates.


Trump’s meeting with police union leaders masks the harms of his deportation push was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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