Worry over Violence — and Cops

Terry H. Schwadron

Jan. 16, 2021

We’re teetering between very cautious hope and an alarming security wake-up about Inauguration preparations that boast openly of violence — even as reports continue to emerge that our police and military house those who want to bring down the very government they are meant to protect.

If possible, the FBI warnings of armed uprisings grew yet more dire, even as investigators are eager to determine whether any of these plotters were working together or had ties to law enforcement or the military, as The New York Times said.

At least the FBI is offering the warning bulletins across the country, after NBC News reported that the feds had hesitated to so do before Jan. 6 over concerns about over-regulating free speech issues.

Somehow all involved in a yet-widening chasm see themselves as patriotic and courageous, the last hope for America, as if that explains hunting down Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers. We’re on notice to expect bloodshed in Washington or at state houses around the country.

Those thoughts are impossible to reconcile.

Ringing the Capitol with 20,000 National Guardsmen as the only means to bring in a newly elected Joe Biden government is a sadly necessary image. To those who only see a personification of election fraud, however deluded, the inauguration offers a target of nationalistic desperation.

When armed insurrection looms, we are way beyond political division. Court documents confirm that at least some rioters were aimed at killing or kidnapping government figures. It remains awfully hard to see how the hoped-for magic to keep a lawless, unethical, ego-over-country Donald Trump in the Oval Office would fix anything these anti-government insurgents may want. That’s why we have elections.

But no divisiveness explains how those entrusted with public safety and policing from working hand-in-hand with insurrectionists, or joining rioters in the Capitol attacks. None of it explains Republican lawmakers continuing after the confirmation of Biden’s win to argue that it was all stolen, driving continued rebellion. None of it explains members of Congress reportedly offering reconnaissance about the Capitol layout to rioters.

I’ve heard no apologies, including from inciter-in-chief Trump, for collaborating actions leading to the slaying of a Capitol cop and four others, for attempted kidnap of Congress members, for continuing armed threats and sedition.

What about the Police?

We’re hearing widening reports of internal police investigations cops and former military veterans across the country participating in the violence — including against Capitol police — or publicly sympathizing with Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rallies. More than a dozen police officers are being investigated, according to news reports.

The allegations range from a Capitol police officer talking a selfie with the violent insurrectionists to a retired Chicago firefighter throwing a fire extinguisher at heads of police officers.

Two Capitol police officers have been suspended and 10 others are under investigation for their conduct, including giving directions to rioters on where to go. Two police officers from a Virginia police department who even bragged on television about their efforts to uphold freedom have been arrested by the FBI. Conduct of a Houston police officer is under review by his department, as are seven officers of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), a Philadelphia detective, two Seattle police officers, and one from the NYPD — although no details are known.

Aside from the individuals, it remains an open question as to who ordered stand-downs or failed to recognize a threat from within the policing agencies. One can only hope that investigation of the hundreds of arrested insurrections will unearth information about its coordination and leadership — even into the ranks of government..

Along with images of the rioting and police officers handling insurgents gently in many cases, The Washington Post’s account of Trump remaining relatively paralyzed in the White House, gleefully fixated on rioters fighting on his behalf as he refused to call in National Guard reinforcements, remains the pervasive image.

The Capitol attacks made the threats real, along with foiled plots to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Witmer in Michigan and Ralph Northam in Virginia over coronavirus policies. The idea that the inauguration can bring about assassinations, bombings, kidnappings or other violence is no figment The FBI and Justice Department are keen to overturn the conclusions of failure on Jan. 6.

“They had sufficient forces to contain the mob, but they were disastrously wrong. Command and control of police and federal law enforcement units was chaotic. The rules of engagement left police and National Guard troops without sufficient anti-riot gear in the early hours of the confrontation,” reminds columnist David Ignatius in a plea for preparedness in the next days.

Ineptness or Worse?

There are emerging reports about police maintaining a far-right media ecosystem where racist messages and disinformation spread along with calls for violence against left-wing “antifa.” And other “cops-only message boards and other pro-law enforcement media groups online . . . are grappling with how a group that usually proclaims “Blue Lives Matter” could turn its wrath on them.

The articles outline how In message boards, in Facebook groups and on news sites such as Law Enforcement Today, there is a narrative fueled by extreme arguments that police are under nonstop siege and that antifa in particular is a constant threat, that Black Lives Matter protests have resulted in termination of law enforcement officers, that “patriotism” comes only in confronting the political left. A central theme, amid distortion and outright fabrication, is that the government — with the exception of Donald Trump — does not have the back of law enforcement.

With that in kind of constant hum in the background, perhaps it is more understandable that there were law enforcement officers attracted to the Stop the Steal effort. Similar efforts are under way among military and veterans groups, along with the opposite, of course.

Obviously, police officers (and FBI members and journalists) can have personal political opinions. It’s just that they are supposed to leave those opinions at the door to their workplace and do their job.

Ironically, it was exactly frustration with such personal opinion that drove arguments by Trump and Republican supporters to decry FBI staffers who were investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russian political operatives.

Professional ethics are not meant to be so situationally flexible.

If we can’t count on these individual police officers to do their jobs, replace them, as as we should at the White House.

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