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The disturbing irony behind a disgraceful new endorsement of Trump

The Police Officers Association of Michigan claims backing Trump will restore "honor" to the profession. Tell that to the U.S. Capitol Police.

On Tuesday, the 12,000-member Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) disgraced itself by endorsing Donald Trump for president. At a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Trump supporters cheered as uniformed officers flanked the former president — who’s facing dozens of criminal charges in four different indictments, and was already found liable for sexual abuse. The spectacle of police officers supporting a man indicted in two states and in two federal jurisdictions raises the question: What exactly are they endorsing?

POAM President Jim Tignanelli noted that his group first endorsed Trump in the 2016 election. “In the midst of a rapidly changing political landscape,” he argued, “it’s imperative for organizations representing law enforcement to endorse candidates who prioritize safety, security, and the well-being of communities.” I’m not a big fan of police engaging in any politically partisan activities, but since Tignanelli wants to go there, let’s try and figure out what he meant.

Endorsing a man who refers to migrants as animals, and was found liable for sexual assault, is anathema to the law enforcement mission.

Maybe, since Trump used the event to focus on border security, the police representative might have referred to a perception that undocumented migrants are causing a coast-to-coast violent crime spree. That’s certainly the picture that Trump was painting. The former president referred to undocumented migrants as “animals” and accused President Joe Biden of being responsible for a “bloodbath” at the southern border. 

Except, that’s not what the facts tell us. Law enforcement is supposed to be about gathering facts to use as evidence. The facts, convenient or not, tell us that crimes rates are down in cities that receive the most migrants. An NBC News review of “available 2024 crime data from the cities targeted by Texas’ “Operation Lone Star,” which buses or flies migrants from the border to major cities in the interior — shows overall crime levels dropping in those cities that have received the most migrants.” The truth is that violent crime continues to drop across the nation.

Perhaps the POAM leader was referring to the more local and tragic slaying of 25-year-old Ruby Garcia by her boyfriend, Brandon Ortiz-Vite. The man, who entered the U.S. as a child, confessed to killing Garcia and dumping her body near a Grand Rapids roadway. At Tuesday’s event, Trump correctly asserted that Ortiz-Vite was deported during his administration. But his claim that Ortiz-Vite re-entered the country under Biden’s watch, implying Biden is responsible for murder, could not be corroborated by immigration officials who noted that the date and location were unknown. The facts should matter to those who enforce the law.

Importantly, while police officers stood by listening, Trump claimed he had spoken with Garcia’s family members. In fact, Garcia’s sister told reporters that Trump had not spoken to anyone from the family. “It’s kind of shocking seeing that he had said he had spoken with us ... misinforming people on live TV,” Marvi Garcia said in an interview with NBC affiliate WOOD-TV. That Trump would lie on television isn’t surprising, but that doesn’t make his politicization of a pending homicide investigation any less disturbing.

Tiagnelli and the POAM’s leadership might argue that Trump has the backs of police around the country. Tell that to the U.S. Capitol Police union who tallied 140 officers injured during the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump calls the criminals who assaulted those officers “hostages,” whom he pledges to release if he wins the presidency again.

Hate and division have no business dressing up in a police uniform.

In a statement ahead of Tuesday’s rally, Biden-Harris 2024 Michigan Communications Director Alyssa Bradley said, “Donald Trump is coming to Grand Rapids where he is expected to once again try to politicize a tragedy and sow hate and division to hide from his own record of failing Michiganders.”

Now, Trump and his shortsighted cohorts in Michigan law enforcement have politicized the police too. I say shortsighted because endorsing a man who refers to migrants as animals, and was found liable for sexual assault, is anathema to the law enforcement mission. Will rape victims report crimes to police departments who endorse Trump? Will migrants who are beaten because of the color of their skin report their incident to a sheriff who supports what Trump stands for?

Hate and division are Trump’s bread and butter — but hate and division have no business dressing up in a police uniform. Tignanelli said he “hopes that in the future with leaders like Trump, honor will be restored to the law enforcement profession”. But endorsing a man who stands against the rule of law and uses officers as props is the furthest thing from honorable.