There was an execution-style murder of a Houston deputy last week. Two days later: an off-duty officer in Abilene was found dead at his home. It was ruled a homicide. The next day, a Chicago officer was killed responding to a distress call. On walls in Houston there is graffiti of two emoji; on one side, the head of a police officer. On the other, a gun pointed at it.
Police and officials from New York to Houston have linked the death of Houston Deputy Darren Goforth to the Black Lives Matter protest movement focused on how police use lethal force against African-American citizens.
The County Sheriff of Milwaukee calls these recent events a “war on police.” And the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, agrees.
Patrick has issued a statement – and a longer Facebook post – calling these events a “morbid reality” for law enforcement officers.
“These are troubling times,” he tells Texas Standard. “When you see that type of graffiti – when you see and hear the verbal attacks on the internet, on 24-hour cable news, that are vicious verbal attacks followed up by murderous attacks on police – we are at a very troubled time in our country.”
Patrick says there needs to be more positive mentions of police officers in the news and blames some media outlets for pitting sides of the story against each other.
“Your type of interview has to stop,” Patrick says. “Quit focusing on the small percentage of those in law enforcement who have made a mistake or have broken the law themselves.”
Read below for the full transcript of the conversation between Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Texas Standard Host David Brown. This transcript has been edited for clarity. Assertions in this interview have not been independently confirmed.
Dan Patrick: “These are troubling times. When you see that type of graffiti – when you see and hear the verbal attacks on the internet, on 24-hour cable news, that are vicious verbal attacks followed up by murderous attacks on police – we are at a very troubled time in our country.”
Texas Standard host, David Brown: The county sheriff of Milwaukee is calling this a ‘war on police.’ What do you say?
DP: “I think it is. When a police officer – whose main job is to protect us, the citizens – has to be worried about protecting himself first, that puts that police officer in harm’s way in a way they should not be. And I’m not talking about your type of crime where maybe they’re breaking up a holdup, there’s a robbery, there’s something where they would be expected to be in harm’s way. Now, they have to just worry about filling up the patrol car with gas without being killed. I mean, Officer Goforth was shot 15 times. That’s a hate crime in my view.
“I’m tired of this ‘certain lives matter.’ All lives do matter and particularly law enforcement. And there is a war on police, by some people. It’s a small percentage of people in this country, but they’re deadly. It only takes a few of that small group of people who spew this hate toward law enforcement to take the life on an innocent officer.”
TS: Your statement specifically refers to ‘open season on police.’ What do you mean?
DP: “Well some people, if you just look at the rhetoric – look at the march in Minnesota yesterday –”
TS: May I stop you there? You mentioned ‘just look at the rhetoric,’ but that’s different from an actual war on police. Words are words, right, I mean –”
DP: “Let me tell you what ‘war on police’ is, sir. That’s seven police officers killed in America in the month of August, and two already in September. That’s a war on police. Let’s not confuse rhetoric. Let’s not make this political speak. Let’s talk about it as it is: We have a thin blue line in this country and a thimble-full of men and women who offer themselves up to protect you and me, our families and our businesses. And at some point if this war on police continues you’re gonna find fewer and fewer men and women who are willing to do that job.
“When you lose your law enforcement that’s when our society breaks down totally. We need to put an end to this right now; the rhetoric against police. They’re not the enemy – the bad guys are the enemy. And if there are law officers who violate the law themselves or don’t do what they should, then they’ll be held accountable. But we’ve got to get back to the basics.
“How about when you see a law enforcement officer: ‘Yes sir, no sir. Yes ma’am, no ma’am.’ How about respect? If you expect respect. How about realizing the tremendous stress they are under 24/7 and at home. They are expected to be perfect in everything they do. Never make a mistake or they could be sued or they could be fired or they could be shot. Twenty-four-seven, 365, 20 years – if they live that long and have a career that long. But we’re gonna drive people out of this profession if it doesn’t stop.”
TS: Since you made your statement there has obviously been a major reaction online and some people pointing out – even people who don’t engage in reckless rhetoric – have said things like ‘Look, respect is earned.’ And after all we’ve seen on television all the Youtube videos that have contradicted official police accounts of incidents involving the use of police force, there’s a lot of skepticism out there. How do you convince those people?
DP: “You know, your type of interview has to stop. When I was asked to do an interview on NPR, I thought to myself ‘Do I really want to do this?’ They’re not in the police officers’ corner. And you’ve proven that by your interview.”
TS: How do you mean, sir?
DP: “You have to understand this: There are people in every profession who crossed the line and should be fired. Quit focussing on that small percentage of those in law enforcement who have made a mistake or who have broken the law itself. Focus on the men and women that you and your family depend on every day to protect your life.
“Look, the vast majority of our citizenry are law-abiding. You know – 100 percent of the crime is committed in estimate by about 15 percent of the population – there’s a small number of police officers. But that is the rhetoric about those officers. Trying to indicate that represents the majority of officers is what leads to the killing of officers… by some people who are led in that direction.”
TS: I don’t want to be misunderstood, because I hope you don’t think that I’m engaging in that rhetoric. One of the reasons that we wanted to invite you on is so you could talk about the issue of respect for law enforcement.
DP: “I did, but you wanted to turn it around. What about…what about… what about –”
TS: I want to make sure that people who were listening felt like their questions were being asked. And it’s certainly not something that I’m suggesting. I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond –
DP: “Let’s focus on law and order. Let’s focus on the vast majority of law enforcement officers who every day – and remember this, David – you don’t do this in your job, I don’t do this in my job – every day when they get up and go to work part of their job responsibility is to give their life for a citizen they don’t know. To save theirs if need be. No other profession requires that when you leave the house every morning.
“Let’s remember they’re mothers and fathers. They’re brothers. They’re dads, they’re sons they’re daughters. They have every day issues like everyone else. They’re under stress all of the time, expected to be perfect all of the time, and every time we have a law officer who’s killed or murdered in cold blood – like Officer Goforth was last week – well, what about that video? What about that officer? What about this?
“There are official ways to file complaints and do things and address those issues. They’re official channels to do that. But we have got to get away from this confrontational attitude with law enforcement. They are the thin blue line that protects society, they’re not the problem.”
TS: If I may follow up on something though – because I think you’re making several important points here. One of the things you seem to be suggesting, at the very least, is that media has a responsibility here and in fact is abrogating that responsibility.
DP: “I believe that 24-hour news cable stations – not all of them – are pitting people… they’re looking for the ratings, so that they find someone from one side to go against the other side for ratings. All that does is really turn into a lot of yelling at at each other or hate speech –”
TS: But how do we have a conversation about some of these?
DP: “Well, we can have a conversation about it, but let’s have a conversation and focus on the positives of law enforcement. Let’s focus on all those men and women who do a great job every day. Let’s focus on those seven officers who were killed in August and two in september already. Let’s not worry about the one officer or two officers out there on a Youtube dashcam video did something wrong. If they were wrong, I’ll file a complaint and if their department feels they were wrong then suspend them or fire them.
“These are special men and women and we only want the best. By the way, if this continues David, we’re gonna run some of the best and brightest who want to go into law enforcement. And we want the best and brightest. But people are going to start questioning ‘Is this what I want to do for a profession. That their spouses are gonna stay to their husbands and wives, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ Their kids are gonna say that. They’re gonna worry about their parents when they leave for work every day. Let’s focus on this problem. We can clean up the other issues and we should. No one wants anyone in any profession that is not under control or not held accountable. Let’s focus on the real issues.”
TS: We’re out of time, but I have to ask one more question if I may – as we talk about a war on police, are you concerned? You’ve been in the radio business, are you concerned that perhaps the rhetoric is also being ratcheted up on both sides, if you will? And we reach a point where we’re not talking and things to indeed get out of control?
DP: “I do talk radio. There are these internet radio stations that you know someone’s going in from their living room and hate speech on that look I’m a First Amendment guy. I believe in our Constitution. But when hate speech leads to violence, then we’ve gone too far. And that’s a difficult issue for us.
“We have a right to protest in this country and say what we will, but when I see the marchers in Minneapolis say ‘Pigs in the blanket, fry ‘em like bacon,’ if that’s what we want to allow in this country, or not question in this country, then we are in trouble indeed.”