Arpaio Pardon Reaffirms Trump’s Promotion of Police Brutality

When Trump announced his pardon of Joe Arpaio on Friday night, one of my immediate thoughts was to remember that it was only a month ago that he said this:

Marcy Wheeler points out that by pardoning Arpaio, Trump was sending an important signal to this part of his base.

As I pointed out repeatedly during the election, while some dissidents objected, the National Fraternal Order of Police and many other police groups stood by Trump, even after the Access Hollywood video made it clear the candidate endorsed sexual assault. Trump continues to feed this base, with repeated tributes to cops’ roles in keeping “us” “safe.”…

There is no better way to do that than to convey to police that they can target brown people, that they can ignore all federal checks on their power, with impunity (this is probably one key reason why Trump has given up his efforts to oust Sessions, because on policing they remain in perfect accord).

There is no better way to keep the support of cops who support Trump because he encourages their abuses then by pardoning Arpaio for the most spectacular case of such abuses.

We got an exclamation point to that side of the story this morning.

President Donald Trump is preparing to lift restrictions on surplus military equipment that can be passed on to local law enforcement agencies in spite of past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were escalating confrontations with protesters…

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could outline the changes during a Monday speech to the national conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, a person familiar with the matter said.

It is interesting to note that the case against Arpaio began when the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice opened an investigation into whether or not he and the Maricopa County Sheriffs Department engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. Since passage of the 1994 Crime Bill, that has been the federal governments recourse to intervene in cases of police brutality.

Last spring Attorney General Sessions indicated that he intends to reverse the consent decrees that have resulted from those investigations because they “reduce morale” among police officers.

In summary, the president is prepared to re-arm police with military gear, told them to basically “get rough,” signaled that this administration would not hold them accountable and has pardoned the most notorious abuser.

For a long time now Donald Trump has made it clear that he is completely dismissive our civil rights and liberties. Back in 1989 he took out an ad calling for the death penalty for the five young men accused in the Central Park Five case prior to a court determination of whether they were guilty or innocent. Included was this statement: “Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!” When confronted with the shootings of unarmed black men during the campaign, he repeatedly talked about wanting to give the police more power.

The pardoning of Joe Arpaio was more than the president doing a favor for a political ally. He was signaling that not only will his administration back off on holding abusers accountable, he intervened if the courts attempt to do so. That, along with Trump’s other moves, is an invitation to ramp up police brutality.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.