By Demetrick Pennie
August 25, 2022
I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month on issues affecting law enforcement and public safety. During the three-hour hearing, I advocated federal oversight into online radicalization and violence perpetrated against police.
I asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate the case of the riots that dated back to Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 under the pretext of “ Black Lives Matter ,” which were instrumental in starting the downward trend of law and order. The riots have left the policing profession struggling to mitigate violent crime across the country. Law enforcement is a resilient profession by its very nature, but the Black Lives Matter movement and the subsequent George Floyd riots have tested its resolve.
Law enforcement has always faced its ups and downs, but this era of policing has fallen to its lowest point since the 1992 Rodney King riots. Unfortunately, 30 years later, the policing profession is now facing an unprecedented crisis that will undoubtedly be difficult to recover from. Officers are now leaving the profession in droves, and police agencies are struggling to recruit new replacements.
Unlike in the Rodney King era, the “anti-police” sentiment of today has genuinely discouraged citizens from even wanting to enter the profession. Many people are reluctant to become police officers because politics has weakened the profession. Likewise, active police officers are skeptical of remaining in the profession because of anti-police agendas like "defund the police," public ridicule, and political discourse.
During the hearing, I informed the committee about the growing concerns of police officers around the country who are tired of being caught in the middle of violent political protests and discouraged by bail reform initiatives that result in them having to arrest the same perpetrators over and over again. Officers are also concerned about their personal safety because of the increased level of attacks on police.
According to the FBI, in 2021, 73 police officers were murdered in the line of duty — the highest number in decades. Last year, there were also 86 premeditated “ambush-style” attacks on police officers, and so far, in 2022, there have been 36. Many of these attacks were influenced by radical anti-police social media posts with hashtags such as #ACAB, or its numerical equivalent #1312 (All Cops Are Bastards), and #F*ck12 (F*** the Police) to incite violence against police.
During the George Floyd riots, there was a direct correlation between the proliferation of radical hashtags and actual violence against police. For example, #BLMRevolution2020 was used to provide protesters and rioters with tactical data on when and where to organize and what type of equipment to bring. This corresponded to violence, looting, and vandalism in cities like Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, which resulted in more than $2 billion dollars in property damage and over 2,000 officers being injured nationwide. Police agencies were oblivious to these techniques and threats because they didn’t have the technology or the intelligence to counter the attacks.
I urged Congress to pursue federal prosecutions related to the riots using existing federal legal definitions of “domestic terrorism.” I also asked Congress to establish penalties for behaviors that violate the statute and to establish an “early warning” system requiring social media companies to monitor and share threatening content targeting law enforcement and other homeland security interests.
The feedback from my testimony was positive. Senators from both sides of the aisle agreed that more should be done to protect our nation’s law enforcement from radicalized attacks. But it is imperative that our leaders act now because every day that we wait, another officer is injured or dies. If our political leaders are unwilling to stand up to do what is necessary to protect our police and our communities, then we must elect others who are willing to do so.
Demetrick “Tre” Pennie, Ed.D., is a 22-year retired Dallas police sergeant. He serves as the president and executive director of the National Fallen Officer Foundation. He has a doctorate in Education from Texas Tech University and is also the author of the upcoming book Believe Me Now?
Originally published on the Washington Examiner.