When President Biden took the podium last week, he falsely claimed mounted Border Patrol agents in the now-famous picture approached migrants on horses “nearly running them over and people being strapped,” by which he meant whipped. He then pledged that “those people will pay.”
Clearly, Mr. Biden cared nothing for the facts. The agents never even came close to riding down the illegal immigrants, and in no case did they whip them. The video footage clearly shows the agents expertly controlling their animals and using the reins only on the horses, as they are trained to do.
But facts and due process don’t seem to apply to Mr. Biden when it comes to law enforcement officers. Increasingly, the police are presumed guilty until proven innocent. And even then, their false “guilt” lives on in the public’s consciousness. As President Reagan’s Secretary of Labor Ray Donovan said, upon his exoneration after being unjustly tarred by the left and the media, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”
Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot Michael Brown in 2014, was subsequently cleared by a grand jury, then the Obama Justice Department, and again by the new progressive DA who campaigned on prosecuting the officer. The crusading prosecutor could not find evidence that Mr. Wilson had done anything wrong, and in fact, all these investigations proved the falsity of the ‘don’t shoot, hands up’ propaganda (i.e., it never happened).
But Mr. Wilson’s guilt — after years of media slander and political demagoguery — lingers in the public’s mind.
Talking heads, journalists, and self-righteous politicians — who have never stepped into the shoes of a law enforcement official — play judge, jury, and executioner in print and TV whenever a high-profile police incident occurs (or is imagined in the recent case of the mounted Border Patrol agents).
And their assumption always seems to be police brutality, misconduct, and malfeasance.
Earlier this year, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said police violence is a worsening “epidemic” as bad as COVID-19. Last year, she called federal law enforcement protecting against rioters “stormtroopers,” equating law enforcement officers doing their jobs well to Nazis.
Back in 2020, Now-Vice President Kamala Harris said that the Kenosha officer who shot Jacob Blake should be charged with a crime, insisting Mr. Blake was unarmed. Two independent investigations concluded the shooting was “reasonable” and “justified” and cleared the officers who returned to duty. No matter, Ms. Harris had her mind made up before she had the facts.
For the Border Patrol agents, like law enforcement officers nationwide, the conflicting orders they receive and quick blame they garner from their leaders is not just unfair, it is demoralizing.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas pledged to Congress that in the days before the horse incident that “dramatic results” would be forthcoming on the Haitian migrant shantytown at the border.
The Border Patrol, under orders from above, began to clear the encampment of the 17,000 illegal immigrants – most of whom were eligible for immediate expulsion under public health powers. Mr. Mayorkas promised to do just that.
Then came the out-of-context photo which sent the media and advocates into an uproar. Rumors spread that the agents were running down and whipping black Haitians. The photographer who took the infamous photo even came forward to dispel this lie but to no avail.
Ms. Harris again jumped into the fray saying the image evoked tactics from the “times of slavery.” Congresswoman Maxine Waters said it was even “worse than what we witnessed in slavery.”
The heated and false rhetoric and downright lies are even more concerning because Mr. Mayorkas actually corrected the record, four days before Mr. Biden’s and Ms. Harris’ comments, that the agents were not whipping the migrants or hitting them all.
That the falsehoods poured out of Mr. Biden’s and Ms. Harris’ mouths anyway suggests Mr. Mayorkas — who personally toured that same border sector with its mounted Border Patrol units as deputy DHS secretary under President Obama — lacked the temerity to correct his bosses and back his agents.
The same script is playing out in other law enforcement agencies as local “social justice” prosecutors focus more on charging cops than criminals, mayors and city councils slash police budgets, and leaders treat officers like criminals, racists, and liars instead of the brave public protectors that they are.
It is no wonder that police are quitting in droves. Since the George Floyd unrest, officer resignations and retirements are surging from New York to Portland, Los Angeles to Chicago — leaving police ranks depleted and departments overstretched. Those vacancies are proving nearly impossible to fill as police recruitment founders. At the same time, violence is surging. After all, who wants to work for a boss that loathes you or where a prosecutor truly may be ‘out to get you?’
The Austin, Texas, department lost over 150 officers to retirement and resignations after the city cut their budget by a third, homicides are at an all-time high after rising 50%, and recruitment has proven nearly impossible.
Mr. Biden concluded his remarks last week condemning the Border Patrol agents saying, “it’s dangerous; it’s wrong … it sends the wrong message to the world. It sends the wrong message at home.”
What message, then, does the president’s rush to judgment and promised retribution before due process send to innocent and honorable police officers? Sadly, it is becoming more apparent that some don’t believe a presumption of innocence applies to those we ask to protect us and enforce the law.
• Ken Cuccinelli is the former Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security overseeing the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. He previously served as the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2010-2014). Jason Johnson, the former deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, is the President of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, which advocates for law enforcement and provides legal financial support to officers.