Editorial: Sounding a bad note on police reform

The Island Now

Rocker Ted Nugent has called former President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” referred to erstwhile New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as “Jew York City Mayor Mikey Bloomberg” and frequently worn a Confederate-flag T-shirt.

So Nugent might not have been the best choice to sing the national anthem at a “Back the Blue” demonstration in East Meadow on Saturday.

Then again he might have.

It is not exactly clear what the intent is of “Back the Blue” events that have surfaced across the country in response to the Black Lives Movement’s call for wide reforms in policing in the wake of several police brutality cases.

Nassau police unions condemned the rocker-turned NRA activist’s past remarks, but only after coming under heavy political pressure from Democrats in the county Legislature to stop Nugent’s appearance.

“It has come to our attention that Ted Nugent, who was invited by the organizers of the event to sing the national anthem, has a long history of making hurtful and hateful comments, and has beliefs that are not consistent with those held by our association and members,” read a statement by James McDermott, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association.

We will take the PBA’s statement opposing Nugent’s views at face value.

But we would feel a little more comfortable if it had come earlier and the news release did not preface its opposition with “It has come to our attention” that the rocker has a long history of making racist, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks.

You don’t need to be a detective to discover Nugent’s history of making ugly comments.  That’s what he is now best known for.

As late as Friday morning, Law Enforcement Today spokesman Kyle Reyes touted the rally and Nugent on Fox News, saying that upward of 10,000 people would attend.

And the group’s statement on Facebook later Friday was hardly a denunciation of Nugent’s views.

“The purpose of this demonstration is to bring people together in support of the men and women of law enforcement,” the post says. “While we wholeheartedly appreciate anyone who supports the men and women in blue, including Mr. Nugent, the controversy over his appearance is contrary to the objectives of the demonstration.”

In Nassau County, support for police has a more benign face.

Nassau County Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) recently helped launch the “Blue Ribbon” campaign in Nassau County in support of police.

“The Blue Ribbon campaign is in response to the attempt by extreme groups to vilify all police for the actions of a tiny few,” Nicoello said in an interview with Blank Slate Media. “It is intended to show our men and women in law enforcement that we as a county and community appreciate the professionalism, dedication and courage of the overwhelming majority of men and women in blue.”

Republican State Assemblyman Ed Ra said in an op-ed article in Blank Slate Media last week that he was “deeply concerned about the damaging rhetoric, radical actions and misguided policy proposal we’ve been hearing from the left. It seems that for every measured step forward we take, there are radical voices demanding we carelessly leap in the wrong direction.”

Ra went on to cite proposals that he said would take us in the wrong direction: demands for defunding the police and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s call for a billion-dollar cut in the NYPD budget.

Both Nicolello and Ra acknowledged the need for some kind of reform following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

But they both seem to miss the point of the Black Lives Matter movement and the extent of the problem with policing and systemic racism in this country.

The Floyd killing was another in a series of questionable killings of Black men that began in July 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier, in February 2012.

The Black Lives Matter movement, which sprang from that verdict, became nationally recognized for street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two Blacks: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri,  and Eric Garner on Staten Island.

Support for the movement recently exploded following the release of a video of a white policeman nonchalantly standing with his knee on Floyd’s neck on a Minneapolis city street in broad daylight with three other officers beside him for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Two-thirds of U.S. adults now say they support the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the latest Pew Report, including 60 percent of whites.

It is also no coincidence that 64 percent of Black men say they have been unfairly stopped by police because of their race, that Black parents feel they must warn their sons on how to behave when stopped by the police and that Blacks are represented disproportionately in the nation’s prisons.

That sounds like more than a few bad apples. Maybe that is not the case in Nassau County. But forgive us if we would like that verified just in case.

When the Black Lives Matter movement began, the response from some was that All Lives Matter – minimizing the discrimination against Blacks in this country that goes back 400 years.

Based on the comments of Nicolello and Ra, it sounds like the “Blue Ribbon” campaign is just an updated version of All Lives Matter.

We would like to see them prove us wrong by offering concrete proposals for policing reforms in Nassau County and beyond.

They can also stop representing fringe views as what most Black Lives Matter supporters believe.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, and the entire Democratic leadership in Congress have stated that they support reforming policing, not defunding it.

And a large majority of Americans interpret the phrase “defund the police” to mean reforming policing – not eliminating the police.

So let’s stop with the political rhetoric.

Nassau County Republicans and county police have worked closely together for years. County Republicans have made county police among the best compensated in the state and county police unions have rewarded Republicans with their considerable political support.

We would like to hear Republicans now say that in return for the generous compensation Nassau County police are expected to treat everyone, whether white or Black, the same. And that there will be consequences if they don’t.

That would be music to our ears.


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