Hatch Defends Utah Police in Senate Hearing Critical of the ‘War on Police’

As police and policing tactics are under increased public scrutiny, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Tuesday about how the federal government undermines state and local law enforcement. 

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his staff consulted with Utah law enforcement leaders recently to discuss morale and the way the current political climate is affecting police efforts. He shared comments from Utah law enforcement leaders who suggested that “law enforcement is getting mixed signals,” that the current climate is “affecting recruitment,” and that “the Department of Justice has been too quick to jump in to criticize law enforcement.”

“I’m very concerned about the climate the Obama administration has created—or contributed to—for law enforcement,” Hatch said. “Ms. Mac Donald describes in her written testimony how the President has amplified and encouraged criticisms of law enforcement—criticisms that have emboldened individuals to resist officers’ requests and to interfere with officers’ ability to do their job.”

Senator Hatch’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Over the summer, my staff met with a number of Utah law enforcement leaders to discuss law enforcement morale and how the current political climate is affecting police efforts. I’d like to share some examples of what these Utah law enforcement leaders had to say:

  • “Law enforcement is getting mixed signals about how proactive they should be.”
  • “[The current climate] is affecting recruitment. . . . We’ve had recruitment problems since last fall.”
  • “DOJ has been too quick to jump in to criticize law enforcement. We need our leaders to wait to jump in and criticize.”
  • “People are feeling proud to push back against police officers. . . . Being a law enforcement officer right now is not popular. But standing up to law enforcement ispopular.”

I want to emphasize: This is not my gloss on the current law enforcement climate. These are the words of Utah law enforcement leaders describing what it’s like to be a police officer right now.

And I have to say, I’m very concerned about the climate the Obama administration has created—or contributed to—for law enforcement.  Ms. Mac Donald describes in her written testimony how the President has amplified and encouraged criticisms of law enforcement—criticisms that have emboldened individuals to resist officers’ requests and to interfere with officers’ ability to do their job.

One Utah police chief described to my staff how a police officer who responded to a domestic violence call at an apartment complex found himself surrounded by a hostile crowd of apartment residents that all had their cell phones out, anxious to record any mistake the officer might make.

If you talk to police officers, at least in Utah, they will express profound disappointment with how the administration has contributed to the negative narrative law enforcement faces right now.  Our President should be working to strengthen law enforcement and to help protect our brave officers.  Regrettably, in my judgment, he has done neither.  In fact, it seems he has done the opposite.

 

I thank the Chairman for convening this important hearing.