It shouldn’t be hard to reject blatantly anti-police sentiment. But Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto refused to do so when asked.
Recently, District Judge Erika Ballou unleashed this tirade:
“You’re a Black man in America, you know you don’t want to be nowhere where cops are,” she said from the bench. She continued, “Because I know I don’t, and I’m a middle-aged, middle-class Black woman. I don’t want to be around where the cops are because I don’t know if I’m going to walk away alive or not.”
The implication is that police are randomly murdering African Americans and that simply being around a cop puts a Black person’s life in danger.
That’s unsupported by the evidence. The Washington Post keeps a database of police shootings. For 2021, the database has eight police shootings of unarmed African Americans. In most of the those incidents, the victim was combative or otherwise trying to evade arrest. For instance, one man considered “unarmed” was attacking a police officer and trying to get his firearm.
If you don’t commit crimes or disobey police officers, your chances of being shot by police are minuscule — regardless of your race. But Ballou’s belief is a natural outflow of the claim that police are systemically racist. Many prominent Nevada Democrats have echoed that worldview.
“As a white man, I cannot claim to understand what it is like to live in fear of police encounters,” Sisolak said in June 2020.
“Our nation has been called to reckon with police brutality against Black people in this country and the systemic failures that cause and allow this misconduct to perpetuate,” Ford wrote in a June 2020 letter co-signed with other attorneys general.
In June 2020, Cortez Masto said she wanted a police reform bill “to address the deep scars of systemic racism in our country.”
Given those statements, voters deserve to know what these elected officials think about Ballou’s comments. I asked their offices whether they believed African Americans shouldn’t want to be around police officers; whether African Americans should fear for their lives when a police officer is nearby; whether Nevada’s police are systemically racist; and whether Judge Ballou should resign.
Sisolak and Ford refused to say anything.
“Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have signed into law Senator Cortez Masto’s bills to support police and she will keep fighting for Nevada’s officers,” Lauren Wodarski, a spokesperson for Cortez Masto, said.
In other words, she didn’t want to give a direct answer to those questions either.
These should be softballs. The public overwhelmingly opposes defunding the police and is worried about crime. But Democrats have spent years talking about systemic racism in policing. Disagreeing with Ballou’s statements would be a tacit acknowledgment that they were wrong before. Imagine how that would go over: “I know we’ve spent years telling you to live in mortal fear of police, but never mind that now.”
Hence, their political bind.
Silence shouldn’t be an option here. You can’t be pro-police if you aren’t willing to disagree with a judge who casually smears cops as killers in waiting.