Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) released a statement Wednesday that linked the recent killing of a Texas sheriff's deputy to a "negative attitude toward our law enforcement officers," and encouraged people to show more respect for cops by calling them "sir and ma'am" and picking up their lunch tabs.
Darren Goforth, a sheriff's deputy in Goforth County, Texas, was pumping gas Friday when he was gunned down in an apparent ambush killing. Suspect Shannon Miles was later arrested and charged with capital murder. Goforth was white and Miles is black.
While police have not identified a motive for the killing, a number of law enforcement officials and their supporters have been quick to claim that the violence was a result of rhetoric coming from the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the past year, activists with the movement have been critical of police tactics and the criminal justice system in the face of high-profile killings, particularly of black men and women. Activists have called for increased transparency and accountability amid broader allegations of police misconduct.
To Patrick, however, the demands being made by these activists amount to little more than a show of disrespect toward law enforcement officers, who "are judged by the public 24/7, 365 days a year for their entire career." In his statement, Patrick suggested that "more details" of Goforth's tragic death have emerged, pointing to a "morbid reality" about the challenges police officers face.
Patrick didn't specify what these details were, but he went on to say that officers are "underappreciated" for the difficult and sometimes dangerous work they do. He also urged people to take the following steps to make the lives of police officers easier.
- "Start calling our officers sir and ma’am all of the time. It’s a show of respect they deserve."
- "Every time you see an officer anywhere, let them know you appreciate their service to our community and you stand with them."
- "If you are financially able, when you see them in a restaurant on duty pick up their lunch check, send over a dessert, or simply stop by their table briefly and say thank you for their service."
- "Put their charities on your giving list."
- "If your local law enforcement has volunteer-citizen job opportunities, sign up."
Patrick concluded by saying "all lives matter" and asking Texans to join him in calling for an end to violence against police officers.
The lieutenant governor has been outspoken in his belief that the biggest problem regarding policing in America right now is a lack of respect for officers. In a Facebook post over the weekend, Patrick argued that "verbal attacks" against police promote violence, and expressed concern that the current "open season" on law enforcement authorities would lead many officers to seek other careers.
The recent string of deadly attacks on police certainly speaks to the inherent danger of law enforcement work, but statistics also show that the people who claim this kind of violence is on the rise are overstating the case. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, an independent nonprofit that tracks cop killings, the total number of officers killed in the line of duty so far this year is slightly down from this date in 2014.
A total of 24 officers have been killed by gunfire in 2015, according to ODMP -- a 17 percent drop from last year, when 29 officers had died by gunfire by this point in the year. Twenty-four deaths is still obviously 24 too many, but according to a Huffington Post analysis of ODMP figures, 2015 has actually had fewer year-to-date gunfire deaths of police officers than any year of the past two decades. The lone exception was 2013, when the FBI says police killings overall hit a 50-year low.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 2 in 2012, for example, 30 officers were killed by gunfire. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 2 in 2011, 52 were killed. Between those dates in 2010, 42 were killed.
The tone of Patrick's statement also speaks to a certain disconnect in the current debate over police reform. There's nothing wrong with Patrick asking people to be polite and respectful toward police officers, but he doesn't say a word about why police are coming under intense criticism and scrutiny, or why some people might feel that officers haven't earned that free lunch.
Here's a copy of Patrick's statement, posted to Twitter Wednesday by St. John Barned-Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It also includes a brief statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on the killing of Goforth: