Trump Criticized Biden for Losing the Support of Police Unions. Is That Such a Bad Thing?

Trump is right that police unions support him more than Biden. That doesn't speak as well of the president as he thinks.


During the chaos that was the first presidential debate, one topic largely flew under the radar: Joe Biden's shriveling support from police unions. For Americans who believe that the government should work for us and be held accountable when it fails us, this is not a bad thing. 

The back-and-forth went something like this:

Trump: [Biden's] talking about defunding the police.

Biden: That—that is not true.

Trump: He doesn't have any law support—

Biden: Would you—look—

Trump: He has no law enforcement support, almost nothing.

Biden: That's not—look—

Trump: Oh really? Why do you have? Name one group that supports you. Name one group that came out and supported you.

Biden: Look—

Trump: Go ahead.

Biden: Look—

Trump: Think. We have time.

Biden: We don't have time to do anything except—

Trump: No, no, think about it.

As was the case for most of the evening, no actual productive exchange of ideas occurred. While Biden does not actually want to defund the police, his relationship with law enforcement groups did, in fact, used to be much cozier.

At a dinner for the National Organization for Police Organizations (NAPO) in May 2015, the former vice president courted the police lobby with talk of his 1994 crime bill: "There wouldn't have been a Biden crime bill," he said, "there wouldn't have been that crime bill that put 100,000 cops in the street in the first place were it not for the fact that from the very beginning [NAPO] was the staunchest, staunchest advocate for it."

NAPO endorsed the Obama-Biden campaign in both 2008 and 2012. After declining to weigh in on the 2016 election, they have thrown their support behind Trump.

"For Joe Biden, police are shaking their heads because he used to be a stand-up guy who backed law enforcement," said Bill Johnson, executive director of NAPO. "But it seems in his old age, for whatever reason, he's writing a sad final chapter when it comes to supporting law enforcement."

A list of 175 officials, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and former Madison, Wisconsin, Police Chief Noble Wray have endorsed Biden. Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, who oversees Portland, Oregon, pushed back on Trump's debate claim that he had endorsed the president. "As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump," he tweeted, "and will never support him."

But Trump seems to think that having the backing of police unions reflects positively on his campaign. Whether it gives him any electoral advantage is an open question, but we know with more certainty that police union support reflects Trump's unwillingness to grapple with meaningful police reform, such as his refusal to even consider changing qualified immunity, the legal doctrine that makes it considerably more difficult to sue police officers when they violate your civil rights. Biden would not promise to eliminate the doctrine, but rather said he wants to "rein it in."

With that in mind, NAPO's reversal shouldn't be a surprise. The point of police unions is to protect all cops at all costs, even the bad ones, even at the expense of the people they pledge to protect and serve. When former New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked and killed Eric Garner after he was caught selling loose cigarettes, a police magistrate ruled that he had violated department policy. He was terminated. The union, however, stood by his side, blaming the result on "anti-police extremists," the implication being that all cops need to reserve the right to use unconstitutional force that violates internal guidance.

Republicans rightly acknowledge that teachers unions monopolize the education system and then weaponize it against the public. Trump should apply that logic to the law enforcement lobby. If he did, perhaps he'd understand that losing their endorsement isn't such a bad thing.

NEXT: Has Joe Biden's Position On Court Packing Changed?

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  1. If you are trying to win an election, yes.

    1. Reason writers seem to be clueless about politics. Just another dumb take from anti-police writer Binion.

      1. Boehm isn’t playing dumb.

        But Suderman tells us that Trump not having “a plan” for healthcare is a problem.

        Behold the new libertarianism at Reason.

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  2. If Biden wants to be president, probably yes.

    And that is the sad fact of the United States. At a time when Police Unions had been kicked to the curb by other public unions, and people around the country were ready to reign in the over-policing of our country, violent leftists went balls to the wall ultra-violence and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Like it or not, people would prefer militarized, obtrusive, abusive, over-policing to LARPers burning down their neighborhood.

    1. The American people have to make a choice this election. Vote Biden (anarcho-tyranny) or vote Trump (tyrannical anarchy). As a progressive Jew, I know that Biden is the best choice for the future of American people.

    2. Like I said, you’re going to have to decide whether you support the communists or support the fascists, there’s no room for nuance here.

      1. Might as well give up then, huh jerryskids?
        Right = left, so who cares?

        Literally irrational.

      2. Who are the fascists, my freind?

        1. They’re the same picture.

        2. Who are the fascists? Anyone who does not support the commies. Same as the racists.

    3. Because it was NEVER about police reform, it was the 2nd phase of a two-pronged attack on the American people, the first phase being covid/lockdowns.
      This is their gambit to gain power.
      And if it works, what happens next?

      Additionally, most people don’t deal with police very often. It’s simply not a regular occurrence in people’s lives. They have their own concerns. Police overreach is a problem, but it’s a very minor one for the majority of the population who aren’t obsessed with it.

      If the left wins, it will become a much bigger problem for all of us. And there won’t be anyone allowed to object to it.

      1. IMO the FBI, the police union and Antifa made a coordinated attack on America this year with the riots in an attempt to kill police reform and swing the election to the hard left.

        The goal is to nationalize the police.

        When that happens, Mistuh Kurtz, he dead.

      2. Early on it was about police reform. But then the powers that be in all those Democrat dominated political machine big cities realized that too many apple carts were being threatened.

        So problems caused by decades upon decades of their mismanagement and corruption were transformed into something about Trump.

    4. Same thing happened after Ferguson: the nation was ready for police reform, and BLM had to turn it into a rascist thing.

    5. Liberals on the Left and Right do not want to reign in police unions. They would lose power

  3. “Trump Criticized Biden for Losing the Support of Police Unions.”

    LOL! Drumpf actually said that?!

    I learned in college that cops are a bunch of violent racists who put bullets in Black bodies for no reason — even when they’re in the HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT pose. Police union support is something no politician should crave.


  4. Supporting the pro-rioting candidate because police unions don’t like him might be Peak Reason

    1. They support Biden because they are progressives in libertarian clothing.

      1. Except for Gillespie’s leather jacket their clothes are pretty proggy too.
        Particularly Suderman’s sweater-vests and Robby’s short shorts.

  5. Yeah the police unions are such a huge wedge issue. That’s what people heard.

    Meanwhile Biden threw his support at cop killers. Good luck selling that schmucks.

    1. Bye-done’s rape victim supports his campaign for POTUS. Why do you imagine supporting cop killers will drive away that sort of mentality?

  6. When you’re trying to deflect from accusations that you intend to abolish the police despite it being clearly published in your own platform, then yes, that is such a bad thing.

  7. While Biden does not actually want to defund the police…

    As if what Biden wants is going to have any effect on what he’s going to be pushing.

  8. It might not be had for the guy trying to win 22 libertarian commenters on a website for an obscure libertarian publication.

    For the rest of America that likes someone to pick up when they call 911… that’s a different story.

    1. Reason, IMHO, has gone downhill- like all publications since the interwebs took away their cashflow… and the invasion of “journalism” by the newest crop of indoctrinated idiots.
      But I’m not sure that they are “obscure”, anymore. Realclearpolitics links to them, for instance.

      1. Realclearpolitics links to them, for instance.

        NYT and Vox should syndicate every Reason writer. This cum sock of a publication has to be responsible for at least 80% of their backlink traffic

  9. Alternate Headline: Biden picks up In Defense of Looting audience.

  10. “We have work to do. Law enforcement recognizes we have work to do,” said Gualtieri, a moderate Republican who represents St. Petersburg’s Pinellas County. “But for Joe Biden or anyone else to start calling for all these ‘reforms’ reminds me of what happened under the Obama administration. It wasn’t productive in its relationship with law enforcement. A national law enforcement commission sounds like a lot of political rhetoric.”
    The Wood Duck is probably the most amazingly colorful waterfowl in the world.

    1. Well, at least it wasn’t a porn link on your clipboard. The ducks are very pretty, just not in that way. To me. No judgement.

    2. OIC, that’s your schtick.

  11. Unions no bueno!!

    1. Unions have their place. Government unions do not.

  12. “… we know with more certainty that police union support reflects Trump’s unwillingness to grapple with meaningful police reform…”

    No I don’t know that. The police unions are giving up the usual support from Democrat politicians to endorse Trump. I see Democrats putting police in harms way, limiting their ability to do anything with no bail and dropped charges, for political purposes. One could easily argue police are supporting Trump so they can bring the peace and safety they had in mind when they signed up to be police, rather than being political pawns.

  13. As Obama said when all this mess started, real ‘meaningful police reform’ needs to begin at the local level.

    I’m sure the Democrats who have controlled these cities for decades will get right on that now.

  14. Police unions have been the only labor unions that have opposed the riots, vandalism and looting that left wing Democrat mayors, prosecutors and governors have encouraged and defended since May.

  15. Not just the unions but police chiefs and sheriffs have shunned Biden.

  16. “Trump is right that police unions support him more than Biden.”

    Ah, union support in general. According to his website “As president, Biden will repeal the Taft-Hartley provisions that allow states to impose “right to work” laws.” To this end Biden has the support of Teamsters union, the United Auto Workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees International Union.

    In the world of Joe! it will be join a union or starve. Though even to starve the left might require you join a union.

    Look for the Union label, and run like hell.

  17. These days cops are generally useless thugs who lack any accountability for their abject stupidity, cruelty, and self-serving natures.

    Bust their unions, cut their pay, and get rid of at least a third of the stupid laws we are crushed under daily. Put these aholes in meaningful jobs more suited to their temperament and intellect such as burger flipper, used care sales, etc.

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