Were police organizations coerced into endorsing Gupta?

At the hearing earlier this week on the nomination of Vanita Gupta for Associate Attorney General, Sen. Tom Cotton asked the nominee whether she, or anyone on her behalf, threatened police unions with retaliation if they did not endorse her nomination. Gupta answered in the negative.

It was a fair question. After all, Gupta has advocated cuts in police funding as well as turning over tasks performed by the police to others — presumably social workers, “community organizers,” etc.

Forget ideology. No competent, honest union leader is likely voluntarily to endorse someone whose positions entail loss of employment for members and loss of members for the union.

According to the Washington Post, Sen. Cotton asked the question in a way that suggested he has evidence that police unions were threatened with adverse consequences if they didn’t endorse Gupta. So the Post investigated, after a fashion.

One of its crack journalists interviewed the heads of various police organizations that have endorsed Gupta. Each denied being threatened. But if anyone was coerced into endorsing Gupta, that same coercion would likely prevent an admission of being coerced.

This is not to say that police union officials were coerced. When I heard about the endorsements, I figured that the officials were scared, but not necessarily threatened. In other words, they calculated that Gupta will probably be confirmed and that it is therefore in their interests to support her, in the hope that she’ll be less aggressive in neutering the police if they do.

We can call this thinking anticipatory Stockholm Syndrome. Absent evidence of direct coercion, I assume that this explains the endorsements.

There is a third possibility. Gupta’s supporters say that when she was acting head of the Civil Rights Division during the Obama years, she had positive interactions with police departments. These allegedly positive interactions occurred when the Justice Department reviewed and to some extent oversaw local policing in places like Baltimore (after the death of Freddy Gray).

But were these interactions positive in any meaningful sense? Baltimore police officers don’t seem to have thought so. They exited the city’s police in droves during this period, leaving the force woefully understaffed.

And what about violent crime, in case anyone still cares about that? It skyrocketed in Baltimore after Gupta and the Obama DOJ began interfering with a heavy hand.

Thus, I think we can rule out the notion that police organizations are endorsing Gupta because of the fine job the Justice Department did under her watch when it meddled in local policing (Gupta even dictated what pronouns officers in Baltimore must use). Which brings us back to the other two explanations — direct coercion or anticipatory Stockholm Syndrome.

It’s likely one or the other.

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