The National Association of Police Organizations endorsed President Trump’s reelection last week, citing his “steadfast and very public support” for law enforcement.
In a brief letter to Mr. Trump, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, NAPO President Michael McHale said the president’s support was critical in the wake of the attacks on law enforcement following the death of George Floyd.
The president’s outspoken public praise of law enforcement appreciated “during this time of unfair and inaccurate opprobrium being directed at our members by so many,” said Mr. McHale.
“We particularly value you directing the Attorney General to aggressively prosecute those who attack our officers,” he wrote.
The group, which represents more than 1,000 police unions and 241,000 sworn officers, did not endorse a candidate in the 2016 presidential election. It endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012.
The decision to side with Mr. Trump this year delivered a blow to presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, who prides himself on being a “union man” and longtime ally of police.
The NAPO endorsement revealed the depth of the cracks in Mr. Biden’s police support since he sided with racial justice protesters and fellow Democrats who have been hammering police departments with accusations of racism and brutality.
Officials from other police unions told The Times that they felt abandoned when Mr. Biden refused to condemn attacks on police following the death of Mr. Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a White police officer in Minneapolis.
“Biden seems to have abandoned the police and his support for the police because it is not popular to support the police at this time,” said Paul DiGiacomo, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, the second-largest labor union representing New York City Police Department officers.
“It’s disappointing, but most politicians are doing that,” he continued. “I feel that if you support us, stand your ground. We don’t deserve not to be supported.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Biden has tried to appeal to both police and protesters. He called for concrete changes to law enforcement but stopped short of embracing extreme leftist proposals to defund and dismantle police departments.
Mr. Biden says he does not support the defund-the-police movement but said some funding should be “absolutely” redirected from police to social programs.
Last month, the Biden campaign unveiled a criminal justice plan that proposes an additional $300 million for community policing to improve relationships with officers and residents. He also pledged to create a national police review board within his first 100 days in office.
Mr. Biden has called for an end of the transfer of military weapons to local police departments, a ban on chokeholds and a national “use of force standard.”
The police union officials who praised Mr. Biden’s landmark anti-crime legislation in the 1990s and considered him a stalwart defender of the men and women in blue, say his current rhetoric is surprising.
“I think police officers and associations look at Joe Biden today, and it’s hard not to contrast the candidate today with the senator of 15 or 20 years ago,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of NAPO. “Mr. Biden, like a lot of candidates, moved to the left party during the primaries, but once it was clear that he was going to be the nominee, he didn’t stop.”
Mr. Biden’s new police overhaul plan would roll back parts of the 1994 crime legislation that he championed. The get-tough 1994 bill was viewed as a liability for him with Black voters this year.
Tom Scotto, who previously served as president of NAPO, worked closely with Mr. Biden on anti-crime legislation and considers him a friend. He wished the Democratic candidate would more forcefully condemn the attacks on police but said he still considers Mr. Biden to be a steadfast supporter of law enforcement.
“I find it impossible to believe that Joe’s support for law enforcement has wavered unless he tells me it to my face,” he said. “There is nobody, but nobody, but nobody in the entire Congress of the United States that has done more for law enforcement than Joe Biden. He’s done more than 20 members of Congress today put together.”
Others are skeptical.
Mr. DiGiacomo said he believes Mr. Biden’s failure to distance himself from the “defund the police” movement may have cost him other endorsements from unions.
“Right now, I can’t see any police or law enforcement group backing him after what he said dancing around the subject of policing in America,” he said.
While Mr. Biden walks a fine line between police and protesters, Mr. Trump stood firmly on a law-and-order platform.
The contrast could not be sharper.
On Monday, Mr. Trump held a White House event honoring law enforcement where he said Democrats’ “anti-cop crusade” is causing the violent crime plaguing major cities.
“It’s all far-left cities where they have no understanding of what has to be done,” Mr. Trump said of recent spikes in crime. “If that’s what you want for a country, you probably have to vote for ‘Sleepy’ Joe Biden, because he doesn’t know what’s happening. But you’re not going to have it with me.”
Mr. Trump also signaled that his administration will take more aggressive action against violent crime. Last week, the Justice Department ramped up the number of federal agents to combat rising violence in Kansas City.
Mr. Johnson said law enforcement officers have noticed the difference between the two candidates.
“It is very fair to say that officers are concerned by what they’ve seen and not seen,” he said. “It would be so welcome to receive even just a word of encouragement and, on the other side, condemn the violence and deadly attacks that are ongoing against the police.
“The public presentation of Mr. Biden’s campaign regarding law enforcement makes us very concerned about what his administration would look like with support for rank and file officers,” he said.