Never one to let more than a few days pass without courting controversy, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has pledged to sign an executive order that would require the death penalty for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.
"One of the first things I'd do in terms of executive order, if I win, will be to sign a strong, strong statement that would go out to the country, out to the world, that ... anybody killing a police officer, the death penalty is going to happen," Trump said Thursday. "We can't let this go."
Speaking before a crowd of law enforcement officers in New Hampshire at an event hosted by the New England Police Benevolence Association, Trump characterized the police community in the United States as a group under siege.
"Police forces throughout the country have had a hard time. A lot of people killed, a lot of people killed violently. Sitting in a car waiting ... and somebody comes from behind," he said.
The proposal for an executive order mandating the death penalty is quintessential Trump — it has no legal plausibility, but it amplifies his strongman persona.
The rhetoric is based on the premise that police safety has been jeopardized by criticism of their practices. But while 2015 has seen a sharp upswing in the amount of criticism directed at law enforcement nationally, there is not yet any strong evidence that it has an effect on the number of police homicides. Rather, preliminary data suggests that 2015 may be one of the safest years for American police officers in a quarter century. And claims about a so-called Ferguson effect — the idea that as police have grown more cautious, crime has risen — have also thus far been proven specious.
But none of this is of particular interest to the billionaire showman. He is doing what he does best: making tidal waves.
h/t the Hill