The National Fraternal Order of Police has officially endorsed Donald J. Trump — a noted racist with a track record of violent rhetoric against Mexicans, Muslims and black people — for president of the United States.
FOP is the biggest labor union in the country representing law enforcement officers, with more than 330,000 members, according to a press release published on the organization's Twitter account Friday.
Jim Pasco, the executive director, was not immediately available for comment, but a spokesperson confirmed the FOP had indeed endorsed Trump.
"Obviously, this is an unusual election," FOP national president Chuck Canterbury said in the release. "Mr. Trump ... has seriously looked at the issues facing law enforcement today. He understands and supports our priorities and our members believe he will make America safe again."
The endorsement is a telling decision at a time when the nation's police are facing a crisis of confidence from communities of color. According to a survey published in June from the Pew Research Center, 84% of black respondents and 50% of white respondents believe the police treat black people less fairly than whites.
Black people in 2016 have been killed by police at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts, according to The Counted, a data project from the Guardian that tracks police-involved killings.
Meanwhile, a national protest movement — loosely united by the term "black lives matter" — has galvanized people across the nation to demonstrate against anti-black police violence.
Trump has responded to these crises by framing himself as the presidential candidate who will bring "law and order" to the United States. In an era when crime is lower than it's been in decades — even despite recent upticks in some cities — and when violence against police officers is at near-historic lows, the former reality TV star has painted the U.S. as as a crime-ridden hellhole and police officers as an endangered and perpetually disrespected sub-group.
Trump has proffered in false data claiming black people are responsible for 81% of homicides against white people, when in fact 83% of white people are killed by their other whites. He has also claimed undocumented immigrants from Mexico are overwhelmingly criminals — with designs on pouring across the border to rape American citizens — when the available data actually shows immigrants commit less crime than native-born citizens.
Despite these positions, Trump's flagrantly dishonest vision of the United States has now been cosigned by one of law enforcement's biggest advocacy groups. Unions like the FOP cannot accurately be taken as the definitive voice of all police officers. But it is their job to defend police against critiques and allegations of misconduct, and they have been busy over the last few years.
In an effort to defend their officers during recent police-involved killings, local union heads have often resorted to smearing dead victims: Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, has made repeated statements blaming 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was holding an airgun when a police officer killed him, for his own death. Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York, called the $5.9 million settlement paid to the family of Eric Garner, who died after being placed in a police chokehold in 2014, as "obscene" and "shameful."
Now, by endorsing Trump, the National Fraternal Order of Police has publicly aligned its 330,000 members' best interests with a candidate who also enjoys support from a robust cross-section of white nationalists, including former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. The message this sends to voters of color is unavoidably one of enmity — but considering their fractured relationship with both Trump and the police, this likely won't register as much of a shock.