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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Cops at the Capitol

by John Brummett | January 21, 2021 at 3:14 a.m.

It's not against the law to be stupid. Feel free now to enter your own second sentence. Let's get your snark out of the way, freeing space for mine.

Perhaps you're thinking the decriminalization of stupidity is a lucky thing for a newspaper columnist.

Perhaps I'm referring to the two officers of the State Police who took leave to go to Washington to participate in that Trumpian cult of anti-

Americanism.

Here's the thing about the police generally, at risk of stereotype, or accusations thereof: It's entirely possible if not probable that the uniformed officer walking toward your car after stopping you on the highway is politically right-wing. It's entirely possible the police officer coming to your home to respond to an alarm indicating a possible break-in loves Donald Trump.

But you were speeding. And you need home protection.

The possibility of extreme conservatism in police officers is, I admit, unfortunate. Extreme conservatism is unfortunate in anyone.

In the police case, it's made tragic by the American cancer of understandable distrust among Blacks for police officers--understandable because racism can be a byproduct or an element of extreme Trumpian conservatism.

And I did not just write that all Trump voters are racists. Many in that 75 million were merely badly mistaken or oddly convinced that Joe Biden would let Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez run everything.

It turns out that the two Arkansas State Police officers were observed making Facebook posts reflecting Trumpian adoration and relating being on site Jan. 6 at the Trump speech and the ensuing march to the Capitol.

"This [bleep] about to get real," I believe one of them wrote in a deleted post, apparently journalistically, to report what was being observed rather than relate direct personal involvement.

Some in the media got wind of that and pressured the governor to say what if anything he was going to do about it.

I'll say this for Asa Hutchinson: He is really good about responding to media requests for positions on news matters. He will sit down and thumb out on his phone, or punch out on his laptop, his own words for dissemination by his press office to requesting reporters.

And I'll say this for the statement he thumbed out on the inquiry about what if anything he was going to do about those troopers: It was horrible, surely the worst composition of his governorship.

It was not factual and thus lent itself to suspicion he was rushing to a perfunctory clearing of the officers.

Sometimes--and it's a professional betrayal for me to say this--a healthy "no comment" would be better.

Here is the government's statement: "Col. Bill Bryant [the governor's State Police director] conducted an internal review and, based upon the review findings, the two troopers in question took personal time off and only attended the Trump rally. They did not go to the Capitol or see any illegal behavior. If any state employee participated in the riot at the nation's capital, then that would be considered a criminal act and dealt with accordingly."

The deleted Facebook record reveals that the officers joined the march from Trump's "rally" to the Capitol, and, thus, went to the Capitol. It indicates that one of the officers, at least, appeared to have posted from inside a restricted area at the Capitol.

The governor is declining to talk about the matter further on the record, which I guess is understandable considering the mess he made to start with.

Some critics say Hutchinson reveals Republican appeasement by calling Trump's speech a mere rally when in fact it was an incitement session. They say the governor seems in an anxious rush to give the officers a pass.

These critics believe all of the activity at issue was criminal and seditious, from listening to the would-be despot inspiring resistance to the free and fair election to damaging, looting and menacing inside our treasured seat of representative government.

They believe the State Police officers, by being where they were, violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution, and ought to be terminated.

I'm less interested in both the critics and in Hutchinson's mistakes and euphemisms than in something else I'm told reliably, which is that the State Police offered the officers for questioning by the FBI, which, as yet, sees no need to talk to them.

The FBI is following a video and digital footprint to get at the serious inside-the-Capitol seditionists. Failing any indication on that basis that either of our State Police officers has shown up on invasion video or been identified in digitally indicated personal engagement beyond hanging out, I lean toward moving on, as they say.

I fall back on the right to be tragically stupid in one's politics.

And now everyone should feel free again to attach their own closing zinger.

--–––––v–––––--

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected] Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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