A Republican witness at a congressional hearing on police brutality didn’t mention police brutality

Fox News contributor and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino was invited by Republicans to testify at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on police brutality. But Bongino didn’t mention the subject even once in his opening statement.

Instead, Bongino chose to highlight the risks inherent to the job of policing, which doesn’t rank among the top 10 most dangerous careers, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While Bongino did admit there was need to “commit to police accountability,” he warned legislators not to shred “the thin wall between civilization and chaos.” He also attempted to position police reform as a personal attack on police officers themselves, rather than the institution as a whole — a sign that at least some conservatives are staking out the position that less, not more, should be done concerning the issue of police brutality.

Bongino began his testimony by highlighting his personal relationship with NYPD officer Dan O’Sullivan, who was injured during a 1998 stop to assist a stranded motorist.

“Dan was the very essence of a public servant. Dan always put himself last, while putting his commitment to the safety and security of the public first,” Bongino said, before asserting that most police officers are not bad people. “These are good men and women.”

He did add a caveat to his statement by admitting there are some officers who “aren’t suited for the job and who cause trouble, and sometimes worse.” But Bongino also said that bad law enforcement officers are “rare,” in his experience, and “becoming rarer” He was essentially making the “few bad apples” argument.

But as Vox’s Sean Illing previously explained, the problem is systemic racism, not a few rogue officers.

Bongino invoked imagery valorizing the police, including NYPD officers and New York firefighters running into burning buildings on 9/11, and said the movement to defund the police would target those heroes. Though this tactic has been effective in the past, new polling shows that it may have reached its limits. According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll of 1,006 US adults taken June 2-7, 69 percent of Americans said the police killing of George Floyd represents a broader problem within law enforcement.

That perception has grown over the last few years. In 2014, when protests erupted after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner was killed in New York City, just 43 percent described those deaths as “indicative of broader problems in policing,” the Washington Post reported.

Strangely missing from Bongino’s testimony was any mention of police violence or brutality. While other witnesses cited repeated acts of police violence against Black people and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, Bongino instead painted a picture of policing as a stressful job, where violence against the public is the only thing keeping communities safe at night.

I receive an email or a text a few times a year notifying me about the death or injury of a police officer I knew or worked with,” Bongino said. “Imagine if that was happening at your job. God forbid you found out that co-workers of yours were killed or injured in the course of doing their jobs. And you received these messages multiple times each year. That’s policing. That’s what they do. They risk their own lives for yours.

Lastly, Bongino urged committee members to drop talk of police reform “before someone gets hurt,” ignoring dozens of instances of police officers injuring protesters over the last two weeks, not to mention centuries of police violence against Black people in the US. His statement felt out of place compared with those of other witnesses who calmly detailed instances of police brutality and sensible reform proposals.

Even other Republican-invited witnesses at the hearing, like Pastor Darrell Scott, a former member of President Donald Trump’s transition team, stressed the need for police reforms such as banning chokeholds or creating a national database of officers who are fired for misconduct. That Bongino would be one of the GOP witnesses at this hearing is a statement in itself, even as Republicans have seemingly begun to take police reform seriously over the last two weeks of nationwide protests sparked by Floyd’s death.

House Judiciary ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), however, echoed Bongino’s sentiments in his opening statement. “The vast, vast majority of law enforcement officers are responsible, hardworking, heroic first responders,” Jordan said. “They’re the officers who protect the Capitol, who protect us every single day. They’re the officers who rushed into the twin towers on 9/11.”


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