Tlaib calls US policing 'intentionally racist,' gets pushback

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Policing in the United States is "intentionally racist" and "can't be reformed," U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted Monday night, a day after a White Minnesota police officer reportedly mistook her pistol for her Taser and fatally shot a Black man.

Metro Detroit police chiefs pushed back Tuesday on the tweet from the Detroit Democrat, calling it irresponsible to paint all cops with the same brush and insisting that abolishing police would hit minority communities the hardest.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

Sunday's fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb has resulted in resignations by the officer and the city's police chief.

The shooting also led to protests and looting in a community already on edge during the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd in an incident last year that sparked nationwide demonstrations.

A day after the Wright shooting, Tlaib took to Twitter and claimed Potter meant to kill him.

"It wasn't an accident," she wrote. "Policing in our country is inherently & intentionally racist. Daunte Wright was met with aggression & violence. I am done with those who condone government funded murder. No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can't be reformed."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the tweet had been liked more than 20,000 times, retweeted more than 4,000 times — and had received thousands of replies supporting Tlaib's call for abolishing police and thousands of others panning it.

Tlaib's spokesman Denzel McCampbell said in an email that Tlaib "was talking about the fact that we continue to see death after death at the hands of police officers with no meaningful accountability for the officers or departments involved."

"We’ve seen countless millions of dollars pumped into police training and half-measures, only to see the recent killing of Duante Wright mere miles from the Derek Chauvin trial justified as a “mistaken” use of a gun instead of a Taser. If you can’t distinguish between a gun and a Taser, you shouldn’t be carrying either," McCampbell said.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig called Tlaib's tweets "a disgusting knee-jerk response."

"This was a tragic incident, and it should’ve never happened. But when these tragedies happen, you shouldn’t just broad-bush the entire profession," he said. 

"To say policing should be abolished gives no consideration to the people who live in our neighborhoods who rely on police to provide service," Craig said. "What happens to those folks? What about the victims? 

"The people who live in our city don't want to abolish the police, so the million-dollar question is: Who does (Tlaib) represent?" he said.

Taylor Police Chief John Blair said Tlaib's call for abolishing police is a mistake.

"It would hurt our minority communities the hardest," he said. "We should tread lightly. What happened was a tragic error. It was an unfathomable mistake. But you're dealing with human beings, and human beings are not infallible.

"(Potter) does need to be dealt with criminally and civilly, and she'll get her day in court," Blair said. "But when you paint an entire group of people with a broad brush, that doesn't help society."

Blair said Tlaib's contention that Potter intentionally killed Wright is proven wrong by body cam video that was released, which shows the officer saying "Taser, Taser Taser" before firing the pistol.

"She was following protocol," Blair said. "Police are trained to repeat 'Taser, Taser, Taser' three times before deploying. She was training another officer and knew she was on body cam — there's no way this was premeditated. I'm not excusing it; she made an awful human mistake, and she'll have to pay for it."

In his email, McCampbell said: “Rep. Tlaib understands that many in our communities are concerned about public safety, but feels that more investment in police, incarceration and criminalization will not deliver that safety.

"Instead, as she has long advocated for, she believes that we should be investing more resources into our community to tackle poverty, education inequities and to increase job opportunities," he said. "We should be expanding the use of mental health and social work professionals to respond to disputes before they escalate."

"She believes that the only way we will all have safe communities is to invest in our people, not double down on failed overpolicing and criminalization," McCampbell said.

Michigan Republican Party spokesman Ted Goodman said in a press release: "Tlaib continues to reveal the direction today's Democrat Party is heading and Gov. (Gretchen) Whitmer should immediately denounce Tlaib's disparaging and hateful comments directed toward the brave men in women who protect us here at home and abroad.

"It's also pretty rich calling for the abolishment of police and the military from behind military-installed fortifications and National Guard troops on Capitol Hill," Goodman wrote.

"Whitmer, just last year, expressed support for the spirit of defunding the police and has remained silent on whether she supports abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which protects America's borders," Goodman wrote.

Whitmer's press office did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN