Staff Columnist

Do 'blue lives matter' in Iowa?

It's obvious that Iowans back the blue, but we also demand police accountability.

People hold signs, wave and cheer as passing motorists honk their horns in support during a Back the Blue demonstrate to
People hold signs, wave and cheer as passing motorists honk their horns in support during a Back the Blue demonstrate to show support for police officers, military personnel and veterans along Seventh Avenue in City Square Park in Marion, Iowa, on Saturday, July 25, 2020. According to organizer Gage West, there were around 300 people at the event. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

A  few hundred people gathered in Marion this past weekend to proclaim the obvious — police lives matter.

The “Back the Blue/Back the Green rally” was staged in support of police, first responders and military veterans. It was a response to recent protests against racism and police violence, which have drawn thousands of activists to the streets in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. Attendees at Marion Square Park hoisted American flags and signs with slogans such as “blue lives matter.”

The rally organizer said he was surprised at how many people showed up, he told a Gazette news reporter, “To be serious, I was shocked. It was like, ‘Wow, there are people in Iowa who support police officers. That’s amazing.’ ”

I was not surprised at all to see that a few hundred fellow Iowans support police. Despite recent mass protests, law enforcement remains one of the most highly respected professions in the country.

We know that blue lives matter because when police officers are killed in the line of duty, there is an overwhelming communitywide response. The law enforcement and criminal justice systems quickly mobilize to apprehend and punish the offender, while regular people show their support through memorial donations and support ribbons.

When two Des Moines area police officers were killed in ambush shootings in 2016, the lone shooter was captured within 12 hours, later pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Thousands of people attended the funerals for Justin Martin of the Urbandale Police Department, and Anthony Beminio of the Des Moines Police Department. The president, the governor and the U.S. attorney general all condemned the killings.

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No prosecution, memorial or statement from a politician is adequate to honor the lives of public servants who give their lives while serving the public, but it’s obvious that their lives mattered to Iowans and to millions of other Americans.

Many Iowans have been disturbed to see anti-police graffiti sprayed on streets and buildings by protesters in Iowa City — including pigs with X’s over their eyes, meant to depict dead police officers. However, calls to incite physical violence against cops are not representative of the majority of Black Lives Matter protesters, and certainly not a majority of Iowans.

In an annual poll of Americans’ confidence in U.S. institutions, police are one of the only sectors consistently earning majority support — they only trailed the military and small business in Gallup’s 2019 survey.

In light of current events and the mass movement to reform law enforcement, many Americans are rethinking their opinions. Most are taking nuanced positions, rather than coming out against the police.

About three-fourths of Americans support recent protests, and about half say the police response to protests has been appropriate, according to a Washington Post poll last month. More than two-thirds of Americans said they trust their local police in an Axios poll last month.

Iowans back the blue, but we also demand policy changes that will reduce violence and racial disparities. We don’t have to pick one or the other.

adam.sullivan@thegazette.com; (319) 339-3156

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