However, a friend sent me this op-ed published by Mayor Tom Tait several days ago in the Orange County Register. It struck a nerve with me. Angered me, truth be told; and I feel it is an issue worth discussing.
Mayor Tom Tait write an opinion column touting public safety as his number one priority. However, it appeared his real purpose was re-packaging personal initiatives like “Hi Neighbor” as public safety programs. The mayor said relatively little about actual law enforcement and taking criminals off the street other than a boilerplate “I have been tremendously proud of our Anaheim Police Department in their efforts to meet the public safety needs of our growing, diverse and complex city,” offered in an almost check-the-box way.
The gap between those words and his actions as mayor disturbs me. How can Mayor Tait say he is proud of Anaheim police officers and at the same time embrace activists who routinely stand in front of him at council meetings to denounce those officers as thugs, racists and murderers? Tait doesn’t respond by telling these speakers of his pride in the Anaheim police department. On the contrary, at a recent council meeting marked by protesters saying “f— the police,” Mayor Tait went out of his way to personally assure them the Anaheim police would not seek them out in retaliation for their hateful rants. How can Tom Tait tell Anaheim residents he’s proud of their police if he thinks it’s necessary to promise those same police won’t search out critics for pay-back? If I were one of the Anaheim police officers in the council chamber, I’d feel as though my mayor is tacitly agreeing with the protesters that I’m dangerous.
Mayor Tait expressed his distaste for the outpouring of public support for Bruno, the K-9 shot by Robert Moreno Jr., but didn’t say anything about Moreno threatening to kill a mother and her young children, or actually trying to kill pursuing officers.
That disconnect makes the Mayor’s praise for Anaheim police ring hollow. Anti-police protesters (let’s be candid; that’s what they are) believe he’s the only councilmember who cares about their views; that raises red flags since they view Anaheim police as murderous racists who target young Latinos for execution. He invites them to his campaign events.
Now Mayor Tait is running for a second term. Since public safety is a top voter concern, he’s positioning himself as a public safety candidate. In practice, his sympathies have been with those who object to vigorous anti-gang enforcement as harassment, and who label every police shooting a murder. I doubt his re-election mailers will highlight that part of his record.
I realize Mayor Tait is a compassionate man who is moved by individual tragedy, and that is why he empathizes with those who are angered and upset by officer-involved shootings. It’s good to be compassionate. It’s one of Tait’s most appealing qualities. I also believe he needs to temper his compassion with a realistic appreciation that the outrage of these protesters is indiscriminate. Robert Moreno Jr., for example, was a violent criminal with little respect for human life. Yet his shooting led these protesters to come to city council to denounce the police and say they are being driven to violence. The mayor’s promise they wouldn’t be targeted by police for speaking out was a tacit agreement that their view of Anaheim police had at least some merit. Words and actions like these make the mayor’s praise of Anaheim’s police force sound like campaign rhetoric and difficult to accept at face value.