Combine the notion that black protesters are criminals with the desire to boost police resources and you get Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), “the voice of hardworking law enforcement families in Washington,” according to a new campaign ad.
Toomey hasn't been shy about his stance on these topics on the Senate floor, but now he's bringing the issues onto the campaign trail with a re-election ad that chastises protesters who oppose police brutality.
“When rioters destroyed American cities, Pat Toomey stood strong with police,” says the ad, which was posted to YouTube Wednesday. “Toomey fought for better police equipment and benefits -- and denounced the riots when others wouldn’t.”
Toomey’s ad appears to be referring to the protests and riots that rocked Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, following the high-profile deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. Gray died last April from a fatal spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer following a much-disputed altercation in August 2014.
Support for law enforcement and criticism of protesters has been a common refrain among some presidential campaigns this cycle, notably that of Donald Trump. But the topic isn't new to Toomey.
In May, following Gray’s death, Toomey delivered a speech on the Senate floor commending law enforcement officials and largely dismissing the rampant police violence that has plagued Baltimore’s black community for decades.
“Far from the epidemic of police misdeeds that some claim to be happening out there, I think just the opposite is true,” Toomey said. “The overwhelming majority of police are honest men and women. They have very high ethical standards, they don’t have a racist bone in their body.”
Toomey was back on the Senate floor in June discussing the unrest that followed a grand jury’s November 2014 decision to not charge former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in Brown's death.
“Instead of placing the onus on those who were actually causing the havoc, it was portrayed by many as if law enforcement was somehow responsible for the violence and unrest," he said.
Those aren’t the first times Toomey has spoken out against protesters. During a Pro-Blue Rally in January 2015, Toomey told a crowd of about 200 that those who have protested the killings of unarmed black people by police “don’t speak for America.”
And he has approached legislation from a pro-law enforcement angle too. In May, referring to congressional funds being allotted to body cameras for local departments, he told Politico that policing is a state concern.
“Policing, historically, has been and belongs in the province of the states, so I’m not sure that there’s a role for Congress per se, except to engage in this discussion and make some points about the fact that the majority of the police do a great job,” he said.
But Toomey doesn't seem to have a problem with using federal funds to arm cops with military-grade equipment.
This month, Toomey introduced the Lifesaving Gear for Police Act, which would do away with many limitations on donating military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. The bill would strengthen the 1033 program, which authorizes the Pentagon to transfer surplus military equipment to local police departments.
The legislation also appears to counteract President Barack Obama’s May 2015 executive order to prevent local law enforcement agencies from obtaining grenade launchers, bayonets and other types of military-grade materials from federal agencies.
“According to the [Obama] administration, the need to save police officers' lives in the line of duty is something that should be weighed against and, in fact, sacrificed to the desire to prevent distrust or discomfort on the part of others,” he added. “How many police officers' lives are we going to sacrifice? One? Twenty? One-hundred? This is outrageous.”