As a former reporter and, later, as a spokesperson for federal law enforcement agencies, I grew used to responses from criminal investigators anytime a reporter asked about who the culprit of a crime might be or what kind of motive the suspected culprit might have had. The universal answer was: “We cannot comment at this time, as this is an ongoing investigation.” As more facts and evidence accumulated, some of it was shared with the public when appropriate.
What then accounts for the sheriff of Pima Count, Arizona, and his outrageous and wholly unprofessional charge that the shootings that took place during an event hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords might in part be due to conservative ideology and Teaparty rhetoric?
What kind of law enforcement professional would blithely discuss possible motives about a heinous and shocking crime to the media, to national television, while the investigation was ongoing? What kind of law enforcement professional would do such things without a shred of evidence?
And, most important, what kind of human being would lay the blame for such a shocking crime on an opposing political party? Forget the professionalism of being a officer of the law, who would make such an incendiary, partisan and politicized charge in the midst of chaos and grief when nineteen people had been killed or wounded during a tragedy that has led to national mourning?
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik may be a Democrat, though I don’t care if he were a Democrat or a Republican. But perhaps the fact that he is an elected politician first and a law enforcement officer second accounts for his unseemly decision to turn tragedy into politics. Still, I would ask: Even as a politician, what kind of politician would take such a revolting position as to suggest the views of an opposing party was somehow responsible for the deranged actions of a mentally unstable individual?
Oh, yes. I guess Dupnik is not alone in this shameful politicization of tragedy. There is the Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin making such implications. There is Congressman Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from New Jersey doing the same.
What were the famous words spoken by Joseph Welch to red-baiting Senator Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
I don’t care what your politics are. Love the Teaparty, despise it. Vote for Democrats, vote for Republicans. But to try to associate this awful carnage with the views of a political opponent is repulsive, and not a little scary. It suggests that there those out there who would manipulate murder for political advantage.
Regardless of political party, as a law enforcement official, Dupnik’s first responsibility is to provide justice for those that were killed or wounded. By taking the route that he did, he compromised his role as a law enforcement officer, and he compromised the investigation. In short, he performed a grave disservice to law enforcement community, and to the victims of this terrible crime.
It’s a sad day for politics and decency in America. And, equally, a sad day for justice.