Donald Trump's lie about an increase in the U.S. murder rate took on an even more sinister hue when he promised a group of law enforcement leaders that he would give them "the weapons that you need" — an apparent reference to the police militarization that most Americans oppose.
Donald Trump found himself in familiar territory when he told this whopper of a lie to a group of sheriffs during a meeting at the White House:
And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years. Right? Did you know that? 47 years. I used to use that, I’d say that in the speech and everybody was surprised, because the press doesn’t tell it like it is. Wasn’t to their advantage to say that. But the murder rate is the highest it has been in, I guess, from 45 to 47 years.
The facts say otherwise: Even given an uptick in the murder rate from 2014 to 2015, the murder rate is at its lowest point since 1964, and has been declining for decades.
After Trump White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was vehemently called out over that lie, Trump fine-tuned his claim to a more accurate, but still misleading, statistic when he spoke to the Major Cities Chiefs Association:
Murders in 2015 experienced their largest single year increase in nearly half a century. In 2016, murders in large cities continued to climb by double digits. In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults, and shootings.
In 2015, the murder rate did experience the largest single-year increase since 1971, but only because 2014’s murder rate was close to a 57-year low. The reporting Trump cites for 2016 actually showed mixed results based on preliminary data, with some cities showing increases in the murder rate, while others saw sharp drops in murders.
Later in the speech, the reason for Trump’s crime fear-mongering became apparent, as he told the crowd of law enforcement leaders that he intends to give them the “weapons” they need:
And they’re taking away our weapons, one by one. That’s what they’re doing. And you know it and I know it, and you people have been very unhappy for a long period of time. And I can read the polls maybe better than anybody because it seems that I understood the polls a lot better than many of the pollsters understood the polls. Assuming they were honest polls, which I, you know, think probably many of them weren’t. I really believe that. [applause] But, but we need security in our country. We have to allow you folks to do your job. You’re great people. Great people. Great men and women. And we have to allow you to do your job and we have to give you the weapons that you need. And this is a weapon that you need, and they’re trying to take it away from you, maybe because of politics or maybe because of political views. We can’t let that happen.
Trump has a long history of explicitly racist fear-mongering on the issue of crime, but this remark puts that history into action by hinting at a ramping up of the militarization of police forces that had been on the decline the past few years, aided by President Obama’s policies. Polls show that a majority of Americans oppose police militarization, while only 28 percent favor it — a strikingly similar number to the 27 percent of the voting age population that voted for Trump.
But these dangerous ideas and potential policies would have devastating effects on many of the 73 percent who did not vote for Trump, and would possibly have to contend with militarized, unaccountable police and a hostile Justice Department that will encourage the abuses uncovered largely as a result of activism by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trump’s lies sound good to some listeners, but they have consequences for everyone.