After a narcotics raid went horribly wrong on Monday, Houston Police Union President Joe Gamaldi launched into a fiery tirade against anti-police sentiment in the United States, saying that police were going to hold media outlets and anti-police activists “accountable.”
Gamaldi delivered his speech in front of the Memorial Hermann Hospital, where five officers were being treated for wounds sustained in a firefight that broke out while serving a search warrant.
His attention, however, was focused squarely what he called “the ones spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy,” whom he blasted for spreading a negative image of the police officers who, he says, are just protecting their communities.
The speech has received mixed reactions from different political groups. Among supporters of the police, however, it has been wildly popular, with the hashtag #EnoughIsEnough spreading online and Gamaldi being invited to appear on Fox & Friends and other national news shows.
Joe Gamaldi on anti-police rhetoric
“I want to speak on behalf of the 5,200 brave men and women of the Houston Police Department and the other 800,000 police officers who are working these streets every day putting their lives on the line,” Gamaldi told a crowd gathered around the hospital.
Twelve of those officers, just hours before, had found themselves in the middle of an intense firefight inside of a building police say was being used in a narcotics operation. They’d come to serve a search warrant, but after announcing themselves and breaching the front door, they were greeted by a volley of bullets launched by two gunmen inside.
The scene turned to chaos as the officers and the men inside fought for their lives. Before it was over, four officers had either been shot or grazed by bullets, while a fifth had injured his ankle in the confrontation. The two men that police say fired at the officers lay dead on the floor.
“We are sick and tired of having targets on our back,” Gamaldi told the crowd that gathered that night, most expecting nothing more than a press statement and an update on the officers’ condition. “We are sick and tired of having dirtbags trying to take our lives when all we’re trying to do is protect this community and protect our families. Enough is enough.”
Gamaldi was visibly furious; he did not, however, put the blame for his officers’ lives on the suspects who’d shot them alone. Instead, he turned his attention to the media.
“If you’re the ones out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, well just know we’ve all got your number now,” Gamaldi told the crowd. “We’re going to be keeping track on all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure to hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers.”
Two days later, in an interview with Fox & Friends, Gamaldi would clarify that he specifically speaking to anti-police activists and to what he called “the talking heads on some of these mainstream media outlets.” He hadn’t been misunderstood; he was directly blaming them for increasing the risk to police officers in the line of duty.
“They’ve put targets on our backs,” Gamaldi told Fox & Friends. “The statistics show it.”
Officer shootings skyrocketed, Gamaldi claimed, after the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” rallies in Ferguson, Missouri. Between 2013 and 2016, he says, officer deaths by firearms increased by more than 50 percent.
Those rallies protested the 2014 death of Michael Brown, who, at the time, a witness said had been killed while surrendering, with his hands in the air — something widely reported in early media on the case. Gamaldi, citing the Washington Post, says that those protests were built on a “completely false narrative”; according to the Justice Department’s investigation into the incident, the evidence does not support the claim that Brown had his hands up when he was shot.
Referring to public calls for police accountability that have filled the media, Gamaldi said it’s time that the police started holding the media accountable for their reporting.
“We are gonna hold you accountable. We’re gonna call you out when you’re lying on our officers, and we’re gonna call you out when you’re trying to drive a wedge between us and our community,” Gamaldi told . “We’re not gonna let it happen anymore.”
Fact-checking Joe Gamaldi
“The statistics show it,” Gamaldi told Fox & Friends; but while the spirit of his fervor will certainly ring true to several law enforcement officers, not all of his claims hold up to the facts.
Gamaldi told Fox & Friends that, between 2013 and 2016, the number of officers killed by gunfire increased by 50 percent. At this time, we have been unable to find data that supports that statement.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 34 officers were killed by firearms in 2013, compared to 67 in 2016. Based on those numbers alone, Gamaldi actually undersold the change; according to their data, in that time, the number of officers shot to death almost doubled.
Comparing the data from 2013 to 2016, however, could be misleading. His use of 2013 as a comparison point skews the figures. 2013 was an anomaly; fewer officers died that year than any year since 1959. In fact, 2016 actually had fewer officers fatalities than 2011 or 2010.
Gamaldi’s statement implies that there has been an upward trend in police deaths in the past few years, but police deaths, whether measured by firearms or by all causes, have fluctuated up and down over the last 10 years with no consistent trend upward or downward.
The lives of police have, however, changed. Police across the nation have been having a harder time than ever finding new recruits; according to the Washington Post, in the most extreme areas, applications from new recruits have dropped by 50 percent.
Here in Salt Lake City, our police saw that 50 percent drop in applicants between 2012 and 2015, according to a Daily Universe report, and other jurisdictions across the state say they’ve similar drops in new applicants.
To help make sure our officers are taken care of after serving their communities, KSL Newsradio’s Dave & Dujanovic are asking their listeners to support their #PayOurPolice pledge to restore Utah’s police pension program, which was drastically cut in 2011:
Click the link to pledge your support here to restore police pensions in Utah! Police departments across the state say they are having problems recruiting new officers. Improving their retirement benefits would do a lot to help. Pledge your support now: https://t.co/Ef26kxJBK8
— Dave and Dujanovic (@D2KSL) January 23, 2019
You can hear them talk about this story and their #PayOurPolice pledge on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast:
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