Rep. Kevin McCarthy on June 10 rejected calls to "defund" U.S. law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, the man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement at the center of nationwide protests.
The House Republican leader said police departments need more money to improve officer training and transparency, not less, even as he continued to express support for peaceful protesters set on building "that more perfect union."
In comments to Fox News and at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, the Bakersfield congressman focused attention on the death of Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal officer shot and killed last month while protecting a federal courthouse in Oakland.
"We pray that justice comes swiftly and completely" to Floyd as well as Underwood, he said. McCarthy noted his friendship with the officer's sister, Angela Underwood-Jacobs, a former Lancaster city councilwoman and Republican congressional candidate who also spoke at the hearing.
Putting a political spin on the matter, McCarthy said some Democrats' efforts to cut funding for law enforcement had grown stronger than their calls to impeach President Donald Trump or institute a "Medicare for all" system of nationalized health care. He warned reducing taxpayer support for police would "only perpetuate the problem" of brutality by law enforcement officers.
McCarthy's comments were his latest public attempts to strike a balance between respect for peaceful protesters with support for police officers.
At least seven times since late May he's posted messages on social media addressing civil unrest in the wake of Floyd's death.
McCarthy tweeted May 29 that the nation can honor Floyd's memory by "healing our broken communities" and mending racial divides. But he said ripping apart cities and the country "only deepens the wound."
Two days later he told Fox News that destructive protests increase people's fears and the only appropriate catalyst for change is nonviolent action as demonstrated by the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Two days after that he retweeted an ABC News report that a Minneapolis police officer had been charged with murder in Floyd's death. "About time," McCarthy wrote. "Should have happened the day George Floyd was killed."
While calling for an end to racial discrimination, the Republican leader has also repeatedly insisted that looters and anarchists who have tainted recent street protests "deserve consequences."
In a June 4 tweet he called for adhering to the rule of law and coming together as a nation.
"Don't look for some law that's going to solve all this. It's a responsibility of all of us," he said. "If we see something being discriminated (against), stand up. You see somebody looting, stop them."
Tweeting again June 8, McCarthy thanked police officers across the country for upholding their oaths. He promised Republicans would oppose Democratic politicians' efforts to reduce police funding, saying his party "will never turn our backs on you."
A day later, he tweeted support for protesters' ability to protest "so this doesn't happen again."
"We also believe that we don't judge people by the color of their skin or the uniform that they wear," he added.
Bakersfield activist Arleana Waller, who's helped organize recent talks between city residents and local law enforcement agencies on the issue of in-custody deaths, said June 10 she disagrees with moves to cut police funding. But she asserted some taxpayer money should be set aside to create citizens’ groups that would advise top police officials.
“We need the police to protect us,” she said. “We need to understand the dynamics. They work for us. But we have to be involved in this process.”