Pittsburgh Police Union Part Of Vote To Endorse Trump

Sep 21, 2016

Robert Swartzwelder (left), president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, sits with Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich (middle) and Chief of Police Cameron McLay (right) on Tuesday during a City Council post agenda.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

That vote was part of the national organization’s choice to endorse Trump, announced Friday. Pittsburgh FOP President Robert Swartzwelder wouldn't say how many officers cast votes during the August meeting. He would only say the vote represented the 730 officers who pay dues. He said he hasn’t heard any pushback from officers who may disagree with the endorsement.

The officers who voted to endorse Trump like what he’s said about working with police if elected, Swartzwelder said. At a North Carolina rally in August, Trump told police officers, “I’m on your side, 1,000 percent."  

“I like that he’s considering the national interest, not any special interest group even though he’s seeking your endorsement," Swartzwelder said. "He’s saying, ‘I’m not going to give you that.'"

Specifically, the FOP asked Trump about pension issues and offset social security.

“He said, ‘I will look at that and if it’s in the national interest, then I will do what I can as the executive or I will rely on Congress,'" Swartzwelder said. "In other words, he’s using the different branches of government. So he’s giving the right answers. They’re the answers that are based on the constitution."

Swartzwelder said the decision was not a difficult one because Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton declined to interview with the national FOP president and board. Trump on the other hand, did.

“Because if you don’t want to engage in an interview that means you really don’t care what we have to say and you really don’t care about answering any of our questions,” Swartzwelder said. “So you’re really not seeking our vote, so therefore we’re going to endorse the opposition candidate.”

Swartzwelder called it “terrifying” that Clinton declined a meeting with the country’s largest police union.

“You don’t want to hear from the people who police and keep people safe every day? And you don’t care what they have to say? That’s a little annoying and freighting,” he said.

Clinton has met with law enforcement officials during her campaign. In August, she met with the New York police commissioner, as well as the Los Angeles police chief and Dallas County sheriff

Former New York Police Department commissioner Bill Bratton, who retired five days ago, told CBS This Morning that he is "scared" by the Trump campaign's "lack of depth."

But National FOP President Chuck Canterbury told NPR’s Rachel Martin Sunday that Clinton’s plan for police reform won’t work because, “reform in a profession that doesn’t need to be reformed is not the answer to fight crime.”

“Well, for the last - past number of years, we've been talking about the fact that law enforcement is not the answer to violent crime in inner cities - that we can help with crime reduction but unless you reduce systemic poverty and provide decent paying jobs that you're not going to really affect the crime rate,” Canterbury said. “And Donald Trump, in our one-on-one interview, acknowledged that he agreed with us. And he thought that his plan to fight poverty would aid law enforcement, and he promised us a seat at the table.”

Following the shooting of an unarmed black man, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, Clinton posted to Facebook about the death.

“We’ve got to do everything possible to improve policing, to go right at implicit bias,” Clinton said. “There are good, honorable, cool-headed police officers. We have seen them in action in New York over the last 48 hours because of the terrorist attacks. We can do better. We have to rein in what is absolutely inexplicable.”