You might have heard that I tried to get a Tucson police officer fired in last Friday’s Notebook column.
Well, Officer Brandon Tatum said on Facebook that I did, in my column about his viral video denouncing NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem. You may remember it as a rather tame column about a local police officer with a big social media following, but his fans didn’t think so. They flooded the newspaper with emails and phone calls that echoed his reaction, wondering why I was trying to get him fired.
Here’s the irony of that claim: The person who has the power to try to fire Tatum, Police Chief Chris Magnus, is the same person who knows I didn’t try to get him fired, because he was of course part of the conversation in which I asked Magnus about Tatum’s videos. And I reported that the chief said Tatum had acted within department rules.
But there were a couple of interesting criticisms in the flood I received. One reader, David Schnack of Vail, told me that if I’m going to look into a line officer’s conservative videos, surely I would be interested in the chief’s liberal opinions transmitted via Twitter.
So I took a closer look at Magnus’ Twitter account — specifically, the last 100 tweets he has posted, going back to July 13. Most of what I found was pretty innocuous, promoting the department, documenting his activities, sending out sympathies and congratulations. But there has been a steady political bite to some of his tweets, mostly responding to the Trump administration’s criminal justice policies carried out by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
On Aug. 4, Magnus posted a story by the Los Angeles Times about Sessions’ threats to punish so-called Sanctuary Cities. In his tweet, Magnus called it “Randomly picking on cities to score political points w/no knowledge, strategy, or goal of actually reducing crime.”
On July 30, Magnus posted a statement by the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association denouncing President Trump’s earlier comments encouraging police to rough up arrestees. Magnus commented, “Major City Chiefs Pres responds to President’s policing comments. Tucson PD cops know what professionalism means.”
Magnus, of course, has a reputation as a liberal police chief, which naturally angers some in the rank and file, who tend to be more conservative. In his previous job in Richmond, California, he posed for a picture with people carrying a “Black Lives Matter” banner, and that rankles some officers still, who see it as evidence he isn’t really on their side.
Magnus noted to me that his Twitter account is a personal one, not formally representing the department, but of course such distinctions are pretty artificial when you’re talking about a public figure like a police chief. That’s one of the reasons why, earlier this summer, he ceased blocking anyone from viewing his tweets and simply asked that they keep the conversation civil.
“I think I have an obligation as a police chief and police leader to give a critical look at criminal justice policy at a state, national and local level,” Magnus said.
Tatum goes conspiratorial
I don’t want to belabor this topic, but just to tie up loose ends: Last week, I reported that Tatum said he had been invited to be interviewed by internet conspiracy-theorist Alex Jones. I wrote that it was “too bad” that supervisors couldn’t prevent him from appearing on that show, hosted by a delusional radical who had harmed crime victims, the parents of massacred children in Newtown, Connecticut.
Tatum went ahead and did the interview anyway.
He explained in a Facebook post that he had started watching Alex Jones when he didn’t have cable TV at home and was catching news on the internet. He noted that Jones was one of the few people who predicted accurately that Trump would win.
What Tatum didn’t take into account, though, was Jones’ regular track record of calling many violent episodes “false flag operations” created by the government to justify taking away citizens’ guns and other freedoms. He theorized that Jared Loughner was the subject of a government mind-control program the day after Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords and 18 other people.
Soon after Tatum’s interview, Jones was back to his old tricks, saying of the Las Vegas massacre: “The whole thing has the hallmarks of being scripted by deep state Democrats and their Islamic allies using mental patient cut-outs.”
It’s crazy stuff, but not harmless. Millions of people listen, and some are incited by his ravings. Responsible grown-ups don’t prop up harmful whackos like Jones by appearing on their shows, no matter how big the audience.
Friese stops exploring
For months, Rep. Randy Friese, a Tucson Democrat, has been traveling the state, gauging the support for a possible run for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Jeff Flake. Now he’s done.
Friese decided he won’t run for the Democratic nomination now that U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has gotten in the race.
“My goal is to make sure there’s a (Democratic) candidate in this race who can win, and now we have it,” he said.
He plans to return to the state House.
McSally takes trail
Call it a training hike, if you wish. U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, a Tucson Republican, has announced her plan to hike the entire, 800-mile Arizona trail in segments over a period of months. She began with a 3.6-mile hike in the Coronado National Memorial, starting from the Mexican border and heading north.
McSally is widely considered one of the more endangered incumbents in the House. The hike should be good training for the even longer campaign ahead.