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Brittany's Blog: Charlie Baker, political opportunist

Brittany Jennings
March 30, 2017 - 12:30 pm

On Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill doubling the line of duty death benefit for families of first responders. This bill applies to police officers, fire fighters, corrections officers and EMTs. The new bill will increase the benefit from $150,000 to $300,000.
“The daily life of those of us in public service for the most part comes with all kinds of surprises, but most of them are manageable,” Baker said. “The first responder community, the public safety community, the surprises they have to deal with sometimes get significantly beyond what we deal with. This is one way for us ... to speak out and to support the families of those who put on the uniform every day."

Baker is both right—and wrong. On the one hand, this is a bill I strongly support. I believe other governors and lawmakers around the country should follow the example Baker has set. I’m happy to have a governor who supports law enforcement. It is refreshing to know a politician finally has first responders’ backs. First responders face the cruel reality that they may not make it home after a shift serving their community.

Moreover, this isn’t the first pro-police bill Baker has pushed. He advocated for an increase in penalties for assaulting police officers. This increased the charge to a felony when a person causes bodily harm to police. Before he signed this bill, assault and battery of a police officer was a misdemeanor.

On the other hand, however, Baker is clearly acting out of political expediency. As several law enforcement officers told me, they believe it is “a little too late.” Where was Baker when cops were being slaughtered on the streets these past several years? Under the Obama administration, the anti-police rhetoric intensified, especially with Obama’s notorious “The Cambridge police acted stupidly” comment. Police officers and first responders were vilified for the past eight years by the mainstream media and liberal politicians. Cop haters fanned the flames on social media. Since then, there has been a target on police officers and first responders’ backs. Now that we have a law and order president, Baker signs a pro-first responders’ law.

Yet this begs the question: Where was this bill when Auburn police officer Ron Tarentino Jr. was shot five times in the back by a career criminal during a motor vehicle stop? Where was this bill when MA State Trooper Thomas Clardy was struck in his police cruiser by a driver who claimed he smoked “medical marijuana?” What about three Boston police officers who were shot in the line of duty but thankfully were not killed? Boston police officer John Moynihan, a member of the gang unit, was shot point-blank in the face by a convicted felon in 2015. Matt Morris and Richard Cintolo were shot while responding to a domestic call in the fall.

When cops were being gunned down, Baker was mostly silent (with the exception of the Tarantino shooting). But when firefighters are killed in the line of duty, such as Watertown hero, Joseph Toscano, and they are portrayed by the media in a positive light—unlike the demonized police—then Baker can’t wait to sign a benefits bill. Don’t get me wrong: I love firefighters—in fact, all first responders. And their families deserve full, generous benefits for their incredible sacrifice and service. Baker’s motives, however, are more political than moral or compassionate. He signed the bill because it was the popular thing to do.
It’s too bad he wasn’t willing to sign a similar bill when the issue was politically incorrect. Cops are first responders and heroes too.  
-Brittany Jennings is Executive Producer of “The Kuhner Report” on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.

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