Dan Patrick: Cops’ Lives Matter Most of All

Kingwood tea party rally
Christopher Hooks
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick addresses a Kingwood Tea Party rally on September 3, 2015.

Who will protect the protectors? Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, that’s who. On September 3, Patrick was interviewed by the Texas Standard in a week dominated by the aftermath of the murder of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth. The killing of Goforth, at a gas station by a man with a history of mental illness, touched off a new phase in the debate over police tactics.

In the interview, Patrick was emphatic in his belief that criticism of law enforcement should come to a halt, particularly that of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I’m tired of this ‘certain lives matter,’” Patrick said. “All lives do matter, and particularly law enforcement.”

That night, Patrick spoke at the Kingwood Tea Party’s Constitution Day Rally, where he again demonstrated his zeal for defending law enforcement against the forces of the left. “We’ve gotta lift up law enforcement. I’ve had it with those who don’t understand that it’s the bad guys who are the bad guys, not the good guys,” he said.

So divided is America these days that even our tragedies have their own partisan affiliations. Each high-profile slaying carries with it a potential for political advantage, and the possibility of advancement or retreat of some policy. Factions place political import on some incidents of bloodletting and advocate context and restraint in interpreting others.

Predictably, the shooting death of Goforth has become a means to lessen the importance of other tragic deaths. Patrick and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who directly blamed President Barack Obama’s rhetoric for Goforth’s murder, argue that anger at the police has invited a new wave of anarchy in American cities, and innocent cops are paying the price.

An epidemic is sweeping the country, Patrick told the crowd in Kingwood. “In the month of August, seven law enforcement officers were killed,” Patrick said. “And three already in September, and it’s only the third.” In fact, fatal shootings of police officers have been falling for decades and are at a historic low. As of September 15, police shooting deaths were down 22 percent from the previous year, and the leading cause of law enforcement fatalities remains traffic accidents.

“This must stop now,” Patrick told the crowd. “And we must stand with our law enforcement in a way we have never done before, and it has to be 24/7, 365 for the rest of our life, because evil and crime is not going away.”

Schools must once again teach kids to say “Sir” or “Ma’am” to authorities, he said. “We have this attitude in America [that] we can confront our teachers, and we can confront law enforcement. That has to end,” he said. He urged the crowd to volunteer with police departments and to buy officers meals.

The Kingwood Tea Party raised money for Goforth’s family at the event, and many in the audience, including a contingent of Harris County constables working security, were visibly emotional as Patrick spoke about the sacrifices of the uniformed. Goforth’s funeral the following day attracted some 11,000 mourners, Patrick among them.

A true statesman might speak about the tragedy of Sandra Bland and the tragedy of Darren Goforth in the same breath. In today’s political climate, few seem willing to do so.

Christopher Hooks is a freelance journalist in Austin, where he grew up. His work has appeared in Politico Magazine, Slate, and Texas Monthly, among others. He graduated from The New School in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in history.

Published at 9:30 am CST