Obama: Quick on the Draw to Judge Law Enforcement Officials

Please explain this to me: President Obama has no fear of praising law enforcement officials when it makes a great political soundbite, but when it comes to trusting their judgment on crucial issues like enforcing the new immigration law in Arizona, he suddenly seems to think they can’t be trusted to make proper calls.

"What I think is a mistake is when we start having local law enforcement officials empowered to stop people on the suspicion that they may be undocumented workers, because that carries a great amount of risk that core values that we all care about are breached," the president said yesterday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Remember Sgt. James Crowley and Henry Lewis Gates Jr.? This was part of Obama’s initial response to that incident that got him in trouble and launched a backpedaling and a beer summit:

“What I think we know separate and apart from this incident — is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that’s just a fact.”

Yet here’s a sample of his remarks at a 2009 ceremony honoring the National Association of Police Organizations’ Top Cops: “This is an event that we are glad…to bring back to the White House, after a period of absence, in honor of these fine officers and the folks across the country they represent: the men and women who walk the beat, who answer the call, and do the difficult work of keeping our neighborhoods safe….

“That’s what police officers do. You step into harm’s way to form—officer by officer, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood—the line between safety and violence, calm and chaos, hope and despair. And for that it’s not difficult to offer our praise. But, you deserve more than just praise, for it’s far more important that we actually support you…”

Everyone’s going back and forth as to whether the new Arizona law – which requires officers to determine someone’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion a person is in the U.S. illegally – puts too much power into local law enforcement’s hands.  Some are concerned it’s going to lead to racial profiling, even though the Arizona legislature’s bill summary says the legislation “[s]tipulates that a law enforcement official or agency cannot solely consider race, color or national origin when implementing these provisions, except as permitted by the U.S. or Arizona Constitution.”

Obviously, time will tell if the law allows too much leeway and requires additional safeguards (that is, after all, how we got the Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation).  But why is Obama so quick to issue judgment on our law enforcement officials?