Politics & Government

Kansas Senate president: Obama ‘has stoked the fires of anger and hostility’ toward police

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle uses a gavel to bring the Senate into recess in 2015. Wagle, R-Wichita, said the president “has stoked the fires of anger and hostility by his responses to some events that have happened in the past and it’s not helping us resolve our relationship issues with those who enforce the law.”
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle uses a gavel to bring the Senate into recess in 2015. Wagle, R-Wichita, said the president “has stoked the fires of anger and hostility by his responses to some events that have happened in the past and it’s not helping us resolve our relationship issues with those who enforce the law.” File photo

The president of the Kansas Senate blames President Obama for helping fuel anti-police sentiment in recent years.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said the president “has stoked the fires of anger and hostility by his responses to some events that have happened in the past, and it’s not helping us resolve our relationship issues with those who enforce the law.”

She made these comments Wednesday, a day after a Kansas City, Kan., police officer was shot and killed.

Wagle clarified that she wasn’t trying to connect Obama to that incident, but was instead trying to make a general comment about how he has handled the debate over use of deadly force by police officers, which was set off after officer-involved shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere.

“He’s always appeared to respond very quickly before all the facts were gathered,” Wagle said. “He’s our national leader. We take his responses very seriously, and I think his role should be one of being an encourager for people to get along and for people to build relationships and for police to be fair in their treatment of all people and for the public to appreciate their role in our communities.”

Wagle’s comments did not resonate with Djuan Wash, a community organizer who has helped organized Black Lives Matters events in Wichita.

“The fact police officers are being shot and killed is not President Obama’s fault. Republicans are so hellbent on blaming everything on Obama, it’s gotten to the point now that it’s ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf,’” Wash said. “...This issue has nothing to do with Obama. This has to do with a failure to act. This has to do with a failure of local, state and federal officials addressing the issue.”

Obama has not only spoken out about officer-involved shootings, Wash said. “He’s spoken out on every mass shooting that has happened nationally, and he spoke out with need for Congress to do their damn job.”

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, also took exception to Wagle’s comments.

“I think he’s done a very important job of making sure we recognize the death of anybody, be it a police officer or victims of violence, is a very tragic thing,” Hensley said.

Obama called for unity when speaking at the funeral for five Dallas police officers last week.

“I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem,” Obama said. “...When the bullets started flying, the men and women of the Dallas police, they did not flinch and they did not react recklessly. They showed incredible restraint. Helped in some cases by protesters, they evacuated the injured, isolated the shooter, and saved more lives than we will ever know. We mourn fewer people today because of your brave actions.”

Wagle said she thinks Obama is improving on the issue.

“He’s done much better recently since (shootings in) Louisiana and Dallas,” she said. “I think he realized that this is serious business. There’s tremendous unrest in our country right now and he has changed. He has changed his responses, but the hostility was already building.”

Wagle was not the only Kansas leader to sound off on the issue of violence against police.

Gov. Sam Brownback, who telephoned into a meeting of the State Finance Council from Cleveland, called the death of Kansas City, Kan., police Capt. Robert Melton “a terrible tragedy” and said his thoughts and prayers were with the officer’s family.

House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, said “we need to get back to the fact that law enforcement, you know, they’re moms and dads.”

“They are family members. They’re doing a job. That’s been what’s lost out there somewhere,” he said. “Law enforcement, people look at them as some sort of police force, well, they’re there keeping us safe…they’re members of our community.”

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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