Talking Points

The 1 time Republicans hate a cop standing his ground

Michael Byrd was just standing his ground.

Byrd, the police lieutenant who shot Ashli Babbit during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, on Thursday stepped forward into the spotlight. "I know that day I saved countless lives," Byrd said in an interview with NBC News. "I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that's my job." Law enforcement officials apparently agree: The Justice Department declined to pursue charges in April, and investigators with the Capitol Police said this week he will not be disciplined for Babbitt's death.

Unsurprisingly, Byrd has become a villain on the right. Even before identifying himself publicly, he had received numerous death threats after RealClearInvestigations identified him over the summer. On Fox News, Donald Trump speculated falsely that Babbitt's shooter was chief of security for a high-ranking Democrat. And the Trumpist website American Greatness grumbled in July about the racial dynamics of it all: "The names of white cops who kill black people are immediately released; the name of a black federal officer who killed a white Trump supporter is concealed by the government and the news media."

If there are double standards, though, they run both ways. We have the video to prove it.

Conservatives have long embraced the "broken windows" theory of policing, which suggests that the best way to reduce violent crime is to crack down on minor violations, the little signs of disorder that can lead to bigger problems for a community. When Byrd shot Babbitt, she was literally trying to climb through a window that had been shattered by one of her co-insurrectionists.

The tough-on-crime crowd has also enthusiastically backed state "stand your ground" laws, which allow individuals to commit violence in defense of themselves or their property — even if retreating might alleviate the need for conflict. Byrd, in this case, was protecting dozens of members of Congress: He had no place to retreat and no expectation the insurrectionists would become less violent once they got inside the glass doors where Babbitt was shot. Police who "reasonably fear" for their safety are usually given wide latitude in such cases.

Trumpist conservatives are not defending or lauding Byrd, though. They're mocking Capitol Police officers and turning Ashli Babbitt into a martyr. Unfortunately for Michael Byrd, he's the exception to the usual Republican embrace of law enforcement.