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Democrats Are Trying to Split the Difference on Police Issues

Last week, the Republican Party made it clear where they stand on matters of public safety, in the wake of recent police killings of African American men and the murder of police officers. The RNC in Cleveland included the appearance of pro-police firebrand and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, frequent chants of “Blue Lives Matter,” and seemingly every speaker took the chance to bring up that, in a Donald Trump presidency, America would “stand behind” the police.

Trump calls himself the “law and order candidate,” and the Republican Party is speaking directly to the portions of America that doesn’t feel safe.

The Democrats, by contrast, seem to be looking to take a middle ground, supporting police departments and police officers while still calling for a closer look at the criminal justice system and the way policing is done. At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Democrats heard from both sides of the debate. First, there was a short speech from Cameron McLay, the chief of police in Pittsburgh, Penn.

“There is a crisis of trust in the police and the criminal justice system,” McLay said. He said that while he believes cops have the hardest job in America, he also admitted that the there are inequities in policing that adversely affect people of color.

Following McLay, the “Mothers of the Movement” took the stage. The group is a collection of women whose children were killed as a result of police or gun violence. The mother of Sandra Bland, who died in police custody, and the mother of Michael Brown, who was infamously shot in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014, were among the speakers. Rather than focus on policy, the mothers primarily discussed their children.

Many on the left feel that too much time is spent apologizing for the police and the Justice Department and not enough time spent addressing the systemic problems that lead to the violence in the first place. And Hillary Clinton has faced criticism over her husband’s statements and record on public safety policy during his presidency.

Trying to walk a fine line on big issues is nothing new to the Democratic Party or to Hillary Clinton. But with an emotionally-charged issue like policing and police violence, it may prove a risky endeavor.