WHILE OHIO’S two U.S. Senate candidates — Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance — say they are strong supporters of law enforcement, each has made statements that could raise some doubts.
Vance is highlighting in television commercials an Aug. 26, 2019, statement Ryan made at Paine College in Georgia during his failed presidential bid: “The current criminal justice system is racist. I believe in my heart it’s the new Jim Crow.”
Ryan’s campaign said the statement was part of a broader answer about sentencing disparities for drug crimes along with health care and environmental justice.
Ryan also incorrectly blamed police officers in a June 3, 2020, video for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, an African-American man who was actually killed by a white man Feb. 23 of that year in Georgia.
In addition to saying Arbery was killed by police officers, Ryan said black Americans “have been profiled, targeted, killed because of deeply ingrained racism in our criminal justice system.”
Ryan also received criticism from the head of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and local law enforcement for a July 23, 2020, letter he co-authored to then-Attorney General William Barr about racism and police brutality.
“We are forced to acknowledge the reality that racism plagues our systems and makes it more difficult for black people and other people of color to access resources and opportunities,” the letter stated.
It also stated: “Police brutality and the use of excessive and militarized force are among the most serious ongoing human rights and civil liberties violations in the United States and have led to community destabilization, a decrease in public safety and the exacerbation of structural inequities.”
While not going as far as Ryan, Vance said Aug. 15, 2017, on CNN: “There are legitimate concerns that a lot of black Americans have that they’re not treated fairly by some members of the police.”
As for other statements made by Vance, he said in a May 3 interview with Spectrum News that if someone is convicted of a crime, “that’s a different conversation, but being accused of a crime, as we’ve learned from the past four years in this country, is very often more about corrupt law enforcement than it is about anything that anybody’s actually done.”
Vance was referencing unproven accusations against former President Donald Trump over Russia collusion.
Vance tweeted on April 26 that it was “time to investigate the corrupt leadership” of the FBI.
On Feb. 1, Vance tweeted: “Joe Biden’s (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) is illegally collecting information on the gun transactions of millions of law-abiding citizens & putting them into a digital database. As senator, I’ll not only lead the fight against Biden’s unconstitutional gun database, I’ll fight to ABOLISH the ATF.”
In a Feb. 18 opinion column in The Cincinnati Enquirer, Vance wrote that instead of focusing on stopping the illegal trafficking of weapons on the southern border, the ATF “is instead using precious resources to spy on American citizens” through a federal firearms database.
Luke Schroeder, a Vance campaign spokesman, said: “No amount of spin from Tim Ryan can change the fact that he slandered police, called today’s criminal justice system the new Jim Crow, wrongly accused police of murder, refused to vote to condemn the defund the police movement and voted to eliminate qualified immunity.”
Izzi Levy, a Ryan campaign spokeswoman, said: “J.D. Vance called law enforcement ‘corrupt,’ called to defund federal agencies that help Ohio police do their jobs and raised money for people who bashed cops over the head with lead pipes during the Jan. 6, (2021) insurrection and now he is lying about Tim to distract from his own record of siding squarely against the police.”
Vance has supported some people who were at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and tweeted a link this past Jan. 6 asking for contributions to the Patriot Freedom Project for the “dozens of people who protested on J6 who haven’t even been charged with a crime yet (and) are being mistreated in DC prisons.”
The Patriot Freedom Project faced criticism for not being transparent enough with how it was spending the $900,000 it received in donations and other issues, according to a Feb. 10 NPR article.
The Ohio FOP, which represents 23,000 officers in the state, endorsed Vance over Ryan in the Senate race. The Ohio FOP primarily endorsed Republicans in this election cycle.
Jeff Simpson, president of the Columbus FOP Lodge 9, who was born in nearby New Castle, Pa., said Ryan’s “negative rhetoric is an issue. When you say things that affect our safety and write a letter saying the justice system is racist, it’s a false narrative. He’s not safe for Ohio, public safety or my people.”
The Columbus lodge is the fourth largest in the nation with 4,500 members in 28 jurisdictions in Franklin County, Simpson said.
Simpson said Ryan addressed the lodge about four years ago and criticized Trump about “law and order.” Simpson said nearly all of his members are conservatives and Ryan “got booed out of the room.”
Vance, he said, “is a new candidate. He doesn’t have a record to run on, but he has said the right things and he has put boots on the ground meeting with law enforcement. He’s laying the foundation to make my members feel confident.”
Schroeder said: “J.D. supports the police; they’re selfless, patriotic Americans who stand between societal peace and chaos. Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police endorsed J.D. because they know he’s the right man for the job. They’re fighting to stop Tim Ryan because they know he’s too radical and dangerous for Ohio communities.”
Vance added: “Tim Ryan turned his back on the police to advance his political aspirations. Tim Ryan’s reckless demonization of law enforcement officers has made Ohio communities less safe, even as crime is spiking across Ohio and the nation. We need leaders who will place public safety above politics, who will defeat the far-left forces that are making many once great American cities unlivable. I will be that kind of leader, but Tim Ryan won’t.”
Ryan’s campaign said he’s helped bring back $467 million in federal money for Ohio law enforcement and first responders as a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and through his support of the American Rescue Plan.
Ryan is also a main sponsor of the bipartisan Law Enforcement Scenario-Based Training for Safety and De-Escalation Act of 2022, which would require the U.S. Department of Justice to create immersive, real-life, scenario-based training curriculum to address key issues raised by law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
“In Ohio and across the country, we have seen too many tragic confrontations between our police officers and community members – a problem that increased police training can help address,” Ryan said. “We must ensure our law enforcement officers who are routinely put in dangerous situations are equipped with every de-escalation tool necessary to keep our communities safe.”
Jordan Fuja, a Ryan campaign spokeswoman, said: “San Francisco fraud J.D. Vance only lies about Tim’s record of supporting law enforcement (as a distraction) … While Vance was selling out Ohioans, Tim was working hard to make it easier for police to do their jobs safely and effectively and securing nearly half a billion dollars to fund state and local law enforcement all over Ohio.”