Donald Trump incited an attack on the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five dead police officers and 140 more officers injured, and he is now under three criminal investigations, but that did not dissuade three dozen Pennsylvania state troopers from posing for a photo with the former president during his visit last weekend.
Trump on Sunday showed off the photo of him flashing a thumbs-up sign with rows of uniformed troopers on either side of him, a large sign and logo for the “Pennsylvania State Police, Troop P, Wilkes-Barre” directly behind him.
The night before, at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, he had attacked the FBI and the Department of Justice for investigating him. Just days earlier, he had said he would likely pardon all the Jan. 6, 2021, rioters, many of whom have been charged with assaulting police officers at the Capitol that day.
“That’s unacceptable. It alienates a lot of people,” said U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who was beaten and subjected to racial threats during the final phase of Trump’s coup attempt. “Taking a formal picture at a rally where he’s literally attacking the FBI and the DOJ, your brothers and sisters in law enforcement, by the way … that’s a slap in the face.”
Michael Fanone, a former Washington police officer who suffered a heart attack and traumatic brain injury after being beaten and electroshocked on Jan. 6, had a more blunt assessment of the photo.
“Professionally? It’s unprofessional. It’s improper,” he said. “Personally? Those two or three dozen Pennsylvania state troopers, from the bottom of my heart, can go fuck all the way off.”
Neither Capt. Patrick Dougherty, commander of Troop P, nor Deanna Piekanski, the public information officer, responded to HuffPost queries. Trump’s staff also did not respond.
Myles Snyder, communications director for the Pennsylvania State Police at its headquarters in Harrisburg, issued the following statement: “PSP members at this particular event were afforded an opportunity to gather for a photograph with the former president. The photograph in question was not officially sanctioned or disseminated by the Pennsylvania State Police. The Pennsylvania State Police does not endorse any political candidate or campaign.”
He would not, however, respond to follow-up questions.
The photo, which Trump posted to his Twitter-like Truth Social platform without comment but in a series of photos and videos from his Saturday night rally, shows 31 officers in full uniform, three in black T-shirts and two men wearing suits. Trump is in the middle. None of the troopers is Black; two are women and it is unclear whether any are Latino.
“I didn’t see a lot of Black and brown faces in that photograph. People can draw their own conclusions, I guess,” Fanone said.
Politicians of both parties frequently have their photos taken with police officers, particularly during campaigns. Trump, however, is not a typical politician: He’s the only president in U.S. history to attempt a self-coup to remain in power despite losing reelection.
According to testimony during a House select committee hearing on the assault of Jan. 6, 2021, Trump did nothing to stop his mob’s attack on the Capitol for more than three hours. Instead, he watched the riot on television ― including physical violence against police officers ― and about an hour into the siege further inflamed it by posting a tweet attacking his vice president for refusing to toss out the Electoral College results and declare Trump the winner.
Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was beaten and sprayed with chemicals by Trump’s mob, died the next day after suffering a stroke. Four other officers died by suicide in the coming weeks, and 140 other officers were injured that day, some gravely.
Dunn said that police officers share in the blame of their political involvement because of their use of endorsements and campaign contributions to win better contracts or other benefits. That said, Trump should be treated as a special situation and be shunned by all law enforcement, he added.
“He said it a long time ago: He could shoot somebody and not lose any followers, and how right was he?” Dunn said. “He has this hold over people, and he knows it.”
The Pennsylvania state troopers are not the only police officers to continue supporting Trump. Florida’s Palm Beach Police Department earlier this year held its annual major fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s social club in that town, putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into Trump’s personal cash registers, and it plans to do so again in January.
A year ago, the New Jersey State Police Benevolent Association held a fundraiser at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, just two weeks after the New York Police Department’s 17th Precinct, a few blocks from his Trump Tower high-rise, welcomed him for a Sept. 11 photo opportunity.
Fanone said he is dismayed that police officers and unions around the country continue to treat Trump with courtesy, despite what he did to police officers in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6 and the criminal investigations he now faces for trying to overturn the election and for taking a trove of classified documents to Mar-a-Lago as he left office.
“Those two or three dozen Pennsylvania state troopers, from the bottom of my heart, can go fuck all the way off.”
– Michael Fanone, former Metropolitan Police Department officer who was attacked on Jan. 6, 2021
“He only likes the police that like him. He only likes the law enforcement agencies that do his bidding,” Fanone said. “Does it surprise me that there are still police officers who support Donald Trump? No. Does it piss me off? Yes.”
Trump, despite losing the 2020 election by 7 million votes nationally and 306-232 in the Electoral College, became the first president in more than two centuries of elections to refuse to hand over power peacefully.
Nevertheless, Trump remains the dominant figure in the Republican Party and is openly speaking about running for the presidency again in 2024.
In statements on his personal social media platform, Trump has continued to lie about the election and the Jan. 6 committee’s work, calling it a “hoax” similar to previous investigations into his 2016 campaign’s acceptance of Russian assistance and his attempted extortion of Ukraine into helping his 2020 campaign.