During the vice presidential debate, Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana asserted that law enforcement officers should stop being scrutinized for implicit bias against people of color. Pence's remarks were met with a mixed reception on social media.
On Oct. 4, Pence praised police officers when asked about current tensions between law enforcement and communities of color.
'Police officers are the best of us,” Pence said, according to The Washington Post. “And the men and women, white, African-American, Asian, Latino, Hispanic, they put their lives on the line every single day.”
The Indiana governor proceeded to accuse Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of smearing law enforcement by discussing institutionalized racism.
Addressing his opponent, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Pence urged the Clinton campaign to stop “seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation of implicit bias every time tragedy occurs.”
Kaine countered “If you’re afraid to have the discussion, you’ll never solve it.”
Pence stressed that while criminal justice reform was needed, “Let’s not have the reflex of assuming the worst of men and women in law enforcement. We truly do believe that law enforcement in not a force for racism or division in our country.”
The Indiana governor capped off his take on the issue by endorsing stop-and-frisk, a form of policing that is deeply controversial among the African-American and Hispanic communities.
Pence’s defense of law enforcement was met with a mixture of praise and derision on social media, according to the Independent Journal Review.
“My uncle was a cop, police officers are the best of us, they put their lives on the line everyday, Pence,” tweeted out @GOPBlackChick.
“Pence just went up several notches in my respect for him,” tweeted out @Rosechristenbe1. “Thank you for respecting our Police Officers.”
Meanwhile, the Indiana governor also met criticism from social media users upset with his dismissal of implicit bias.
“The extent to which Mike Pence refuses to acknowledge even a scintilla of wrongdoing by police officers is rather extraordinary,” tweeted out @speechboy71.
“Does ‘the best’ include police officers who shoot unarmed black people, Mike?” tweeted out @garymorgan3742.
Studies do indicate that African-Americans face a disproportionate threat of deadly force from law enforcement.
In April, a study conducted by the University of Louisville and the University of South Carolina found that, adjusted by population, African-American men were seven times more likely to be shot and killed by police while unarmed.
“The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black,” said criminal justice researcher Justin Nix of the University of Louisville.
“Officers are perceiving a greater threat when encountered by unarmed black citizens,” Nix concluded.
On Sept. 22, Pence called for the national discussion about implicit bias to end during a roundtable discussion, Politico reports.
“We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias,” Pence said.