Capitol Police Lieutenant Tarik Khalid Johnson has been suspended for wearing a Make America Great Again hat during the Capitol Building occupation on January 6th. His suspension appears motivated by symbolism over substance. The sight of a Capitol Police officer wearing a MAGA hat and interacting with protesters on Capitol grounds did not make the Capitol Police look good to many, but the substance appears to be that of a smart move by an officer using de-escalation techniques.
Most people are quick to react without bothering to figure out what was really going on. That is especially true when it comes to TV news. Studies have consistently shown that most people forget 98% of what they see shortly after every news broadcast. Seeing a cop in a MAGA hat is all most people need to conclude that the Capitol Police were working with Trump supporters or actively supporting Trump themselves. Most people never bother to take the time to learn the truth. The truth is that Lt. Johnson was not wearing a MAGA hat to support Trump. He was wearing it to defuse tensions with the crowd so that he could peacefully get his men out of harms way. If you watch the video of the incident you can see Johnson asking Trump supporters for help. He started off by saying "we getting beat up, but the people that didn't vote for him are laughing at us." One of the Trump supporters responded by asking, "how can we help?" Johnson replied that he needed to get some other officers out because they were outnumbered, surrounded, and scared. The Trump supporters then escorted him to his men, cleared a path, and let them leave. At one point you can hear Lt. Johnson say that he had a total of 10 men. People have been criticizing those 10 men for standing down and letting the protesters pass unopposed into the building. We think that energy would be better spent trying to figure out why there were only 10 men there in the first place and criticizing the people responsible for that. We think that Lt. Johnson did the right thing. He realized that he lacked the manpower to resist and chose a peaceful withdrawal rather than ordering his men to make some crazy last stand that would have only ended badly (ex: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Calais_(1940)). Wearing the MAGA hat appears to have been a brilliant de-escalation technique on Johnson's part.
Critics of the Capitol Police response have been quick to use Johnson's conduct as an example of a double standard. They argue that had the protesters been there to support Black Lives Matter instead of Trump that they would have been treated far worse. They have a point, but at the same time we see that point being used a smoke screen that prevents people from taking a closer look at the situation. As if to say that had the crowd been mostly black that they would have been treated much worse, so nobody has the right to complain. Some have even gone as far as to argue that the Capitol Police should have treated the Trump supporters much worse because they would have treated BLM much worse. We believe that such thinking fails to consider basic concepts of Kaizen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen) by not recognizing the tactical improvements demonstrated by Johnson and his officers. Johnson proved that he knows how to use de-escalation techniques effectively. Johnson's men proved that they know how to respond peacefully when outnumbered by a crowd. We believe that they set a precedent that should govern future responses to protests. That precedent dictates that should a crowd of mostly peaceful BLM supporters descent on the Capitol Building in the future that they should be treated no differently than the Trump supporters were. If Johnson's men get surrounded, he should be expected to put on a BLM hat and ask for help politely.
We do not believe that Johnson's conduct merits suspension. We think that he did what he had to do to de-escalate and get his men to safety without hurting anyone. In so doing, the Capitol Police demonstrated that they know how to exercise restraint and de-escalate. Those skills should be used in the future to assure the safety of protesters regardless of who they are or who/what they support.