A Democratic congressional candidate who once mocked police critics for joining a "trendy" movement is now arguing that law enforcement officers are "systemically racist" as he tries to woo liberal voters.
Josh Hicks, a former police officer now challenging Rep. Andy Barr (R.) in Kentucky's Sixth Congressional District, wrote in 2005 on an online message board that he "call[s] bull— on the overwhelming number of people who claim to have bad experiences" when pulled over by police. The Democrat acknowledged that his position could be "inflammatory" but nevertheless affected a stereotypical voice to mock police critics.
"I could be wrong, and this could be inflammatory, but I think it's become trendy and cool to say ‘F— THA POLICE DAWG', and have that sort of attitude," Hicks wrote. "It's my opinion that it's not always warranted, it's just cool to have it, and there's no reason to have it unless you have a story, real or fake, about the pig who was fat and sloppy and probably much less intelligent than you who harassed you for no reason other than you were cooler than he was."
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Hicks, who served in the Maysville Police Department from 2003 to 2008, sang a different tune during a June 1 debate on Kentucky Educational Television, which occurred as anti-police protests ravaged cities across the country. He said he saw first-hand during his years as a cop that systemic racism exists and "has been going on for a long time."
"There is systemic racism in the United States, and I saw it and have felt it and have heard it," he said. "In law enforcement particularly?" host Renee Shaw asked. "In law enforcement, yes ma'am, the same thing," Hicks responded.
While working as a police officer, however, Hicks said that in his "several years experience" he had "not met even ONE" colleague who "took the job just to f— with people." He argued that those who hold negative opinions of police often "make your presumption self-fulfilling through your actions."
"Cops are people just like you. … They have opinions and are prone to respond just like you would to disrespect," Hicks wrote. "If I see obvious disdain on your face when I walk up to your car for a traffic violation, a smirk, or a bad attitude from you, don't expect the kid glove treatment from me. I give respect as it's given to me."
During his debate appearance, Hicks attributed disparities in police interaction to race, saying "we police communities of color differently than we police communities without color." He added that he "cared deeply" about the issue as an officer.
"And so I'm not just speaking from a position of a little bit of credibility here," Hicks said. "I'm speaking from a position of responsibility because this is a profession I was in. This was something I cared deeply about."
Hicks, who did not respond to a request for comment, is one of two Democrats running to unseat Barr. The Kentucky Republican defeated former fighter pilot and current Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath by nearly 10,000 votes in 2018.