James Smith: Husband of female cop killed on 9/11 slams 'defund police' politicians
Police officer Moira Smith was the only female New York Police Department officer to die on September 11, 2001. On the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, her widower reportedly declared that politicians who’ve called to defund the police had no business hugging heroes on September 11.
Since 2020, protesters and activists supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have increasingly raised the “defund the police” slogan as a rallying cry. While critics of the movement have often dismissed defunding the police as a left-wing fantasy, it has mainstream recognition. Defunding the police, of course, does not necessarily mean getting rid of police altogether. Rather, it aims at reducing police budgets and reallocating those funds to other areas like education, public health, housing, and youth services.
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“Defund the police” gained momentum as a movement in the wake of increasing media focus on cases of police brutality — and people of color are more often victims of this violence. As has been reported widely, police collective-bargaining agreements protect even the most violent officers from oversight groups like civilian review boards and police internal-affairs departments, making it nearly impossible to punish officers for serious wrongdoing. Police unions heavily push back against criminal-justice reform that would promote transparency and accountability.
But not a lot of lawmakers actually support the idea. Rashida Tlaib, the US representative for Michigan's 13th congressional district, is one of the few who have spoken about it openly. As has Ayanna Pressly, the US representative for Massachusetts's 7th congressional district. Among those who openly support the idea of enacting institutional change in policing is also Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the US representative for New York's 14th congressional district. But as an April Al Jazeera report points out, the Democratic establishment largely distances itself from lawmakers like the aforementioned ones.
Who is James ‘Jim’ Smith?
Both James and Moira Smith worked at the 13th Precinct and shared daughter Patricia, who was just two years old when Moira was killed. She was one of the 60 NYPD and Port Authority officers who died on September 11, 2001. On that fateful Tuesday, Moira Smith departed her home and headed to the 13th Precinct in lower Manhattan. She left her toddler in the hands of her husband, who was working the night shift with the NYPD at the time.
At 8.46 am, as per an ABC News report, Moira heard a thunderous noise overhead and saw a Boeing 767 plow into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Moira is believed to be the first officer to radio in the catastrophic incident. As the twin towers burned, Moira was photographed leading a bloodied well-dressed man away from the disaster before she headed back to help others. Moira's desperate last radio transmission came from inside the south tower: "I don't have much air. Help me, please," she said, according to a recording of the dispatch.
"And that last transmission you can definitely hear it that my mom was suffering. And I have to live with that," said her daughter Patricia Smith, a graduate of the University of Alabama who works as an athletic trainer for the Tulane University football team in New Orleans.
The 60-year-old widower said that he fully expected to see “anti-police” politicians clamoring for photos on the 20th anniversary of the tragedy on September 11, “with their arms around heroes and trying to bask in the reflected glory of what my wife and other officers did.”
He added, “By September 12, they’ll be back to defunding the police. I’ve no intention of being anywhere near it.” He further said, “We made a promise to never forget and we’ve clearly forgotten with the way police officers are treated today in this country, both by the public and the politicians. It’s disgusting. It didn’t take long to forget.”
“They forgot the lessons of 9/11: there are people willing to give their lives to help you,” James said. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”