An umbrella group for D.C. police unions rented space at President Trump’s hotel for its annual holiday party — and now faces sharp criticism from some of its own members, who object to the high cost and the forced association with the Trump brand.
The Fraternal Order of Police lodge for the District, which advocates and organizes social events for 11,000 local law enforcement officers, reserved Trump International Hotel for a night in early December. “A night of celebration surrounded by elegance,” the lodge said. Tickets cost $175 per couple, plus $200 more if you wanted a room for overnight.
But leaders of three individual police unions — who are affiliated with the lodge but have separate leadership — all said they were put off by the selection of the Trump hotel.
The three leaders represent the U.S. Park Police, U.S. Capitol Police and officers at the District’s juvenile correctional facilities.
“There’s a lot of people who are, quite frankly, furious about it,” said Michael Shalton, chairman of the Park Police union.
Within his department, Shalton said that many officers were still unhappy with Trump because of his role in last winter’s government shutdown. Many Park Police officers were declared “essential” employees and were required to work without pay.
“We went six weeks without a paycheck because of this administration, and you want us to have a Christmas party there? Come on. There’s a lot of bad blood,” Shalton said.
Shalton, citing the expense, said he would not attend.
“Who can afford to drop nearly $400 three weeks before Christmas?” Shalton said. “I know I can’t.”
For the past 10 years, the D.C. lodge’s holiday party has been held at the lodge itself, a drab building near D.C. Superior Court. That was less elegant than Trump’s soaring hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. But it was also cheaper: Last year, tickets to the event were just $35.
Robert Berretta, the lodge president, did not respond to questions about why the venue was changed this year. Union leaders interviewed for this story said Berretta told them at a meeting that it wasn’t political; they’d looked at other sites but Trump’s hotel gave them the best deal.
The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.
Nationally, police support for Trump is strong. The National Fraternal Order of Police, which says it is the “world’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers, with more than 330,000 members,” endorsed Trump for election in 2016. The International Union of Police Associations has already endorsed Trump’s reelection.
Trump has nominated the former national FOP president, Chuck Canterbury, to be the next head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“I would say at least 80 percent of our membership nationwide is solidly supportive of President Trump,” said Jim Pasco, executive director of the national FOP. Pasco said the Democratic Party, “which under [President] Clinton had been the ‘law and order party,’ has more or less ceded that mantle back to the Republicans.”
In other parts of the country, police-related groups have become reliable customers for Trump’s businesses — even as other customers have turned away. At Trump’s Doral resort outside Miami, the Miami New Times found three major police galas had been held recently.
But in Washington, some union leaders said the Trump name would drive some of their members away.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of our officers probably aren’t going to go. I’d be shocked if anybody goes,” said Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the union for U.S. Capitol Police Officers.
He said some officers were Trump supporters, but others weren’t — and others would stay home simply to avoid any association with politics.
“I’m not going,” Papathanasiou said, “because, number one, the cost is an issue. And I don’t want to be mixed in with today’s political atmosphere.”
At the union that represents D.C.’s youth correctional officers, chairman Andre Phillips said his members were stunned by the choice. He estimated that 98 percent of them are black, and many work closely with youths from low-income parts of the District.
He said that his members were strongly opposed to Trump’s politics, believing that the president has made life worse for the people they serve.
“We can’t sell this to our people,” Phillips said. “Why should we have to align ourselves with that individual — with the president — when all our political views are different?”
At the union for D.C. police, the largest in the city, chairman Stephen Bigelow Jr. declined to comment — other than to say some of his members won’t attend because of the location.
On one private Facebook page for D.C. police officers viewed by The Washington Post, officers were more outspoken. They mocked the choice by posting Internet memes. “I would rather die!” one wrote, over an indignant GIF of comedian Kevin Hart. Another posted a parody video of a man singing a song called “Hell to The Naw, Naw, Naw.”
“Only time I’m going there is when I’m getting paid,” another officer wrote.
One member of the group did find something nice to say about Trump’s hotel.
“One thing we can all agree on is that he has the most clutch bathroom downtown,” for the officers working during anti-Trump protests, the member wrote.