Governors Face Up to Criminal Justice Reform

The DOJ’s “Face to Face” program launched Monday will bring governors and other top state officials together with inmates and corrections officers. The program, organized by the Council of State Governments Justice Center is aimed at encouraging criminal justice policy makers to talk directly to those affected by their actions.

Critics say that criminal justice policy often is made without much regard for some of the people who will be affected by it.

Some politicians call for “tough on crime” sentences, for example, with no apparent recognition that those convicted of crimes will end up serving long terms behind bars with little real hope of rehabilitation.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG) has started a project to remedy that aspect of policymaking.

With the help of a U.S. Justice Department grant, CSG is arranging for governors and other top officials in states, where most criminal justice policy originates, to meet with inmates, correctional staff members and crime victims.

The “Face to Face” project starts Monday with events involving three governors. They will be joined between now and Aug. 23 by five other governors, a lieutenant governor and a state attorney general.

Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), who has led an extensive criminal justice reform effort in his state, said in a statement issued by CSG, “I have learned through my own experience that criminal justice policy decisions are best made when they prioritize the needs and challenges of the people they ultimately impact.”

Then-President Barack Obama took part in a similar activity in July 2015, when he visited the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma, where he spoke to inmates. He apparently was the first chief executive to tour a federal prison.

Another participant in the CSG project, Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT), suggested that if more officials spoke directly with inmates, they would not take “a distant and hard line approach with respect to corrections and public safety policy.”

Malloy urged “a more thoughtful approach to criminal justice policy that focuses not only on data and numbers but also the people behind those numbers.”

The project is issuing a list of “potential action items” for officials to pursue after they meet with inmates and corrections officers. They include things like eliminating occupational licensing restrictions for those with criminal records and addressing the well being of corrections system employees.

The Association of State Correctional Administrators, the organization of state prison directors, is taking part in the project. Its director, Kevin Kempf, said, “The job of a corrections professional is immensely challenging, and often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Other organizations taking part include the National Reentry Resource Center, JustLeadershipUSA, and the National Center for Victims of Crime.

JustLeadershipUSA was founded by Glenn E. Martin, who served six years in a New York prison. He said, “Incarcerated people and those returning from prison or jail face statutory and practical obstacles that are often misunderstood. There’s no better way to inform our leaders of these issues than connecting face to face.”

The events scheduled so far by the project are these:


  • Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT) meets with advocates for victims of crime and ex-inmates.
  • Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) meets with former prisoners now in a “transitional house.”
  • Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) works with corrections officers in a prison.
  • Attorney General Mike DeWine (R-OH) visits a mental health facility in a maximum security prison.


  • Attorney General DeWine visits women in a pre-release program, and volunteers.
  • Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) meets with inmates in an employment-focused reentry program.
  • Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) meets with incarcerated women and prison staff.


  • Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) meets with incarcerated women.
  • Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R-WI) meets with inmates.


  • Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) has lunch with former inmates and their families.

August 23

  • Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) speaks about his interactions with parolees at the premiere of a film on the challenges of serving on community supervision.

For more information, see the project’s website .

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Matters and Washington bureau Chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcomed.


Sessions Takes DOJ ‘Back to the Fifties,’ Says New John Jay President

In a swipe at the agency she recently left, former Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, the new president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says she plans to expand the school’s role so that it leads the national conversation on innovations in the courts, corrections and policing to fill the “void” created by the current Department of Justice leadership.

Karol Mason, the new president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, envisions expanding the school’s role so that it leads the national conversation on innovations in the courts, corrections and policing now that, she says, the U.S. Department of Justice has essentially bowed out, reports The Chief Leader in New York City.

Charging that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is moving the clock back on justice issues by decades—“I’d say to the fifties”—John Jay is well-positioned to step up, said Karol Mason, who served as an Assistant Attorney General under President Obama.

“We no longer have the federal leadership we’ve had on these issues and I’d like for John Jay to fill that void,” she said. “We don’t need the federal government to lead us and guide us to do these reforms. We can do it ourselves.”

She cited the importance of research on criminal justice, which she oversaw at DOJ and for which John Jay is well-known, to determine what works, so that money and lives can be saved.

“You assess things to find out if they’re a good investment,” she said. As an example, she said Sessions’s order to seek maximum prison terms for drug violators flies in the face of studies that show it’s addiction treatment, not incarceration, that breaks the cycle of criminality.

She also mentioned Scared Straight, a program popular in the 1980s in which troubled young people were brought to prisons and chastised by drug offenders. “They finally assessed it and realized that at best it does no good but that it also does harm,” she said.

At DOJ, Mason oversaw six agencies supervising such areas as juvenile justice, state and local grants, sex-offender reporting, crime prevention, statistics, and assistance to crime victims.


How Uruguay Left Pot ‘Prohibitionism’ Behind

The South American nation last month became the first in the world to legalize the production and sale of recreational marijuana.  But a Uruguayan writer says some of his compatriots, including the president, are still skeptical.

Large lines of customers and tons of expectations. That was the scene outside a handful of Uruguayan pharmacies on the chilly morning of July 19. It was not an ordinary morning, but the first day of legal marijuana sales in my home country.

The demand proved to be so high that only few hours after sales started, many pharmacies had run short of pot. Additionally, collapses in the fingerprint system installed to identify authorized customers were reported several times due to high activity.

Interest and enthusiasm rapidly spread among customers, many of whom became registered users that very same day. Only ten days after sales started, the registry of users increased from nearly 4,500 to 8,500, and 21 kilos of weed had been sold in the 16 authorized selling pharmacies across the country.

The long campaign to legalize marijuana reflected a notable change from the moderate and discrete tone in public policy which we Uruguayans are used to. It was celebrated not just by cannabis advocates, but by social organizations, liberals and progressives—all of whom saw the right to consume marijuana as an essential step in our country’s political process.

But for the government, arguably, the four-year process produced a very painful migraine.

The law that regulates the market of cannabis was approved by the Uruguayan Congress in 2013. The law allows Uruguayan citizens older than 18 years of age to obtain the substance in three different ways: by growing it at home, forming “cannabis clubs” to collectively produce and distribute marijuana between members, or through direct purchase in pharmacies.

The legislation had two main goals. First, it aimed to reduce illegal drug trafficking by removing cannabis from the illegal drug market. In other words, the state would take the illegal cannabis market from the hands of drug dealers.

Second, the law intended to promote and improve the public health of cannabis users by reducing risks and damages associated to its use through preventive and educational campaigns, as well as provide treatment and rehabilitation to problematic users.

In spite of being celebrated by some groups, the law never found full support in the public opinion. Even today, 62% of Uruguayans oppose the measure.

Such skepticism is noticeable, considering that only 16 of nearly 1.000 pharmacies in Uruguay decided to sell legal cannabis.

Pharmacists have been reluctant to sell marijuana mainly for three reasons.

First, because of the assumption that by doing this, pharmacies would become attractive targets to offenders. Second, because selling weed contradicts the notion of “health center” traditionally linked to pharmacies.

Third, because of the belief that the system would not report economic benefits to pharmacies.

Uruguayan President Dr. Tabaré Vasquez. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

It is true that pharmacies have been a strong obstacle to the full implementation of the law. However, personal interests have been at stake as well.

In 2014, in the midst of the debate around marijuana, Dr. Tabaré Vázquez was elected president. With him, the government’s public health paradigm changed substantially.

Vázquez had already been president between 2005 and 2010. An oncologist and strong anti-smoking advocate, he implemented firm no-smoking legislation in his first term.

When the debate on the marijuana legislation began, he made clear that he opposed the measure. His position, combined with his alignment to moderate viewpoints on public policy, had unfortunate implications for the marijuana legislation.

His reelection was seen with concern by cannabis advocates and progressive left groups, who saw in the new president a potential obstacle for the full implementation of the legislation.

And so it was.

In most of his public appearances during the election campaign and his first two years as president, Vázquez avoided mentioning the new legislation. But when he did, he never hesitated to show his skepticism towards the measure.

His position about drugs was always clear. “We don’t need to use drugs. Our body doesn’t need them,” he said in a talk with students in 2014.

His references to the new legislation were a mix of resignation and caution. In an interview he gave during the election campaign, when asked what he thought about the new legislation he responded: “It is unbelievable, but if the law says so, so be it.”

The law, however, had already been partially implemented. After domestic cultivation of cannabis and cannabis clubs had been legalized, the harvest increased and, with this, so did the pressure from social organizations and advocacy groups to fully implement the norm.

The government still balked at announcing implementation of the last and most discussed measure of the legislation: pot sales in pharmacies. Vázquez himself promised several times that this was eventually going to happen, but it seemed always too soon for him to announce a date.

Last month, it finally happened.

But in contrast to the exhaustive local and international coverage of the news, the government remained silent. Once again, the president did not hide his skepticism.

Surprisingly (or not), there was no official press release about the measure. The only words came from Vázquez himself during a speech in which he insisted that “our organism does not need drugs.”

At the same time,he also criticized the recreational use of drugs, stating that his government “strictly” opposes drug use, except “those indicated by doctors, who are those authorized to prescribe medications.”

Finally, he declared that “We must not stigmatize drug users”—but immediately added that “they are sick people who need support and help”.

Federico del Castillo

But the legislation has brought Uruguay a step closer to the goals of eliminating illegal drug traffic, promoting responsible use of drugs, and reducing the damages linked to the clandestine use of illicit drugs.

Last, but not least, Uruguay has emerged as more progressive and brave in the fight against drug traffic and the prohibitionist paradigm in contrast to its neighbors in the region.

Marijuana legislation took too long to be fully implemented. But, now that the law is operational, Uruguay can make up for the lost time by demonstrating to the rest of the world how to leave behind the prohibitionist paradigm once and for all.

Federico del Castillo is a John Jay College graduate student. He has worked on the implementation of crime prevention policies in Uruguay and Mexico, and has conducted research on policing, restorative justice and juvenile violence. He welcomes comments from readers.


The ‘Lies’ Behind the Selling of California’s Prop 47

A recent California Supreme Court ruling ensured that the state’s prisoner realignment policies will keep the most violent offenders behind bars. The president of the LA Deputy DA’s association argues that was a needed “common-sense” corrective to reforms in the state’s Three-Strikes law.

Politics will never exist without spin doctors. Yet, as cynical as our political system has become, recent California ballot measures sold to the public as “public safety” measures have gone beyond the pale.

Nearly every soft-on-crime law enacted in the last half decade included the words “safe” or “safety” in the description. No two better examples exist than Propositions 47 and 57.

In California, Prop 47 advocates called it the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” Prop 47 did nothing for neighborhoods except to dramatically increase property crime. It did nothing for schools except for making undelivered promises to increase funding.

Editor’s Note: Proposition 57 (2016)  increased parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allowing judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court.

Last month, the California Supreme Court delivered some common sense reality to Prop 47 in People v. Valencia.

At issue were “third strikers” — criminals who have two or more prior convictions for serious or violent crimes. Under the “three strikes” law, a criminal who had two or more prior “strike” convictions and who then committed any new felony offense would receive a sentence of 25 years to life.

As originally written and implemented, that sentence was mandatory unless a judge used her discretion to “strike” one or more of the prior convictions at sentencing. But the public became disillusioned with a sentencing scheme that was, at times, perceived as inflexibly harsh.

In 2012, with the passage of Proposition 36, the 25-years-to life sentence was limited to cases where the new felony offense was also a serious or violent crime. It also allowed inmates sentenced under the old rules to petition for resentencing.

Crucially, however, a judge could deny a petition to reduce the sentence if the court, in its discretion, determined that the inmate “would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public.”

Enter Prop 47. It reduced certain drug and theft felonies to misdemeanors. Prop 47 also had a resentencing provision which allowed inmates to petition for a reduction in their felony sentence if that crime had since been reduced to a misdemeanor.

Michele Hanisee

Like Prop 36, Prop 47 gave the court discretion to deny a reduction if resentencing “would result in an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. But the discretion granted was so limited as to be illusory.

Under Prop 47, a judge could only refuse to reduce the sentence if he or she found an unreasonable risk that the inmate would commit one of eight specific types of violent crime: homicide, attempted homicide, murder, solicitation to commit murder, sexual assault on a child under age 14, assault with a machine gun on a police officer or firefighter, possession of a weapon of mass destruction, or any offense normally punishable by life or death.

Based on the overlap in these different provisions, two third-strike inmates petitioned for resentencing, arguing that the language contained in Prop 47 should apply to them.

The California Supreme Court observed that if the petitioners’ argument was correct, it would make it easier “for recidivist serious or violent offenders to have their life sentences vacated, and render them more likely to be released.”

The California Supreme Court wisely rejected the inmate’s appeal, holding that there was nothing in Prop 47 that suggested it was intended to apply to serious and violent third strikers seeking resentencing. “[N]either the initiative’s text nor its supporting materials describe any intention to amend the criteria for the resentencing of recidivist or violent felons….”

Nor, said the court, was such a result predicted by the Attorney General or the Legislative Analyst in their summary of the measure—or discernible to the voting public.

Most illuminating, however, was the dissent of Justice Liu, who in blasting the majority for the decision wrote: “The court today concludes that the drafters of Proposition 47 pulled a fast one on an uninformed public.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

With their deliberately misleading title referencing “safe schools” and platitudes about public safety, the drafters of Prop 47 fooled the public to accomplish their goal of decriminalizing property crimes and releasing convicted criminals from custody.

Those behind Prop 57 took their cues from Prop 47, selling the public with assurances that its early parole provision only applied to “non-violent” offenders. That’s news to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, whose published regulations on early parole explicitly include inmates sentenced to prison for violent offenses.

Recently, we saw an example of that regulation in effect, with the Fresno DA’s office highlighting an inmate who attempted to stab two people being paroled two years into an eleven-year sentence thanks to Prop 57.

Lawyers can pore over the Valencia opinion for its lessons on the intricacies of statutory construction.

The big takeaway from Valencia was contained in the dissent, which inadvertently highlighted a truth worthy of repeating: “The court today concludes that the drafters of Proposition 47 pulled a fast one on an uninformed public.”

Editors’ Note: For another view, see TCR story, “California Officials Say Prison Realignment Puts State on Right Track.”

Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys (LADD), the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. An earlier version of this essay was published in the LADD website. Readers’ comments are welcome.


DEA Boss Repudiates Trump’s ‘Rough’ Advice for Cops

Chuck Rosenberg joins the chorus of law enforcement pros who decry the president’s suggestion that cops ought to get rough with crime suspects. In a memo to DEA employees, he said, “I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.”

The nation’s top narcotics officer repudiated President Trump’s remarks urging police to be rough with crime suspects, issuing a memo saying Drug Enforcement Administration agents must “always act honorably” by maintaining “the very highest standards” in the treatment of criminal suspects, reports the Wall Street Journal. Chuck Rosenberg, who as acting DEA chief works for the president, told agency personnel to disregard any suggestion that roughing up suspects would be tolerated. Rosenberg is a longtime Justice Department official who twice served as a U.S. attorney in the George W. Bush administration.

“I write to offer a strong reaffirmation of the operating principles to which we, as law enforcement professionals, adhere,” Rosenberg says in the memo, titled “Who We Are.” “I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong. That’s what law enforcement officers do. That’s what you do. We fix stuff. At least, we try.” On Friday, Trump spoke to police officers in Long Island, N.Y., to commend their efforts against the MS-13 gang. Trump told them, “When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon—you just see them thrown in, rough—I said, please don’t be too nice.” His comments prompted laughter and applause from the police audience. Many police organizations have decried the remarks. The White House, which has said Trump was joking, declined to comment on the Rosenberg memo.


Why Declaring ‘War’ on Mexican Drug Cartels Is a Bad Idea

Some analysts are pushing for armed U.S. intervention in Mexico’s battle with drug traffickers to curb the opioid epidemic. But a security expert warns it would undercut more sensible strategies of decriminalization and treatment—and cost more lives.

In a recent opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report, Matt Mayer proposed that Congress “declare war” on Mexican cartels in order to curb the growing number of fatal opiate overdoses of Americans.

It’s an incendiary proposal—and a dangerous one.

Not only would it be ineffective in countering cartels or reducing fatal overdoses in the U.S.; it would lead to lead to the murders of thousands more Mexican civilians, not to mention endanger the lives of American soldiers.

The drug war in Mexico has already taken a deadly toll. Between 2006 and 2015, more than 100,000 people have died as a result of narcocrime-related incidents in Mexico—many of them innocent casualties not only of turf battles among trafficking cartels but of Mexican military operations against those cartels.

This year, Mexico is on track to record its highest number of homicides since official record keeping began in 1997. The first six months of 2017 have seen a total of 12,155 homicide cases opened.

Also of concern: Violence is spreading throughout Mexico. Where previously it was concentrated in a few areas, 27 of 32 Mexican states now report an increase in homicides.

The Mexican government’s increased reliance on the military to counter the spreading power of the cartels dates from 2007, when then-Mexican President Felipe Calderón more than doubled the number of personnel assigned to domestic security and counternarcotic operations from 20,000 to 50,000.

Although a parallel investment in local economic development, neighborhood revitalization and violence-prevention helped to reduce homicides in some Mexican states, several studies suggest that localities with joint military operations actually saw an increase in homicides.

The carnage continues. Current President Enrique Peña Nieto has continued the domestic military deployment even while conceding that military measures alone have done little to curb production or consumption of illicit drugs. Yet some of his military tactics have made things even worse. His strategy of targeting top cartel leaders may have led to even more widely dispersed violence by fueling internecine battles for leadership among the groups.

Mark Krupanski

A U.S. “hot war” in Mexico would not only double-down on such an ineffective and disastrous strategy, but put it on steroids.

Even leaving aside the challenge to international jurisprudence such a military intervention would present, it would add yet another point of conflict between the current U.S. administration and Mexican civil society, which is already incensed by Washington proposals to build a border wall and back out of the North American Free Trade Agreement .

And it’s a new military commitment that Americans hardly need. US military personnel are already engaged in intensive combat operations in at least five countries.

Mayer may not be concerned with the cost to Mexican society and civilians of a U.S. military intervention. His primary concern is curbing the high rate of fatal opiate overdoses in the United States. Nonetheless, U.S. military intervention in Mexico will not significantly reduce illegal drug consumption or overdose rates in the United States.

For proof, we need only look at the sustained U.S. military involvement, through “advisors” and equipment, in counternarcotic operations during the war on drugs in the 1980s and 1990s—an involvement that has had no substantial impact on demand and use reduction in our country.

There are better solutions. Anyone concerned about the opioid epidemic in the U.S., should support evidence-based harm reduction approaches. That includes greater distribution of naloxone to peers, opening drug consumption rooms, and addressing the underlying social and political factors, such as poverty, alienation and personal trauma, that drive addictive behavior.

Mexicans and other Latin American countries, such as Colombia, Costa Rica, and Uruguay have grown weary of the ineffective violence from the drug war and have supported public health-based approaches as well as drug decriminalization. In fact, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico united in bringing about a renewed debate on drug policy at the United Nations.

Medically supervised drug consumption rooms, for instance, exist in Canada, Europe and Australia. There are 74 in Europe alone. Such a facility in Vancouver, Canada, has had no fatal overdoses in its entire history.

Legal prescription of medical heroin has also proved useful for longtime users when other treatments have failed. Increasing access and distribution to naloxone, which is still opposed by some U.S. policymakers despite conclusive evidence that it reverses the effect of overdoses, can also have a more positive impact.

Decades of austerity measures and divestment from social safety net, economic opportunities, and health services have contributed to our current national opioid crisis.

Providing people with opportunities to earn incomes, and live in affordable housing can positively impact their health choices, including drug consumption. Reducing social and economic alienation and providing client-specific trauma-response may also help reduce drug demand.

The Mexican government is supportive of such measures. Policymakers who might be tempted by Mayer’s call to war should consider the evidence-based public policy recommendations issued under the newly launched “Instinto de Vida” (Instinct for Life) campaign, which seek to cut homicide rates in Latin America by 50%.

Our drug war has gone on for over 50 years. It hasn’t prevented the current crisis.

Opening a new, violent chapter in that war is unlikely to solve it.

Marc Krupanski is a program officer with the Public Health Program of the Open Society Foundations, where he leads the law enforcement and harm reduction portfolio. He has worked on law enforcement and security sector reform both domestically and internationally over the past 14 years. He welcomes comments from readers.


Report Urges Trump to Declare Opioid State of Emergency

Such a declaration would effectively nationalize a move that is already taking place in states. Governors in Florida, Arizona and Maryland have declared states of emergency, granting those governments access to millions of dollars and, in some cases, regulatory leeway in administering their responses.

The White House’s commission on combating the opioid epidemic has recommended that President Trump declare a federal state of emergency to address the crisis, a potentially significant step for an administration that has repeatedly pledged to take steps to ease the epidemic, reports STAT. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act,” the committee wrote in an interim report released Monday.

The declaration would effectively nationalize a move that has already taken place in numerous states. Governors in Florida, Arizona, and Maryland have previously declared states of emergency, granting those governments access to millions of dollars and, in some cases, regulatory leeway in administering their responses. It was not immediately clear whether or when the president would make such a declaration, and what it would mean for the federal government’s response to the opioid crisis. Half of the roughly $1 billion Congress approved last year to address the opioid crisis as part of the 21st Century Cures Act was awarded in April, with a similar amount expected to be awarded next year. Most discussions of additional spending on the issue have focused on the Senate’s now-defeated health reform effort. The five-member commission, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie, was established by an executive order in March. The White House said it would “immediately begin reviewing” its recommendations.


Was Trump’s Call for Tough Policing a Crime?

A leading criminologist says the president’s words constitute incitement to criminal conduct. He calls on chiefs around the country to tell their officers to forget they ever heard them—and obey the rules governing use of force.  

President Donald Trump’s comments to a meeting of police officers last Friday were not merely outrageous—although they were. They were not simply unprofessional—although they were.

Trump’s words were a crime.

The president effectively incited a specific group of people to commit criminal assault.

The law on this point is quite clear. Our First Amendment protects all manner of offensive speech, including hate speech related to race, religion, sexual orientation, and everything else.

But First Amendment protection stops at the point of direct incitement to criminal conduct.

In short, I can call you all the names in the book. But if I tell someone or a group of people to beat you up, then I have committed a crime.

When Trump told police officers to “Please, don’t be too nice,” he incited them to violent actions. And he gave a very specific example, by telling them not to cover a suspect’s head when placing that person in a patrol car.

“You can take the hand away, O.K.?” he said to laughter and some cheers from his audience.

In short, he says it’s OK to deliberately injure someone.

Imagine a mayor or president of a university president telling a group of people to “go out and beat up some immigrants.” That would be incitement as well.

And in Trump’s case, he was speaking directly to the very people who are in a position to carry out his words.

Fortunately, the leaders of American law enforcement have quickly and almost unanimously repudiated Trump’s remarks.

Charles Ramsey, former chief of the Washington, DC police department, pointed out that “words matter,” and that a president’s words “can actually influence behavior.”

Ramsey was co-chair of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and one of the most highly respected voices in American law enforcement.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), said Trump’s words were “a green light to use unnecessary force.”

James O’Neill, the commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), called Trump’s remarks “irresponsible” and “unprofessional,” and ordered all members of his force to disregard Trump’s comments.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the professional association of all law enforcement chief executives, released a statement declaring as a “bedrock principle” that officers must “ensure that any use of force is carefully applied and objectively reasonable.”

These are all powerful and respected voices.

The tragedy of Trump’s remarks is that they threaten to undermine all the positive reforms that have occurred since the terrible events in Ferguson, Mo., three years ago this month.

All across the country, police departments are adopting the recommendations of the 21st Century task force on policing about de-escalating police-community resident encounters, about the need to be more open and transparent regarding policies and enforcement practices, and about the importance of building trust and legitimacy for the police.

As a precaution, every police chief in the country should follow the NYPD’s example and send out a training reminder to his or her officers, instructing them to reread the department’s policy on use of force.

Each chief should also instruct all patrol sergeants to conduct a short roll-call training session on the department’s policy.

What should Trump do now?

Samuel Walker

He should utter the words he has never spoken: “I made a mistake. I am sorry.”

He should clearly correct the record to say that he does not encourage any unlawful or unnecessary violence by police officers.

Let’s hope he does so. The future of American policing depends on it.

Samuel Walker, Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, is a frequent contributor to The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.


Trump to Visit NYC Suburb to Tout Deportation Program

His appearance in Brentwood, Long Island, which has been beset by violence linked to the MS-13 gang, will be used to highlight his efforts to stem illegal immigration and boost deportations.

President Trump will travel to Brentwood, N.Y., Friday afternoon to use the Long Island town beset by gang violence to highlight his efforts to stop illegal immigration and boost deportations, reports Reuters. Trump will highlight his administration’s push to deport members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, better known as MS-13. He has blamed the gang’s broad reach in the U.S. on lax enforcement of illegal immigration from Central America. “It’s going to be a very forceful message about just how menacing this threat is, and just how much pain is inflicted on American communities,” a senior administration official told reporters ahead of the trip.

Trump’s visit comes as his Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to El Salvador to highlight progress on the gang crack-down. MS-13 took root in Los Angeles in the 1980s in neighborhoods populated with immigrants from El Salvador who had fled civil war. The Justice Department has said MS-13 now has more than 10,000 members across the U.S. Brentwood is 30 miles from Queens, where Trump grew up. MS-13 was behind the murders of two teenage girls in that suburb last September and four young men in a park in April. There have been 17 murders on Long Island tied to the gang since January 2016, police say.


Chiefs Denounce TX Bathroom Bill as ‘Political Theater’

The Texas GOP seems hellbent on passing a controversial law that would prompt gender-policing in bathrooms. Many of that state’s top cops, including Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, tried in vain to talk them out of it.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the controversial “bathroom bill” that passed a preliminary vote this week in the Texas Senate had one particularly striking phalanx of opposition: police chiefs. Top cops from around the state called on the Senate to abandon the bill, saying it would make their jobs harder. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said there is no crisis in bathrooms and that the Legislature could be creating a distraction for police. “It’s bad law,” Acevedo said. “It’s bad political theater. And at the end of the day, it is bad for Texas.” Acevedo and dozens of other law enforcement officials rallied on the steps of the Capitol to plead with the Senate to drop the issue.

Harris County Assistant Chief Debra Schmidt said there has been no spike in crime that merits the new legislation. “There is no public safety crisis in our bathrooms right now,” Schmidt said. Acevedo said his agency dug through the last three years of records and found no evidence that the state needed to set statewide bathroom policies. The show of force from police followed a week of pushback from business leaders and tourism groups that worry that Texas is following the same path as North Carolina, which passed a similar law in 2016 that triggered boycotts.