Sheriff David Clarke Criticizes Eric Holder’s ‘Hostility’ to Cops During Lynch Hearing
“These hearings are focusing on the confirmation of possibly the next attorney general of the United States, Ms. Loretta Lynch, and I wish her well. I want to spend some time critiquing outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder's tenure at the United States Department of Justice and use it as the framework as a way forward. The mission statement of the U.S. DOJ says to enforce the law and defend the interest of the United States according to the law. Let me repeat that, according to the law. To ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; provide federal leadership and preventing and [indecipherable]; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, and to ensure impartial administration of justice for all Americans.
In my 36 years in law enforcement, I viewed the United States Department of Justice as an ally in pursuit of justice. Local law enforcement has always been on the frontlines of preventing and controlling crime and seeking just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior, as the mission statement of the DOJ implies. What I have witnessed from the Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder has been almost hostility towards local law enforcement. I have seen this in both public statements made about the profession and some of the policy decisions that treat police officers as adversaries instead of allies in the pursuit of justice. Partnering with local law enforcement agencies and ensuring the fair treatment of all Americans in the pursuit of justice are not mutually exclusive.
What we all witnessed in Ferguson, Missouri, back in August was a tragedy, an unfortunate incident for officer Darren Wilson and citizen Mike Brown. What followed however compounded that tragic situation as people across the United States converged on Ferguson to exploit the situation for self-serving purposes. Suffice it to say that was not America’s finest hour. In the days and weeks that followed in Ferguson, Missouri, the police related use of force was forefront in the national news. What was called for at that moment when the U.S. DOJ inserted itself early into the process was an appeal to reasonableness, responsible rhetoric, and cautioning against a rush to judgment.
Instead some very powerful people made statements that only heightened rising tensions. Unfortunately, race is, has been, and will always been an explosive issue in America. The incendiary rhetoric used by Eric Holder created a pathway for a false narrative that then became the rallying cry for cop haters across America. It sparked unjustified hatred toward America’s law enforcement agencies and its officers.
Without a shred of evidence, a broad brush has been used to unfairly malign the reputation of the profession of policing in the United States. The accusation has been made that our community's finest systematically engage in the practice of targeting young black men because of the color of their skin. That claim is patently false. And I reject out of hand the mere suggestion of it. If I’m wrong, then someone needs to show me the evidence.
Officers at the local level put on their uniforms and go out every day to make their communities better and safer with which to live. Without them, our communities would collapse into utter chaos. The world that our officers operate is complex, dynamic, uncertain, and one where unfortunately things can and do go wrong. When that happens, the American law enforcement officer needs to know that after a thorough and transparent investigation, the facts and evidence of a particular case will be applied to the rule of law standard for a decision about their actions.
After putting their lives on the line, they do not deserve a standard of false narratives, preconceptions, misconception, emotional rhetoric, or racial demagoguery. Author and scholar, Thomas Soul, said in a thought provoking piece on the rule of law, if police are told, who are told that they are under arrest and refuse to come with the police, cannot be forcibly taken into custody, then we do not have the rule of law when the law itself is downgraded to suggestions that no one has the power to enforce. So where do we go from here?
How do we get beyond this damaged or frayed relationship between local police and the U.S. DOJ? My suggestion is for the next U.S. Attorney General to articulate clearly a renewed commitment to rebuilding trust with local law enforcement. That involves open lines of communication with an emphasis on listening to the suggestion of law enforcement executives and for the nation's sake, please stop undermining the character and integrity of the American law enforcement officer.
Next, resist at the federal level to interfere with local police training standards. Are cops perfect? No, in fact far from it. But they are communities finest. Every community is unique in what will work and what will not work. We already have state standards for training.
Finally, I want to speak on two emerging issues on the radar screen in criminal justice: sentencing and prison reform. Any discussion about reform in these two areas that does not include a counter view about the consequences of this short-term technical fix and its impact on crime victims will have a catastrophic consequence on an already stressed black and Hispanic communities. The recidivist nature of criminals will cause more minorities to be victimized by violence, similar to what happened this past summer in Milwaukee to Sierra Guyton, a 10-year-old girl shot and killed while on a school playground. The shooters were career criminals.
The black community does not have the support structures in place for an influx of career criminals sent back into the community or to deal with the habitual criminals who currently rain terror in neighborhoods. Adding more crimes and violence in that mix will bring more misery to the overwhelming number of decent black law-abiding citizens just trying to get through life against already great odds. Reform that simply lowers the bar is nothing more than normalizing criminal behavior. Thank you very much.”