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February 8, 2017

Prez Trump talks crime and support for law enforcement with police chiefs . . . and says some interesting things

Prez Donald Trump gave this lengthy speech to a gathering of major city police chiefs, and he had a lot to say about crime and law enforcement toward its conclusion (after an extended Trumpian discussion of the litigation surrounding his travel executive order).  Here is some of what the Prez has to say on the crime front (with a few points of emphasis added based on what struck me as especially interesting):

Right now, many communities in America are facing a public safety crisis.  Murders in 2015 experienced their largest single-year increase in nearly half a century. In 2016, murders in large cities continued to climb by double digits. In many of our biggest cities, 2016 brought an increase in the number of homicides, rapes, assaults and shootings. In Chicago, more than 4,000 people were shot last year alone, and the rate so far this year has been even higher. What is going on in Chicago?

We cannot allow this to continue. We’ve allowed too many young lives to be claimed -- and you see that, you see that all over -- claimed by gangs, and too many neighborhoods to be crippled by violence and fear.  Sixty percent of murder victims under the age of 22 are African American. This is a national tragedy, and it requires national action. This violence must end, and we must all work together to end it.

Whether a child lives in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, or anywhere in our country, he or she has the right to grow up in safety and in peace. No one in America should be punished because of the city where he or she is born. Every child in America should be able to play outside without fear, walk home without danger, and attend a school without being worried about drugs or gangs or violence.

So many lives and so many people have been cut short.  Their potential, their life has been cut short. So much potential has been sidelined. And so many dreams have been shattered and broken, totally broken. It’s time to stop the drugs from pouring into our country. And, by the way, we will do that. And I will say this: General, now Secretary, Kelly will be the man to do it, and we will give him a wall.  And it will be a real wall. (Applause.) And a lot of things will happen very positively for your cities, your states, believe me. The wall is getting designed right now....

It’s time to dismantle the gangs terrorizing our citizens, and it’s time to ensure that every young American can be raised in an environment of decency, dignity, love and support. You have asked for the resources, tools and support you need to get the job done. We will do whatever we can to help you meet those demands. That includes a zero tolerance policy for acts of violence against law enforcement. (Applause.)  We all see what happens. We all see what happens and what’s been happening to you. It’s not fair.

We must protect those who protect us. The number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty last year increased by 56 percent from the year before. Last year, in Dallas, police officers were targeted for execution –- think of this. Who ever heard of this? They were targeted for execution. Twelve were shot and five were killed. These heroic officers died as they lived -– protecting the innocent, rushing into danger, risking their lives for people they did not even know, but for people that they were determined to save. Hats off to you people....

[I]nstead of division and disunity -- and which is so much disunity -- we must build bridges of partnership and of trust. Those who demonize law enforcement or who use the actions of a few to discredit the service of many are hurting the very people they say that they want to help. When policing is reduced, crime is increased, and our poorest citizens suffer the most. And I see it all the time. When the number of police goes down, crime goes up.

To build needed trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve, it is not enough for us to merely talk to each other. We must listen to each other. All of us share the view that those in uniform must be held to the highest possible standard of conduct -- so important. ...

That is why our commitment to law and law enforcement also includes ensuring that we are giving departments the resources they need to train, recruit and retain talent. As part of our commitment to safe communities, we will also work to address the mental health crisis.  Prisons should not be a substitute for treatment. We will fight to increase access to life-saving treatment to battle the addiction to drugs, which is afflicting our nation like never ever before -- ever. (Applause.)

I've been here two weeks. I've met a lot of law enforcement officials. Yesterday, I brought them into the Oval Office. I asked a group, what impact do drugs have in terms of a percentage on crime? They said, 75 to 80 percent. That's pretty sad. We're going to stop the drugs from pouring in. We're going to stop those drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people. We're going to be ruthless in that fight. We have no choice. (Applause.)

And we're going to take that fight to the drug cartels and work to liberate our communities from their terrible grip of violence. You have the power and knowledge to tell General Kelly -- now Secretary Kelly -- who the illegal immigrant gang members are. Now, you have that power because you know them, you're there, you're local. You know the illegals, you know them by their first name, you know them by their nicknames. You have that power. The federal government can never be that precise. But you're in the neighborhoods -- you know the bad ones, you know the good ones.

I want you to turn in the bad ones. Call Secretary Kelly's representatives and we'll get them out of our country and bring them back where they came from, and we'll do it fast. You have to call up the federal government, Homeland Security, because so much of the problems -- you look at Chicago and you look at other places. So many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not even legally in our country.

I saw a few folks tweeting concerns this morning about Prez Trump's statement that we are "going to be ruthless in that fight" against "drugs from poisoning our youth, from poisoning our people."  And, with coming likely confirmation of AG Jeff Sessions, there is a very reasonable basis for fearing that the Trump Administration is going to seek to double-down on old tough-and-tougher approaches to the drug war.  But given some of the other Trump comments highlighted here (particular the comment that "prisons should not be a substitute for treatment"), I am holding out at least some hope that some nuance will be a part of the particulars of any new Trumpian drug war offensive.

February 8, 2017 at 02:20 PM | Permalink


Is this the same speech that the Washington Post reports on under the headline, Trump makes false statement about U.S. murder rate to sheriffs’ group? https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/true-crime/wp/2017/02/07/trump-makes-false-statement-about-u-s-murder-rate-to-sheriffs-group/

"Trump told the sheriffs, “the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years.” He blamed the news media for not publicizing this development, then added, “But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, 45 to 47 years.”

"The country’s murder rate is not the highest it’s been in 47 years. It is almost at its lowest point, actually, according to the FBI, which gathers statistics every year from police departments around the country.

Here are Trump’s exact words to the sheriffs:

“And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years. I used to use that, I’d say that in a speech and everybody was surprised. Because the press [gestures to reporters] doesn’t tell it like it is. It wasn’t to their advantage to say that. But the murder rate is the highest it’s been in, I guess, 45 to 47 years.”

Paul's comment: This is what has been said in every get touch speech of the last 40 years. Drugs and gangs require more police, getting tough and interdiction. Even presidents who have expanded the drug war have paid lip service to the need for drug treatment.

Doug - why not include this part of the talk? If Trump is going to act as if murder rates are at historic highs, then what policies flow from that? Isn't that a significant sentencing development?

Posted by: Paul | Feb 8, 2017 8:27:39 PM

Fear not Trump, all you pro-criminal lawyers. Fear the President after Trump. He may do a full Duterte, or be Duterte himself. Duterte would be as qualified to run for US President as Barack Hussein Obama. When the criminals are hunted and killed by the people, you will no longer have a job.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 8, 2017 8:35:38 PM

Doug, thanks for posting this speech. I agree with President Trump on the issue of a growing number of murders involving young African American males shooting other young African American males. I disagree on drugs "coming in" to the country and we need a wall.

Most of the drug cases we see coming through the criminal courts involve opiate pills, which are available locally. Amazingly, I see elderly folks selling their pain pills to get some extra money.

On the murder front, I would say ten out of the last dozen murder cases I have represented in the last two or three years have been black males shooting each other, usually over drug turf.

In the last trial I had, the victim had in his pocket over a thousand dollars in cash, in twenties, when he was shot.

Drive by shootings into vehicles or houses are almost exclusively the province of young black males. I can't remember the last time I represented someone on a discharging a weapon into a dwelling or vehicle that did not involve a young black


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Feb 8, 2017 10:20:36 PM

Yeah, in my experience, rising violent crime rates seem to be gang-related and gang violence is rising because of the money to be made in the illegal drug trade. I don't live in a significantly hispanic area, so it's mostly knockoff Bloods rather than MS-13. But I know out west where meth is becoming a bigger issue, it's made in this country. Marijuana is grown here more and more. I doubt Heroin (and especially Fentanyl) is something that can be stopped by building a wall since I doubt it's carried on foot from the south.

That being said, if the effort is to prevent drug importation rather than to turn addicts into felons or lock them up for some ineffectual period of time, that's fine (or, at least, it's better).

Posted by: Erik M | Feb 8, 2017 10:30:11 PM

Bruce. You are doing very well. With only 3% decarceration, the murder rate shot up 15% in 20 big cities. Imagine if the decarceration lawyers get their way, and 50% of the prisons are emptied out of "non-violent" drug offenders. You will be in hog heaven, with the bodies stacked to the ceiling.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 8, 2017 10:30:59 PM

Paul, Trump's comments about murder that got the statistics wrong were some off-the-cuff remarks on Tuesday when Trump had a round-table-type discussion with sheriffs. I am certain Trump meant to stress the fact that the murder rate *increased at the highest rate* in 40+ years, not that the current rate was the highest in 40+ years.

In the formal speech today, Trump got the facts right: "Murders in 2015 experienced their largest single-year increase in nearly half a century."

Whatever Trump knows or believe, this speech highlights how he sees immigration and drugs and crime to be linked, and I think he (and his new AG) are going to respond in various ways based on this view.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 8, 2017 10:42:30 PM

Gorsuch called the criticism of judges by Trump, disheartening and demoralizing. His nominations should be withdrawn.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 9, 2017 8:07:52 AM

Mr. Behar,

I am not sure what you mean by the comment "You are doing very well." Health? Financially? Something else? If you mean financially, you are off base. Most criminal cases are represented by court appointed lawyers, whether public defenders or private attorneys appointed by the court.

For most criminal cases, we are paid $55.00 an hour. With a 60% overhead cost, I don't make as much as a brick mason. For capital cases, the irony is that the court reporter probably makes more per hour to write down what I say as I do to say it, when you consider the reporter's overhead and expense is a laptop computer and mine is rent, staff, light bill, etc.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Feb 9, 2017 8:53:49 AM

Yesterday, I realized that, if the hourly rate charged to my clients in court costs actually reflected what I got paid, my salary would be more than triple what it is now. That was a fun revelation.

Posted by: Erik M | Feb 9, 2017 1:49:02 PM

Bruce. Call me, David. If I were to follow you during a whole work day, with a stop watch, how much time would I clock your doing substantive client work of any kind, including reading about a case, writing, calling, speaking to people about the case?

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 9, 2017 11:02:37 PM

David, I don't have "work days." I think about cases in the shower, driving, walking the dog. My best thinking occurs in the interlude between awakening and getting out of the bed. Sometimes I put a legal pad on the floor by the bed, to capture those ephemeral but insightful thoughts that come in the early morning.

I work weekends, holidays, nights. I remember an interview on TV in which the interviewer, I think it was Dick Cavett, asked Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein about how they collaborated on the score and the music. Cavett asked which came first, the music or the lyrics. The answer was "neither. What comes first is the idea." That is the way a trial lawyer works.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Feb 10, 2017 9:35:30 PM

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