I have watched President Trump bring clarity to a profound problem in the criminal justice system. Right now, much of the work of the federal prosecutors, the departments of education and health and human services has been deferred.
Prosecutorial decisions regarding future investigations are frozen while Inspector General’s reports are in progress. I’ve been urging that both the IG and others on the outside collaborate on creating a reliable template for consistent prosecutorial principles that can be used for any case, knowing that prosecution involves significant time and resources of the Justice Department.
When you look at the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, the culture of impunity goes all the way to the top. What I call the “ferret assault” by pro-criminal educators and offenders is about to get much worse as new employees graduate in the form of “ferrets who don’t go to jail.” When we return to balance the culture of impunity, we’ll have a better chance at ending harmful behavior.
The Project on Police and Justice, along with local police and community leadership, has been preparing for this moment.
Now the Department of Justice is putting some teeth into its recommendations. Two weeks ago, Director Mueller released a preliminary report on abuse in law enforcement. Its aim is to provide a strategic roadmap to rebuild the civil liberties and respect for due process that have eroded.
We know now, more than ever, that the victims of abuse include innocents. Young people who love to play football, or even ice hockey, for example, were abused by coaches at the Michigan High School. My staff and I spent the last two years listening to young people tell the stories of abuse they suffered at the hands of police officers. We know that sexual misconduct at all levels of the criminal justice system often goes unreported and unpunished.
In some parts of the country, the reaction to these revelations is as contemptuous as ever. Law enforcement’s reputation is also broken.
A recent NBC News poll found that people trust the police far less than they do the President. Congress knows that where they turn, citizens’ trust will follow. That’s what they pledged to do. Unfortunately, they have failed.
This inaction has allowed the balance of law enforcement culture and accountability to erode to the point where some law enforcement officials have even developed a fanatical disdain for the federal courts.
So we ask the Department of Justice to sign an agreement, similar to what California, Tennessee and other states have done. The agreement will provide for open and transparent court hearings. Whether officials are accused of crimes or exercising legitimate public duties, they will be held accountable by hearing from prosecutors and investigative agencies.
Decisions that effectively are for the court will no longer be made secretly.
When these efforts are fully undertaken, justice will be secured in more jurisdictions. As the Vice President of the Police Benevolent Association of New York, I can say that tough-on-crime will win out in communities that will benefit from these reforms. These reforms should have broad support.
Our goal is transparency in our administration that extends to the playing field. It makes good sense to exert authority in a law enforcement and justice system that will respect law and order even when it loses some of its bite.
I look forward to President Trump’s support for these efforts, and the commitment to accountability that his administration can bring to bear.