What the Trump Administration Needs to Know about Law Enforcement

On Inauguration Day, the White House website underwent a drastic renovation. Pages on topics like climate change, health care, LGBTI rights, and civil rights vanished completely. In their place, the incoming Trump administration posted a series of position statements setting forth its vision of governance for the next four years.

Visitors to whitehouse.gov will no longer see a page on criminal justice reform—instead, they will find an issue statement titled “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community.” This document outlines an approach to law enforcement policy that threatens to undo critically important efforts to rebuild relationships between police and communities, and promote fair and effective policing for all American communities. The statement suggests that the Trump administration doesn’t care about important civil rights issues—and doesn’t understand how community safety and effective law enforcement actually work.

Here are four key problems with the Trump administration’s approach to law enforcement:

1. Increasing gun ownership will not support law enforcement or keep police officers safe.

The statement claims that “supporting law enforcement means supporting our citizens’ ability to protect themselves”—by expanding access to firearms. Not only is this proposal detached from the reality of gun violence in America, it contradicts what many major-city law enforcement leaders want.

At the 2015 summit of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, police chiefs from cities that recorded rises in homicides, including places like Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia, recommended more stringent gun laws. Furthermore, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, law enforcement officer homicide rates were three times higher in states with high firearm ownership—and more than 90 percent of officers who die by homicide are killed by guns.

Moreover, only a very small percentage of gun deaths actually involve self-defense. The FBI’s own data says that 8,124 homicides were committed with a firearm in 2014, and of these, only 442—or five percent—were considered “justifiable” homicides, a rate that has remained the same for the last six years.

Increased gun ownership will make gun violence more common and law enforcement more dangerous.

2. Requiring local police to enforce immigration controls will undermine support for law enforcement.

The statement also takes a harsh position on immigration enforcement, promising both a border wall and an end to sanctuary cities. But some police chiefs and sheriffs around the country have publicly opposed proposals that require them to enforce federal immigration law.

In 2015, the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force sent a letter to the U.S. Congress stating its opposition to: (1) proposals that impose federal immigration enforcement responsibilities on local law enforcement, (2) proposals that undermine community policing, and (3) proposals that threaten crucial law enforcement grants.

Making local police responsible for immigration enforcement creates additional, unnecessary burdens on their time and makes their job harder. Moreover, it undermines community safety by making immigrant communities less likely to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement.

3. Scapegoating immigrants will not solve the opioid epidemic—but innovative policing can help.

The statement’s only reference to the opioid epidemic in the United States is a claim that repressive immigration enforcement will “stop drugs from pouring into our communities.” But scapegoating immigrants will not help us understand the problems of substance misuse and addiction or develop effective responses.

The administration should be supporting and investing in real solutions. It can begin by looking at innovative policies like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, which has been shown to lower recidivism, decrease the costs associated with drug enforcement, and provide constructive, harm reduction–based support to people struggling with substance misuse or addiction.

4. Dismissing reform advocates will only harm relationships between police and communities.

Finally, the statement rejects the urgent mass call for police reform, especially from black communities, and the important national conversations that have resulted from this movement. Instead, it equates activists with “the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.” The statement creates a false dichotomy between advocates for criminal justice reform and parents who want their kids to be able to walk the streets safely—when many American parents are calling for these reforms precisely because they want their children to be safe.

True community safety is not possible unless policing is responsible, fair, and just. This polarizing approach threatens to undo the difficult work and progress of the past few years—and hints at a future path that will ultimately undermine community support for law enforcement. The communities closest to the problems also stand closest to the solutions. If the Trump administration is sincere about wanting to support law enforcement, keep communities safe, and be a government of and for the people, it must commit to dialogue.

For the most part, policing in America takes place at a local level. It is still possible for cities, counties, and states to develop and pursue policy approaches that support both police and the communities they serve. However, given the coming challenges at the federal level, we have to build on this local momentum to make an impact across the country.

For instance, the Trump administration has already threatened to cut critical funding for Community Oriented Policing Services and the Department of Justice’s Violence against Women grants. President Trump also just signed an executive order threatening to cut federal funding to local police departments that don’t fall in line with his administration’s position on immigration.

If the Trump administration actually follows the path laid out in this statement, it won’t really be standing up for law enforcement. We need policymakers and advocates who will—by committing to ensuring justice and safety for both police and the communities they serve.

Learn More:



Our nation and our constitution have survived because we are a nation of rule of law. This is our strength. Rule o Law means that enforcement is based on written laws passed by legislatures in conformance with the civil rights stated in the constitution and known to all. The proposed policies are not law and are reminiscent of those which led to concentration camps and gulags and the deaths of many innocents.

While I'm not an American, I've been working on community safety programs. In our work, we've found out that crime, including violent extremism, thrives in areas where trust between community and law enforcement/security agencies is low and/or non-existent. This has made it necessary for the organization I work for to implement innovations that seek to restore trust and confidence between communities and law enforcement agencies. There's both empirical and anecdotal evidence that when communities and security agencies/law enforcement have shared understanding of challenges to community safety and security as well shared vision of safe/secure communities, they work together towards achieving the vision and there's noticeable improvement in the relationship. The proposal posted on White House website on new approach to policing are both counter productive and self defeating
President Trump came to office in the background of significantly reduced popular confidence in public institutions (several studies/opinion polls by Pew/Gallup show, among others, that 3 out of 4 Americans believe their members of congress will not act in interests of people they represent but will pursue self-interest); in fact, he is a beneficiary of the lack of trust in public institutions; it would definitely be in his administration's best interest to restore the trust/confidence of communities in public institutions- and the proposed approach to policing will not produce this result
Democracy presupposes negotiations and consensus but not a up-down imposition by the executive of its will on the governed. It would do the current administration well to listen to what the police chiefs and mayors have to say and implement the recommendations they've made; after all, they're at the point where the rubber meets the road. Doing otherwise would result in irrational policies and administrative actions

Henry, What community are you working in? If you are not an American hopefully your work is outside the US. If you were an American you would understand that it is NOT a Democracy here but rather a Constitutional Republic, check in to the differences and it may enlighten you. Having Law enforcement perform their jobs and enforce the law is what builds trust. Having law enforcement decide for themselves when they want to enforce the law is what breaks the trust.

rich become super rich
displaced remain displaced

They're not displaced if they didn't have a place to begin with...

rich become rich...are you talking about saudi arabia? or qatar? or UAE? those are the rich ruling over the very poor.

why doesn't a single muslim nation take in any of the migrants? I will tell you why...they do not want rebels, and they also promote hijra. end of your complaints.

Gun control; to say that self policing won't would goes contrary to ones first instinct..self preservation...the reason the listed statistics exist in such low numbers is because presently,many ppl are afraid of lawsuits and such. Back in the day,ppl did have a pistol on their belt all the time. Perhaps the FBI should look further into stats from those days..in fact, those days land grants were also made and if one wants to compare apples to apples,one only needs to look at how easy it was to become successful in the way of land grants, compare to today where one has to pay the grantor for that which was givin for pennies. The domino effect,has in fact, gotten up to where we are today....how much do you owe ? Some have the ability to see this was perhaps an unplanned form of hierarchy,however, the domino effect is upon us and the land grants should return to "level "the playing field so to speak. Bigger government will create more wealth and the coffers won't play along without some concessions designed to level the field of survival. History is not only a lesson, but should repeat itself, when this was a country based upon a fair chance at the american dream. When a college graduate get a wage not much more than their unproductive counterpart, this is a system designed to cause failure in geographically challenged areas. This is why drug abuse is so prevalent as it si the only escape from the resultant financial hierarchy that exists today. Either flood the banks with money so ppl can do the things they need to,ease restrictions for loan approvals, or watch the tiny house movement continue to also reflect what the lack of affordable land has done to the the good ole USA....

Law enforcement is a mix of the rule-book, the thinking behind the rule book, and the gaps in between, gaps often filled by tribalism. Fox TV has celebrated "24" and its violent methods. NBC has Chicago PD, Hank Voigt, and their very own black site. That same site was featured in an episode of The Good Wife.

Telling Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions about the niceties of policing is a long shot. Better to tell the priests and preachers, the bishops and cardinals that they have a duty to tell their faithful they must contribute to civilized behavior. Another long shot?

This article is well written and well-thought-out. However, it neatly avoids issues that Trump IS concerned with: Chicago's high rate of black-on-black crime, and the inflow over the border of criminals and gang members, wh traffic in drugs and people.

The American public voted for him because of this concern; you neatly avoid mentioning cities that have the strictest gun laws, and the highest crime rates despite.

Criminals HAVE and will get guns no matter what the laws are. It is the average well-meaning citizen who needs to bear arms. So many innocent seniors and others are being attacked, in public, and even in their homes. You do not address that.

The real crime is that guns are created and made available.
All around the world we need governments which are truly accountable to the people, work for the people in real terms. We don't want guns pointed at our own citizens, or guns pointed by our governments at other races, cultures or countries.
We want harmony, a world of people working together towards positive humanitarian aims and achieving these aims through governments that want to engineer that which the people truly desire.
Through the concept of Open Society we can step by step move in this direction.
We have our own languages around the world and we can use a language such as English to communicate globally for positive purposes, this is our world, we share it and deep within all our individual hearts we thrive through positive thoughts.
George Soros has a vision for a world which functions on open society philosophies and this a humanitarian approach, we can all play our part and support his vision because this vision is no different to that which we all want and need.

Section #1. Until "The Wonderful Socialist Democrats" find a way to keep criminals from possessing guns, then the honest law abiding citizen that is the victim of those same criminals, needs to be able to also possess guns to defend themselves from said criminals.

Section #2. If people resent law enforcement then they resent authority and that shows a lack of psychological health and also show immaturity.

Section #4. Scapegoating Trump and the police will not solve anything either.

Section #4. It's the negative attitudes toward authority as a means to obtain goals that needs to change. Rioting menacing and intimidating law enforcement officers should be illegal and those that menace and intimidate law enforcement officers should be arrested, prosecuted, and receive harsh penalties for their disrespect and erosion of the relationship.

Add your voice