In response to a question from the International Association of Chiefs of Police about improving the “important” partnership between federal and local law enforcement, Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump recently wrote that, “Currently, there is no noticeable partnership between the federal government and state and local law enforcement.” He then added, “That will dramatically change in a Trump administration.”
The lack of partnership may come as a surprise to the numerous joint federal-local task forces currently focused on terrorism, drugs, gangs, human trafficking, Internet sex crimes and more. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, in response to the same question, said she would continue President Obama’s “inclusive approach to governing.”
Both candidates answered 10 questions sent last month by the IACP, representing 27,000 police chiefs and law enforcement professionals in 50 states. Terry Cunningham, the IACP president and chief of the Wellesley, Mass., police, noted that his non-profit group does not endorse candidates but wanted to be ready to work with whomever wins.
“It’s nice to see criminal justice reform and criminal justice issues are on their agendas at this point,” Cunningham said Tuesday. “It was kind of shocking that there wasn’t a lot more discussion of these issues during the primaries,” even as police-related issues roiled cities across America, Cunningham said. Asked about Trump’s observation of a lack of local-federal cooperation, Cunningham said, “Most policing every day is handled by state and local police. But there are clearly times when we need our national partners and stakeholders. From my perception, they’ve been there to work right alongside us.”
Trump’s four-page response does not go into great detail about how he would lower crime or improve police legitimacy in tense communities, though he repeatedly expresses the philosophy that “law enforcement is a state and local issue for the most part and should be dealt with at the appropriate level.” He also does not spend much time on illegal immigration, an issue that attracted attention to his campaign from the outset when he accused Mexico of sending rapists across the southern border into the U.S.
Clinton’s 12 pages of answers are much more detailed, and endorse concepts widely discussed by American police commanders, such as evidence-based policing, de-escalation training, focused deterrence and crisis intervention training for officers encountering those with mental illness. She writes that she would “provide federal matching funds to make body cameras available to every police department in America,” and bring police and communities together to devise “national guidelines on the use of force by police officers.”
Clinton also said she would make $4 of federal support available for every one dollar that states commit to substance-abuse treatment and rehabilitation programs, and invest more in school guidance counselors, behavioral health programs and after-school activities “to end the school-to-prison pipeline.”
Asked about their number one law enforcement and criminal justice priority, Trump wrote that his administration “will be focused on restoring the rule of law in the United States. Selective enforcement of laws has led to a more dangerous society and the vilification of local law enforcement must come to an end.” Asked about plans to lower crime, Trump wrote, “the law of the land will be enforced, starting with federal statutes that encompass illegal immigration, drug trafficking and human trafficking.”
Clinton said her top priority was “rebuilding the bonds of trust between our law enforcement officers and our communities.” She said she would increase funding for officer safety and wellness and programs that provide training and technical assistance to police. Clinton also said it was “important to acknowledge that implicit bias still exists across society” and that she would commit $1 billion in her first budget to fund the best training on such bias. She denounced the killing of police officers, but said facts also show “there is clear evidence that African-American men are disproportionately killed in police incidents, are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, and are more likely to be sentenced to longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same offenses. We can’t ignore that, and we have to make it right.”
The two candidates strongly differed on several issues. On guns, Trump states that he has “been clear in my support for the Second Amendment. That will not change…Gun violations should be treated harshly as such behavior is contrary to the intent of the Constitution and good public order.” He does not discuss expanding background checks for gun purchases, restricting high-capacity guns or high-volume sellers of guns used in crimes. Trump’s website does discuss the success of Project Exile in Richmond, where he said murders steeply declined after the program’s strong prosecution of criminals who used guns in crimes.
Clinton called for strengthening background checks for gun buyers and targeting the five percent of gun dealers who sell “90 percent of guns recovered on crime scenes in America…shutting down the major suppliers of illegal guns will be one of my priorities as president.” Clinton also supported banning those on the terrorist “no-fly” list from buying a gun, an issue Trump did not address. Republicans blocked legislation which would have prohibited those on the no-fly list from buying guns, but people on both sides of the political aisle pointed out the list was flawed and has no due process to decide who is or isn’t on it.
Asked about the collection of data on officer-involved shootings, which currently is not done by the federal government, Clinton said she would “work to increase the collection and reporting of national data on policing.” Trump demurred, saying “the federal government should not be in the habit of demanding data from local or state law enforcement organizations.” Currently, the most definitive crime statistics (excluding police shootings) are published by the FBI as supplied by state agencies. Trump added, “Crime reporting should take place, but the management of local and state law enforcement should be left to those jurisdictions.”
On the conflict between state and federal governments over legalizing marijuana, Clinton said she would “allow states that have enacted marijuana laws to act as laboratories of democracy,” so long as they prevent sales to minors and keep organized crime out of the industry. Clinton did say that she supported both “carefully prescribed medical marijuana” and rescheduling marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II in order to enable more scientific research on its medical benefits, which would be a monumental shift from the Obama administration’s recently restated policy that marijuana is equivalent to heroin and LSD and has “no currently accepted medical use.”
Trump wrote, “This is a state issue. However, Congress should work to make compatible the laws of the land with the laws of the states.”
To make federal law compatible with state law in Colorado would be pretty monumental as well.
The two candidates agree that increasing funding to deal with mental health issues is a top priority. “I will work with Congress,” Trump wrote, “to see that mental health reform is a top priority in my administration…Mental health reform will greatly assist in reducing the number of individuals who should be receiving treatment who end up incarcerated.” Clinton said that she would “pursue a robust mental health agenda that ensures Americans have access to mental health treatment” and that she would increase investments in local specialized courts such as drug courts and veterans’ treatment courts, as well as crisis intervention training for police.
Clinton’s response to the questionnaire is here.
Trump’s response to the questionnaire is here.