More Executive Orders have been issued by Donald Trump. The latest skew heavily in favor of Trump's recent conversational partners: members of law enforcement.
Earlier this week in a meeting with several sheriffs, Trump voiced his support for asset forfeiture and made an off-hand comment about ruining the careers of legislators engaged in reform efforts. Great fun was had by all… mostly Trump and perhaps a sheriff or two.
One order does nothing more than what large bureaucracies do best: institute task forces. Trump's task force is charged with "crime reduction and public safety." The DOJ will head this up and ask for cooperation from local law enforcement agencies. The public safety priorities are definitely Trump's, though.
A focus on law and order and the safety and security of the American people requires a commitment to enforcing the law and developing policies that comprehensively address illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and violent crime.
Illegal immigration is apparently the most dangerous of the three listed, presumably because it's the only one that justifies the erection of a Mexico-funded wall and the existence of a previous, possibly-unconstitutional executive order banning visitors from certain Muslim countries.
The scary part is a few paragraphs deep:
identify deficiencies in existing laws that have made them less effective in reducing crime and propose new legislation that could be enacted to improve public safety and reduce crime
If there's anything this country has too much of, it's laws. The president wants more laws, or existing ones patched up, to better reduce criminal activity. Given the state of mind of many in law enforcement, any perceived "deficiencies" in existing laws are likely concessions made to Constitutionality. You know, the sort of things cops and prosecutors call "technicalities" -- like the Fourth through Sixth Amendments.
Arriving alongside the Task Force order is one directing law enforcement agencies to get a better grip on "transnational criminal organizations." In short, Trump wants to reboot the Drug War and do all the things that have failed for the past 40 years harder, faster, and with more of a focus on foreigners.
To kickstart this new War, Trump has declared public safety and national security to be the same thing.
It shall be the policy of the executive branch to:
(a) strengthen enforcement of Federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security and that are related to, for example:
(i) the illegal smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs or other substances, wildlife, and weapons;
(ii) corruption, cybercrime, fraud, financial crimes, and intellectual-property theft; or
(iii) the illegal concealment or transfer of proceeds derived from such illicit activities.
Just like that, RICO violations, drug dealing, IP "theft," and depositing money in a bank in a certain way are all now considered threats to national security. The lessons not learned in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks continue to pay dividends for those seeking increased government power.
And once again, Trump makes sure non-US citizens are singled out for their inherent criminal nature/national security threatening.
...pursue and support additional efforts to prevent the operational success of transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations within and beyond the United States, to include prosecution of ancillary criminal offenses, such as immigration fraud and visa fraud, and the seizure of the implements of such organizations and forfeiture of the proceeds of their criminal activity.
US persons' data and communications already being shared by the NSA with at least 16 federal agencies will also be shared with foreign law enforcement.
work to increase intelligence and law enforcement information sharing with foreign partners battling transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, and to enhance international operational capabilities and cooperation
And Trump's promise to ease restrictions on asset forfeiture appears to get a nod here:
identify Federal agencies' practices, any absence of practices, and funding needs that might hinder Federal efforts to effectively combat transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations
Because forfeiture has always been defended with claims that it's used to dismantle criminal cartels, even when it's just being used to take cars away from drunk drivers and tuition money from college students.
The last order appears to call for a federal "Blue Lives Matters" law:
pursue appropriate legislation, consistent with the Constitution's regime of limited and enumerated Federal powers, that will define new Federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing Federal crimes, in order to prevent violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.
More specifically, the order says that the federal government will explore new definitions of criminal activity if it appears to be directed at law enforcement officers and implement harsher sentences for these crimes.
...make recommendations to the President for legislation to address the protection and safety of Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, including, if warranted, legislation defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes
The "for related crimes" shows this won't just be used to punish direct attacks on law enforcement officers. It could be expanded to turn any number of "contempt of cop" charges (obstruction, resisting arrest, failure to identify, etc.) into criminal acts punished by extra-long jail sentences and hefty fines.
Also in this order: a nod to the 1033 program, which -- until (briefly) curtailed by the Obama administration -- distributed used (and new) military gear to local PDs for little to no cost.
(f) thoroughly evaluate all grant funding programs currently administered by the Department to determine the extent to which its grant funding supports and protects Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers; and
(g) recommend to the President any changes to grant funding, based on the evaluation required by subsection (f) of this section, including recommendations for legislation, as appropriate, to adequately support and protect Federal, State, tribal, and local law enforcement officers.
If this goes ahead as planned, small town cops will once again be riding high in armored vehicles, toting grenade launchers, and picking up Stingray devices without having to break the budget.
It was clear during his campaign that Trump was going to offer unconditional backing to the law enforcement community. And here it is, in three executive orders. They're all predicated on something Trump keeps repeating but that simply isn't true: law enforcement officers are not in more danger than they've been in years. The opposite is true. While there was an increase in officer deaths last year, it followed several years of steep declines. [Image via Reason]
And our cities aren't the crime-filled nightmares Trump insists they are. The national crime rate is still at historic lows. There are a few outliers on the scale, but that's the case every year, no matter where the national average sits.
On the other hand, there has been zero appreciable decline in the number of citizens killed by police officers. While crime rates remain low, this brand of killing hasn't. Through February 9th, 137 people have been killed by law enforcement, which puts this at 1,250 for the year if this pace continues. Last year, officers killed somewhere between 1,092 and 1,153 people (depending on whose count you go with). So, while crime rates remain low and officer safety remains high, people are being killed by officers at a faster pace than last year.
But these orders have no place for facts. And they indicate a willingness to for this president to institute policies reflecting his own misconceptions, rather than the nation's reality.