Photo: Chris Miller...Imagery/Palm Springs PD
Dear President Trump, you have vowed to make America great again. That's a big job, and I sincerely hope you succeed. But if you'll give me a few minutes of your time I would like to speak with you about how you can make the law enforcement community and the American public safe again. Which is also a big job and one that needs your urgent attention.
The last year was a violent and tragic one for law enforcement. By early December we saw an amazing 70% increase in officers being murdered. Worse, there was a 167% increase in officers killed in cowardly ambushes by armed assailants. That's a 10-year high. As I have predicted in my new book, "The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police," the increase year to year in police deaths by murder may soon top the 100% mark for the first time since the violent days of Prohibition in the 1930s.
American cities and their law enforcement communities have been besieged by militant anti-police Marxists from Black Lives Matter, the New Black Panther Party, and the Black Liberation Army; communists from the Revolutionary Communist Party, and anarchists from the Occupy movement, who march uncontrollably down streets chanting, "What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!" and "Kill the cops!" These anti-police protesters vandalize, loot, and burn businesses and police cars as they threaten, assault, and kill innocent citizens.
The violent rhetoric of the left, the refusal of President Obama to more assertively support law enforcement and place officer-involved death cases into their proper and accurate context, and an ignorant and biased mainstream media have created a dangerous environment that has led mentally deranged ticking time bombs and cop-hating killers to assassinate officers throughout the country.
Adding to the dangers law enforcement officers face in contemporary America is a leadership vacuum. Police administrators are more fearful of losing their high-paying jobs and pensions than restoring order, and they have allowed disruptive and violent demonstrators to take over roadways and highways, paralyzing their cities and creating deadly medical emergencies for those who depend upon life-sustaining medical transportation to transit from points of injury to hospitals. Worse, your predecessor President Barrack "The police were acting stupidly" Obama, soon to be departing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and other politicians have criticized the police more than the criminals.
Recently, the outgoing President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police even went so far as to apologize on behalf of the law enforcement community for transgressions in the past against the minority community. What transgressions are those? Police protect the rule of law that is legislatively created by politicians, not police. How are police at fault for enforcing the laws segregationist officials elected by the public established?
Of the following professions: legal, judicial, medical, political, and educational; law enforcement ranks the highest in credibility with the public. Multiple investigations have consistently proven that police actions were legally justifiable and objectively reasonable in all but a handful of officer-involved death incidents. Yet, President Obama consistently went out of his way to either say or imply that police were at fault—and he was consistently proven to be wrong. Clearly, it is our angry, out of control, and outrageous public citizens who need to learn "de-escalation" techniques; not the police who respond to calls for service to control them.
The political correctness and lack of context as to the sacrifices of law enforcement officers on behalf of their communities, and the blatant absence of leadership from our so-called "leaders" during the past few years has been nothing short of embarrassing.
It is the police who defend civil rights and protect the public on the street level, not the president, or politicians, or the courts. I guarantee you that for every problem in society you will find at least one politician or political party responsible for it. Police are responsible for almost none of our historic problems in American society. Police respond to society's problems; they don't create them and it's high time the politicians quit lying to the public and the public educate themselves sufficiently to understand that fact.
So, respectfully, Mr. Trump, here are my recommendations.
Take Control of the Narrative
I know you are extremely busy now that your are preparing to take office, but the men and women who wear the badge are dying almost every day on our streets. We lost 19 officers in November alone, with at least five police officers ambushed. In fact, we have lost more police officers to violence in this country this year than we have U.S. military personnel fighting abroad in the War on Terrorism.
Don't wait until you are our President to take control of the narrative. Seize the moment right now before you come into office. Make a positive, public statement about the importance of the role of police in American democratic society and pledge your firm support to back the badge. President Obama has never really supported our men and women in law enforcement and this has not been lost on those in the anti-law enforcement Black Lives Matter movement and their surrogates and supporters.
The more our leaders express support and seek to educate the public about the importance and sacrifices of our law enforcement community, the safer officers and the public will be.
Bring Civics Classes Back to Schools
It is a national disgrace that elementary, middle school, high school, and most college students in our country receive no education on civics, civil rights, the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, and the role of law enforcement officers in our democratic society. You just nominated Betsy DeVos as your secretary of education. Once DeVos' position is confirmed, please direct that she mandate all students from elementary school through the freshman year at college receive at least four hours of education per year in civics, civil rights, the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, and the role and authority of police in society. These courses should include instruction in the appropriate and legal behavior of citizens during their interactions with police.
Any street officer will tell you that one of the most critical problems they face during encounters with the public is that the average American citizen has very little understanding of what their civil rights are and are not. Their ignorance of law, civil rights, and the role and authority of police in enforcing the rule of law leads to resistance to police authority. As we have all learned, resistance to police authority often has unintended serious and sometimes deadly consequences for the resistant citizen and increasingly for the officer encountering them. Do this and you will begin to make it safer for citizens and law enforcement officers to interact.
Make Attacks on Officers a Federal Crime
It is incredible that a police officer can be prosecuted under both state and the federal law for alleged violations of civil rights. Yet, there is zero reciprocity in federal law when a citizen violently assaults and/or kills a law enforcement officer who is not a federal officer.
It should be a mandatory capital offense with a compulsory death penalty for any suspect who is convicted of murdering a law enforcement officer. We have several states that do not have the death penalty. If a police officer is slain in those states, the federal government should automatically step in and assume the prosecution of that suspect.
Prosecutors should also be prohibited from offering plea bargains to defendants who murder officers. A time limit to exhaust all appeals should be no longer than three years. Special death penalty courts should be established to expedite the adjudication of defendants who are convicted of murdering officers so that a known date of death is assured upon any conviction. This system will go far in deterring those who would consider murdering officers. Contrary to popular belief, the death penalty is a deterrent. It is the death penalty adjudication system that is a failure in deterring murderous behavior.
It should be a federal offense for any person to assault an officer with a gun or other deadly weapon including a vehicle. I propose an automatic 10-year, non-plea bargain sentence for any person who uses a firearm to assault a law enforcement officer. I also propose that the deliberate, premeditated killing of a law enforcement officer be charged as a state and federal hate crime. A careful review of the criminal profiles of most of the suspects who have murdered police officers will reveal that most have lengthy criminal histories for violence and gun crimes, where they were released back into society far too soon after pleading down their cases. That revolving door system must end.
Stricter Sentences for Gun Crimes
Guns don't kill people; behavior kills people. If you want to significantly reduce the levels of gun violence in places like Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, and other crime-plagued cities, you need to change behavior. The quickest way to modify recidivist behavior that directly leads to homicide is to enact and support severe sentences for illegal gun possession and gun-related crime.
As discussed, if you research the criminal histories of suspects who seriously injure and kill other citizens and police, you will classically find that they have extensive histories for weapons possession and crimes of violence. You will also find that few spent any considerable time in jail or prison for their crimes. They have benefited from one plea bargain after another, one diversion program after another, and one failed sentence after another. And they have learned nothing but how to game the system.
If we are going to put a serious dent in our violent, gun-related crime and homicide rates, we are going to have to get serious about identifying recidivist violent criminals and locking them up in prison with lengthy prison sentences. We need to keep them in prison for lengthy periods because they are violent predators from whom the innocent public needs to be protected. A commitment to handing out severe sentences for gun possession will serve as a deterrent to those thinking about carrying firearms. However, without that level of commitment forget about any deterrent factor. It's just that simple.
Appoint Tough Judges
Judges have far too much power under our current criminal justice system. They also have the immunity of the bench. This means that they are not accountable to the public they serve. That type of thinking is misguided. In many cases, liberal, uninformed, elitist judges play a major role in the gamesmanship that has led to our failed criminal justice system. True criminal justice reform makes all actors in the system accountable to the public.
President Trump, you need to work with your new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ensure that nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court, District Courts of Appeal, and lower federal courts interpret our constitution and do not legislate new laws from the bench. At the state and local level, judges need to be appointed and voted in who will commit themselves to a more conservative agenda and enforce a new series of strict gun-related behavior control laws that deter criminals from possessing and using firearms to commit violent crime.
Mr. President-Elect, America needs to be safe again before it can truly be great again. You have a lot of work to do, but creating an environment where law enforcement is understood and respected and our citizens are protected from violent recidivist criminals must be one of your first priorities.
Those of us in the law enforcement community wish you Godspeed and good luck as our new president in moving us all forward.
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist/police expert who directs the nation's only multidisciplinary forensic death investigations and independent review team (www.DrRonMartinelli.com). He is the author of "The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police" available from Amazon.com.