DEA chief critical of Trump remarks
Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote that he felt obligated to respond to the president’s comments “because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.” He cited the agency’s core values — among them integrity, accountability, re
WASHINGTON — The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration said in an email to staff members over the weekend that President Donald Trump had “condoned police misconduct” in remarking to officers in New York that they need not protect suspects’ heads when loading them into police vehicles.
Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote that he felt obligated to respond to the president’s comments “because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.” He cited the agency’s core values — among them integrity, accountability, respect and compassion.
“This is how we conduct ourselves. This is how we treat those whom we encounter in our work: Victims, witnesses, subjects, and defendants. This is who we are,” Rosenberg wrote.
The email, sent Saturday, was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post also obtained a copy.
A White House spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment on Rosenberg’s email. The White House said Monday that Trump was joking when he told law enforcement officers in New York last week that they should not “be too nice” with suspects.
“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said before miming the motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car. “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, OK?”
Rosenberg wrote that his email was not meant to advance any “political, partisan, or personal agenda,” and he said he did not believe a DEA agent would mistreat a defendant. But he made clear in the first line that his remarks were directed at Trump. While Trump’s comments have been widely criticized by policing leaders, Rosenberg’s message marks the first pushback from a federal law enforcement agency.
“The President, in remarks delivered yesterday in New York, condoned police misconduct regarding the treatment of individuals placed under arrest by law enforcement,” Rosenberg wrote Saturday.
Rosenberg is not a Trump appointee, though he heads an agency that is playing an important role in the president’s promised crackdown on drugs and violent crime. He was appointed to head the DEA in 2015, during President Barack Obama’s administration, in an acting capacity, and was held over during the transition. Before joining the DEA, he had served as chief of staff and senior counselor to James Comey, who was the FBI director until Trump fired him earlier this year.
Trump’s remarks at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island were met with laughter and applause from at least some of the officers at his speech Friday. But almost immediately, departments and law enforcement officials began to criticize his comments, saying they were dangerous at a time of intense distrust between communities and police.
Black police officers are among those worried about efforts to repair the fraught relationship between police and minority groups. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed their concerns during a speech to a major black law enforcement group on Tuesday.
Sessions did not directly mention the president’s comments in his remarks to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, but he said police officers need the support of the community as they do a dangerous job.
“You deserve the support and respect of every American, and I’m here today on behalf of President Trump and the Department of Justice to say, ‘Thank you.’ I am proud to stand with you. The Department of Justice is proud to stand with you,” Sessions said, drawing applause.
Seattle Assistant Police Chief Perry Tarrant, the organization’s president, told reporters that Sessions also spoke privately with the organization’s leadership. Sessions didn’t apologize for the president’s comment and said he believes it was made in jest, but said he understands the effect such comments can have and underscored the Department of Justice’s commitment to protecting everyone’s civil rights, Tarrant said.
Information for this article was contributed by Matt Zapotosky and Mark Berman of The Washington Post; and by Lisa Marie Pane, Kate Brumback, Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker of The Associated Press.