The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration told his staff in a memo Saturday to disregard President Donald Trump’s comments last week urging police officers not to be “too nice” when arresting criminal suspects, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
“The president, in remarks delivered yesterday in New York, condoned police misconduct regarding the treatment of individuals placed under arrest by law enforcement,” acting chief Chuck Rosenberg began in the memo, which was published in full by HuffPost.
“We must earn and keep the public trust and continue to hold ourselves to the very highest standards. Ours is an honorable profession and, so, we will always act honorably.”
Rosenberg said he was not seeking to advance a “political, partisan, or personal agenda,” but rather “because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.”
Rosenberg is a former Justice Department official and veteran of the Bush administration. He also worked for fired FBI Director James Comey during Comey’s tenure as deputy attorney general. Rosenberg was first appointed acting chief of the DEA by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch in 2015, and has stayed in the position since then.
Trump provoked a wave of backlash last Friday after he addressed a crowd of law enforcement officers in Brentwood, New York, deviating from his remarks on the MS-13 gang to discuss the way police load suspects into vehicles after arrests.
“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough,” Trump said. “I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice.’”
He continued: “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over. Like, ‘Don’t hit their head’ and they’ve just killed somebody.
“‘Don’t hit their head.’ I said, ‘You can take the hand away.’ OK?”
Trump’s comments drew cheers and applause from the officers in the crowd, but sharp condemnation from a number of police departments across the country. His remarks came at a sensitive moment in police-community relations, as local departments grapple with how to handle excessive force incidents while the public demands greater accountability.
The commissioner of the New York Police Department, for instance, denounced Trump’s remarks on Saturday as “irresponsible, unprofessional,” and “the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”
On Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s remarks as a “joke.”
Read Rosenberg’s full memo below:
The President, in remarks delivered yesterday in New York, condoned police misconduct regarding the treatment of individuals placed under arrest by law enforcement.
In writing to you, I seek to advance no political, partisan, or personal agenda.
Nor do I believe that a Special Agent or Task Force Officer of the DEA would mistreat a defendant. I know that you would not.
So, why do I write?
I write to offer a strong reaffirmation of the operating principles to which we, as law enforcement professionals, adhere.
I write because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong. That’s what law enforcement officers do. That’s what you do. We fix stuff. At least, we try.
Our Core Values are clear and applicable:
* Rule of Law
* Respect and Compassion
* Leadership and Courage
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.
I am incredibly grateful that you endeavor to live up to our Core Values, each day. It is not always easy, but it is always important.
We must earn and keep the public trust and continue to hold ourselves to the very highest standards. Ours is an honorable profession and, so, we will always act honorably.
Thank you for all that you do.
I am proud to be your colleague.