Success in the Media

National News Bashing Trump About New Police Report Omits Relationship

Observations

There is a new organization of police executives, Law Enforcement Leaders. They submitted a report that many news sources suggest is critical of President Donald Trump and his criminal justice policies.

The progressive agenda of the Brennan Center and Law Enforcement Leadership is legit; not stating the connection at the beginning of news articles is not.

As of this writing, we have no clear idea as to the criminal justice priorities of President Trump. Criticism at this stage of the game seems premature.

Author

By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Master’s Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions in this editorial are mine and do not represent any other organization.

Personal Note

I did not vote for President Trump or Hillary Clinton, and I have no connections to the Trump presidency or organizations supporting him.

Article

There is a new organization of police executives, Law Enforcement Leaders. They submitted a report that many news sources suggest is critical of President Donald Trump and his criminal justice policies.

Here are some headlines:

Top Cops to Trump-Chil! (E-Mail Headline from the Marshall Project on 2-13-17) Website at https://www.themarshallproject.org/

The New York Times: Police Chiefs Say Trump’s Law Enforcement Priorities Are Out of Step

Reason: Law Enforcement Leaders Release Agenda Calling for Trump Administration to End ‘Unnecessary Incarceration’

City Lab: Ex-Police Chiefs To Trump: Listen to Us

The Daily Caller: Police Chiefs Warn Against Trump’s Latest Executive Orders On Law Enforcement

 Who is Law Enforcement Leaders

“Who the hell is Law Enforcement Leaders?” asked a professional friend.

Per an e-mail from the organization, “As is noted on our website, Law Enforcement Leaders is a project of the Brennan Center. However the group is led by its co-chairs and steering committee. More information about the group, mission and leadership is available on our website here.”

Per the website, “Law Enforcement Leaders unites more than 175 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, federal and state prosecutors, and attorneys general from all 50 states to urge for a reduction in both crime and incarceration.”

The group was launched at a media event on October 21, 2015.

Their report, FIGHTING CRIME AND STRENGTHENING CRIMINAL JUSTICE: An Agenda for the New Administration, is available at https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3460826/Fighting-Crime-and-Strengthening-Criminal.pdf.

It makes no mention of any connection to the Brennan Center for Justice.

The Brennan Center for Justice

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law (http://www.brennancenter.org/) is respected but hardly nonpartisan or neutral when it comes to politics or criminal justice policy. It’s difficult to paint them with a broad brush; some of their data is mainstream and neutral, but I believe that most observers would rate them left of center or progressive.

The day I wrote this article, every report and video on their website is critical of the Trump Administration.

Regardless, the big, conventional police organizations like the International Association of Chiefs of Police or the National Sheriff’s Association or the Major Cities Chiefs Association or the Fraternal Order of Police have yet to publically weigh in on a national list of criminal justice priorities.

As of this writing, we have no clear idea as to the criminal justice priorities of President Trump. Criticism at this stage of the game seems premature.

Law Enforcement Leadership has some impressive names with substantial experience, but they do not carry the credibility and respect of the organizations listed above. Law Enforcement Leadership does not represent mainstream police or criminal justice agencies or organizations at this time.

Inaccurate News from the New York Times and Other News Sources?

Not acknowledging the fact that Law Enforcement Leaders “is a project of the Brennan Center” is like a national cop group associated with the National Rifle Association or the American Civil Liberties Union issuing a report; at least you know you are getting a point of view. You understand that they and their report will not be politically neutral or unbiased.

Any report from the Brennan Center is going to call for less incarceration or sentencing reform, reducing offender recidivism rates, ramping up mental health and drug treatment, and improving community policing.

And there‘s nothing wrong with this agenda; it’s similar to what we’ve covered here in Crime in America.Net, but, and it’s a big but, news articles that omit sponsorship or a relationship with the report and organization, or bury the association deep in coverage misleads readers into believing that this is a mainstream, neutral police organization. It’s not.

The Crime Report (http://thecrimereport.org/) in their coverage connected the report with the Brennan Center; I assume for the reasons articulated above. The Crime Report is a collaborative effort by two national organizations that focus on criminal justice journalism: The Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College, and Criminal Justice Journalists.

Summary

The Brennan Center’s website is filled to the brim with dire warnings of concern regarding President Trump and his priorities which is fine because you know what you are getting when you go there.

But for news reports not to acknowledge or bury the connection between the Brennan Center and Law Enforcement leadership is not OK. It’s fine to editorialize their findings, but to present them as the opinions of mainstream law enforcement is not acceptable.

Reply to This Article

I offered the Brennan Center an opportunity to reply before publishing:

Hi Len, Thank you so much for sharing. A few additional notes of context below that may be helpful.

Law Enforcement Leaders members act in their own capacity and have views independent of the Brennan Center. They are advised by the Brennan Center, but ultimately make their own decisions on policy based on their experience on the ground as police officers and prosecutors. Many members identify as politically conservative, including the co-chairman Ronal Serpas.

The group is also advised by Koch Industries and the Justice Action Network. We work closely with the other major law enforcement groups – here are links to letters we all sent to President Trump and Congress expressing our similar views on policies.


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