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Media Dog Piling, Federal Policing Both Better Stop

MONDAY, MAY 29, 1995

A year ago, I expressed concern about the continued expansion of “federal police” in agencies not created specifically for that purpose.

Should public land management agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land and Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and others have their own cops? What about their own SWAT and/or hostage rescue teams?

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the same questions and my remarks were twisted and politicized in a shameful manner. What caused this recent ruckus isn’t what I said but the times we live in.

Is it possible to stop the finger-pointing long enough to talk reality?

Headlines in The Spokesman-Review and elsewhere read something like, “Craig Supports Disarming Federal Agents.” The story totally misrepresented my position and took what I said out of context.

I informed the Washington, D.C., reporter before the story was published that it wasn’t accurate, but that didn’t matter. Minor corrections were made, but the overall misrepresentation remained.

In today’s environment, some reporters aren’t about to let the facts get in the way of a good story about anti-federal conspiracies, whether they exist or not.

But this media-led feeding frenzy is a dangerous game. It questions the motives of those seeking to defend the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms. It questions the First Amendment’s protection of rights of free speech and assembly of vast numbers of Americans.

And at the same time, there is little alarm at the suggestion by the president of the United States that the U.S. military play a role in domestic law enforcement, even though former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger has said using the military for domestic purposes is “repugnant to democracy.”

It all goes too far. This dog pile by the media has to stop.

Let’s start with a clear understanding. I believe this nation must insist on no tolerance for those who would commit lawless acts of violence, regardless of the cause they say they represent. Violence begets violence.

Citizens who act outside the law should be caught and punished. If they don’t like the laws, they should act within the system to get those laws changed. Period. No exceptions.

I ask again, what is the proper role of federal officials acting like a police force in areas that are the responsibility of local law enforcement?

Our founding fathers were wise to place primary enforcement of our laws with local officials. It’s worked pretty well. Where a need for federal law enforcement existed, federal law enforcement agencies have been created, including the Marshal’s Service, the FBI, the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency, or Customs. And in agencies like the National Park Service, people management requires law-enforcement capability.

There’s nothing wrong with the proven process of cooperative agreement where local law enforcement officials respond to criminal activity within their jurisdictions, even if it is on federal land. Doesn’t federal financial assistance to local law enforcement agencies go a lot further in overall law enforcement than formation of entirely new federal police forces would?

Last year, during the budget process, I procured funding for cooperative law enforcement programs between local and federal agencies. Why can’t those funds be used?

Under no circumstances should federal employees ever be placed in a work environment without adequate security, particularly where the threat of violence is prevalent.

At the same time, if the threat exists because of local opposition to an unpopular federal regulation, the presence of armed federal agents may only make the situation worse. In just such cases, cooperative agreements with local officials are needed more than ever.

Most Americans are law-abiding citizens because of the moral authority afforded government officials in a democratic society. Hubert Humphrey once said: “There are not enough jails, not enough policemen, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.”

We would all be better served if government sought to increase its acceptance by the people, rather than increase the number of agencies that have their own police forces.


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