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Commentary By Heather Mac Donald

Rod Rosenstein's Staunch Defense of Proactive Policing

Public Safety Policing, Crime Control

Rumors that President Trump is contemplating sacking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for his role in the controversial Carter Page FISA warrant should be dispiriting to anyone who supports the police against the lies of the Black Lives Matter movement. Rosenstein is under fire for seeking a renewal of the Page FISA warrant without disclosing to the FISA court the role of Fusion GPS and the Clinton campaign in producing some of the information in the warrant request. (None of the three previous Justice Department officials who had sought renewals disclosed to the court the Fusion GPS connection, either.)  

If Trump fires Rosenstein, he will deprive the Justice Department of one of its most articulate defenders of proactive policing. Rosenstein has unapologetically and forcefully rejected the Black Lives Matter narrative. The cops are not the threat in the inner city, he has argued, criminals are. In fact, cops are the best hope that law-abiding residents of high-crime areas have for leading normal lives free of fear. “The people committing murders in Baltimore City are not, for the most part, police officers,” he told the Baltimore Sun upon confirmation of his nomination to DOJ’s number two position. “The philosophy I brought in 2005 [to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Baltimore] and still have today is that it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to find a way to reduce violent crime.”

“If Trump fires Rosenstein, he will deprive the Justice Department of one of its most articulate defenders of proactive policing.”

That seemingly innocuous statement is actually a charged rebuttal of dominant left-wing thinking about crime and policing. Received left-wing wisdom holds that the police cannot lower crime, only massive welfare spending and the redistribution of wealth can. Rosenstein, by contrast, believes that assertive policing, followed up by lengthy sentences for violent criminals, is the key to public safety. As a U.S. attorney, Rosenstein defied the implicit message from the Obama White House that the prosecution of violent street criminals contributed to the “mass incarceration” of black criminals. Other U.S. attorneys refocused on government corruption cases and white-collar crime; Rosenstein kept locking away the street thugs who were terrorizing whole neighborhoods. 

In May 2017, in his new role as Deputy AG, Rosenstein called on Baltimore’s business leaders to support the Baltimore police. The majority of city police are “honorable people trying to do the right thing and they deserve your support and they need your support,” he said. This took considerable mettle, given elite opinion that policing in general and the Baltimore police in particular are systemically and almost ineradicably abusive. (A federal corruption trial is underway in Baltimore against members of the department’s Gun Trace Task Force for stealing money and drugs from suspected drug dealers, contemptible behavior that recalls the Ramparts corruption scandal in the Los Angeles Police Department. Mayor Catherine Pugh and new police commissioner Darryl De Sousa denied on Friday that corruption was widespread in the department. The command staff’s failure to supervise these rogue officers shows an egregious breakdown in management; the fact remains, however, that law-abiding members of Baltimore’s high-crime areas are begging for more proactive enforcement against loiterers, trespassers, and drug dealers.)

Rosenstein has correctly identified the cause of Baltimore’s current record-breaking homicide rate: Depolicing, or what I have called the Ferguson effect. And he blames the city’s leaders for encouraging, if not outright ordering, that depolicing. Federal and local law enforcement had launched a successful assault on criminal behavior in the early 2010s, but in 2015, “local authorities decided to try a new strategy,” Rosenstein said in a January 2018 speech in Florida. “They decided to cut back on policing and prosecution.” This cutback was a misguided reaction to the Freddie Gray riots, triggered by the unintentional death of Gray following transport in a Baltimore police van. The result of that systemic stand-down philosophy? “Hundreds of additional people lost their lives, and many hundreds more were wounded by bullets,” Rosenstein said in Florida. 

The solution is to regain the courage “to support law enforcement.” The police may not always be perfect, they are not always right, yet “we need them to know we need them more than ever,” Rosenstein told the Baltimore business leaders in May 2017.

Such truth-telling cannot be taken for granted, even in the pro-law enforcement Trump administration. Though the Black Lives Matter movement has been sidelined from the national spotlight by the media’s all-out participation in the Resistance, anti-cop ideology continues to spread via the academy. Every voice with a national bully pulpit that is willing to take on the lies of the anti-cop Left is still vitally important. Trump’s firing of Rosenstein would be as short-sighted and petulant a gesture as his noticeable lack of public support for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who deserves almost all the credit for realizing Americans’ demand for the immigration rule of law.  Trump must not let his desire for vengeance in the Russian collusion investigation overcome a cool assessment of Rosenstein’s contributions to the cause of public safety.

This piece originally appeared on National Review Online


Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor at City Journal, and the author of The War on Cops

This piece originally appeared in National Review Online