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FLEOA slams the White House

FLEOA slams the White House’s over it’s handling of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

January 20, 2016

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
326 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Sessions:

On behalf of the 26,000 members of the the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (www.fleoa.org), the nations largest federal non-partisan professional association, I am writing to express our strong concerns with the White House’s apathy regarding the take over of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by openly armed criminal activists. At a time when the federal government needs to assert itself, White House spokesman Josh Earnest made the following disturbing statement, "This ultimately is a local enforcement matter” (The Hill Jan 4). How should the impacted federal law enforcement officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service (FS) interpret this? And what message does it send to Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward who has inherited this volatile situation?  In summary, the White House is not supporting its federal law enforcement officers and they are left to handle a tumultuous situation on their own.  

After their forcible entry and occupation of federal‎ property, the criminal activists have since destroyed a government fence and admitted to looking through government documents housed in the federal building (Fox News Jan12).  It has also been alleged that these criminals have intimidated local federal government employees by following them home and making threatening gestures to them while they remained armed with military type rifles. 

By statute and by regulation, the FBI has broad jurisdiction over offenses involving government property. See 28 U.S.C. § 533; 28 C.F.R. § 0.85. A number of other federal agencies possess investigative jurisdiction over crimes involving specific federal properties. From reading the myriad of federal statutes addressing government property, it is very clear that federal law enforcement agencies have jurisdiction and responsibility in this situation. I am not suggesting we do not involve our local counterparts, but this is a federal matter and it needs to be treated as such.

Sheriff Ward does not have unlimited resources to control and resolve this situation, and it is shameful for the White House not to commit its federal law enforcement assets to resolving this conflict. The White House’s "Head in Sand” approach to problem resolution only serves to further strain an already tenuous federal and local law enforcement relationship, as well as place life and property at risk.
 
The White House has a history of inaction and lack of support for federal law enforcement officials in past incidents, which served to embolden and inspire these criminals to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and intimidate federal employees. In April 2014, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law enforcement officers were forced into an armed confrontation with the supporters of Cliven Bundy. However, despite weapons being pointed at federal law enforcement officers, no arrests were made. Now Bundy’s sons have emerged as the apparent leaders of this criminal siege, and the lessons of yesteryear remain unlearned by the White House. 

I am not suggesting that the White House send in the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team to end this illegal siege and destruction of federal property. We obviously want to avoid bloodshed and attempt to resolve this peacefully. However, the White House needs a better plan than naively hoping and praying the Sheriff can resolve this on his own.  Criminals involved in the illegal siege should not be permitted to harass and threaten federal government employees, nor wander in and out of the federal building without recourse. I understand the value of waiting out those who are currently occupying the federal building, but anyone who leaves the federal property should be taken into custody by federal law enforcement officers. The White House is preventing this, and it is unreasonable and unsafe to expect the Sheriff to do this alone. It also places the federal law enforcement officers at a tactical disadvantage and ruins their morale.

We've already witnessed the unfortunate erosion of federal and local law enforcement relations via the defunding of the asset forfeiture equitable sharing program ‎and the Sanctuary City immigration detainer debacle. The American publics' safety relies on the proactive cooperation of all law enforcement components, and the White House should exhaust all efforts to fortify this. Their silent response to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge siege is painfully deafening.  

‎FLEOA urges the committee to support its brave men and women in federal federal law enforcement while holding the White House accountable for its apathy. The criminals responsible for this siege need to be held accountable and prosecuted for their crimes.  


Respectfully yours,


Nathan R. Catura
FLEOA National President