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DHS Police Actions Threatening Our Democracy

July 27, 2020
 
 
Honorable Bennie G. Thompson
Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
 
Honorable Mike Rogers
Ranking Member
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515 
 
  
Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Rogers,

We are writing to you concerning the upcoming oversight hearing entitled DHS Police Actions Threatening Our Democracy. While we support appropriate oversight of federal agencies, the hearing title seems unnecessarily provocative considering the factual events that have occurred in Portland and in other cities in our nation and the unprecedented threat to officer safety. Irrespective of the title, this Committee and the Department of Homeland Security were created due to a compelling need to protect America from terrorist activity, both foreign and domestic. The Department and its personnel have valiantly answered that call throughout its short history, including with the events occurring on the streets of our great nation. Yet that American security and safety is being thwarted by an unwillingness of some elected officials to stand up for and defend the rights of the law-abiding citizens that elected them.

While the events in Portland are the focus of this hearing, it is not the only American city recently overtaken by violence, rioting, looting and anarchy. For Portland, the lawful residents and business have had to endure threats, danger and destruction for over 55 days. It is inexplicable that any American city would dismiss the safety of the law-abiding Americans living there and permit this level of violence and criminal activity to occur for the length and duration it has. Despite the harm that has been caused, some elected officials and those in the media have chosen to ignore the violence of the rioters and focus on the enforcement efforts of the DHS federal law enforcement personnel deployed there.

Those personnel, each a sworn federal law enforcement officer with the duties and authorities outlined in the federal code which was passed by Congress and applies across the United States, have been tasked in Portland and in other cities to protect federal buildings and property and to try and work with local officials to quell the violence and help restore law and order so that law-abiding Americans can return to their lives. Instead of embracing this support, localities like Portland have rejected it and chosen to politicize the situation over prioritizing the safety of the public they are charged to protect. Whether some are willing to believe it or not, the safety of the American people and the law enforcement officers charged with protecting that safety is more important than picking up seats in the next election.

That politicization and the vicious attacks leveled against federal law enforcement officers deployed to these localities, have resulted in provocations and attacks against those same federal law enforcement officers. Even the local media in the Portland area have recently reported on the Doxing of over 38 federal law enforcement officers, which included the released of their names and home addresses. Green lasers are being used that have thus far caused eye damage to at least three officers. We’ve also witnessed repeated violent assaults against these officers using hammers, frozen water bottles, bricks, fireworks, stones and other debris. In total, those actions are not caused by peaceful protesters but by groups focused on destruction, rioting, looting, criminal and anarchist activities.

Although some have doubted these criminal actions occurring under the cover of "peaceful protests,” recently the Chicago Police Department released a video showing that during a July 18th protest for social justice, some members of the protest transformed into violent agitators. Those agitators used umbrellas to shield people in the crowd, changed into all black clothing; distributed frozen water bottles, rocks and explosive devices that were thrown at officers; and used sharpened PVC pipes as a weapon against the Chicago Police Officers who were dressed in their standard police uniforms. According to the Chicago Police Superintendent Brown, "What began as a peaceful protest devolved into a very dangerous situation in which mob action deliberately sought to injure officers, provoke retaliation and damage property. Forty-nine Chicago police officers were injured…eighteen of whom were sent to area hospitals for their injuries.”

This video is proof that as FLEOA and other law enforcement agencies have contended, the violence occurring among peaceful protests is being provoked by violent agitators and anarchists who co-opted and insert themselves into the protests with the sole intent of attacking law enforcement officers and destroying property. In Chicago, the Police Superintendent stated that, "These peaceful protests have been hijacked and that’s one of the things I think people need to consider,” and due to that, he ordered all Chicago Police Officers to wear any and all protective gear when protests appear because they can’t trust that all the people attending protests will be peaceful and they must protect their officers.

As the nation's largest non-partisan, not for profit association representing federal law enforcement officers, it is ours, the federal law enforcement agency heads and should be Congresses top priority to ensure federal law enforcement officers from all 65 federal law enforcement agencies are supported and protected. While the Congress has the clear right to conduct oversight, doing so in a myopic way and not with the full context of the "ground truth” occurring on the streets across America including in Portland is not helpful to understanding the factual dynamics occurring in our nations streets.

While we support oversight of every federal agency and an examination of the nature of the DHS mission and response of federal law enforcement agencies, it must be done within the context of the violence occurring against federal law enforcement officers and the citizens living there. We would expect this Committee and Congress to conduct its oversight role with balance and work to provide a clear and fact-based picture of the events that precipitated the federal law enforcement deployments, what has occurred since those officers were deployed, and how the scope of their mission evolved. Providing clear facts and balance should also include what laws have been violated, the amount of damage to federal property, the overall conduct of violent agitators, the ratio of officers to protesters, the number of arrests made, the numbers of injuries sustained by both protesters and officers, the DHS policies in place at the time and if, under the Committees jurisdiction, these continued acts of violence constitute an act of domestic terror by a domestic terror group?

FLEOA supports the role of Congress to conduct oversight and welcomes a conversation about ensuring that all laws are followed. But we also recognize that law enforcement officers have recently been painted negatively which has only emboldened violent attacks against them due in part to some elected officials perpetuating a false narrative that casts federal law enforcement in a negative light. As they take to the streets every day to serve and protect their communities, the vilification of the brave men and women who serve our communities is unproductive and reckless. We know that there is a better way that avoids vilification and follows facts and an honest discussion, and we hope the Committee does that.


Sincerely,
 
Larry Cosme
National President


cc: House Committee on Homeland Security