Mitchell Position on Federal Law Enforcement in US Cities
There is an important ongoing conversation in our country about federal law enforcement officers in our cities.
The First Amendment is one of our nation’s most vital freedoms, and peaceful protests and assemblies are an important expression of those rights. Unfortunately, across our country we have seen repeated instances of violence, property damage, looting, and rioting accompanying demonstrations. Those who are protesting peacefully have a message that shouldn’t be drowned out by those taking advantage of the situation, and law and order needs to be maintained.
In limited circumstances, there is a federal interest in preventing law breaking and valid reasons for federal law enforcement to be present in localities. Enforcement of federal criminal laws is clearly a standard activity. When there are federal buildings and federal property involved – such as the case in Portland where some violent protestors have targeted a federal courthouse – it is within the duties and jurisdiction of federal law enforcement to step in. Federal agents can also assist and supplement – but not replace – local law enforcement authorities when that assistance is requested and as long as the federal presence is well-defined and within limits. It is also vital the clear distinction between federal officers and active duty military continues. Like many Americans, I strongly believe all these guidelines must be maintained.