Holder Resignation: The Divorce that Law Enforcement Needs?
By Leischen Stelter, American Military University
President Barack Obama announced on Sept. 25 that U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is resigning as the nation’s top law enforcement leader as soon as a successor is found.
The relationship between the law enforcement community and Holder has been strained at best. The tension was never more evident than during the First General Assembly on Oct. 21, 2013 during the annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in Philadelphia.
As reported on American Military University’s blog, In Public Safety, then-president Craig Steckler, gave Holder an uncomfortable introduction saying that the relationship between the DOJ and IACP is like a marriage: Even though they disagree on things, they decide to stay together. Steckler went on to note where the two part ways:
“The IACP profoundly disagrees with the decision by the Department of Justice not to challenge the marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington…The decision by the Department of Justice, in our view, opens the flood gates for those who want to legalize marijuana throughout the country…”
He went on to say: “In our view, we have entered a slippery slope that will be difficult to turn away from in the future. We are profoundly disappointed in the decision. Regardless of that, the vast majority of the decisions made by the DOJ are favorable to law enforcement…”
As Holder took the stage, he jokingly thanked Steckler for his almost-welcome introduction and said, “I guess we need some marriage counseling.”
Holder did not address the marijuana laws or other DOJ decisions in his remarks, but he did reiterate his commitment to having a frank and constructive dialogue with the law enforcement community. “I am here not just to engage and learn from you, but to say thank you for your tireless commitment to public service,” Holder said.
However, many in the law enforcement community did not think Holder valued the opinions of law enforcement, as evidenced by the lack of collaboration and input regarding marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington.
On August 30, 2013, the IACP, along with multiple law enforcement associations, sent Holder a letter formally expressing extreme disappointment in DOJ for this decision, according to the IACP blog.
The letter strongly criticized the DOJ for failing to consult with state, tribal and local law enforcement organizations prior to reaching this decision:
“Furthermore, it is unacceptable that the Department of Justice did not consult our organizations—whose members will be directly impacted—for meaningful input ahead of this important decision. Our organizations were given notice just thirty minutes before the official announcement was made public and were not given the adequate forum ahead of time to express our concerns with the Department’s conclusion on this matter. Simply ‘checking the box’ by alerting law enforcement officials right before a decision is announced is not enough and certainly does not show an understanding of the value the Federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partnerships bring to the Department of Justice and the public safety discussion.”
While the nation awaits a nominee to replace Holder, the law enforcement community hopes that the next Attorney General will make a greater effort to reach out and involve law enforcement leadership about major decisions that impact public safety.