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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks at a Luncheon Meeting With Law Enforcement Officials

1991-06-25

Well, let me just say it's a pleasure to be here with the heads of all our Federal law enforcement agencies. We'll be taking a little lunch, talking over the issues of concern to the various departments.

But let me just say a word about our crime bill. By now, certainly all of you are familiar with this 100-day challenge that I threw down to the Congress to act on the bill. That was now 106 days ago. And we sent our comprehensive crime bill up to the Congress 106 days ago, and the Senate started debating provisions of the legislation just last Thursday. The House has given absolutely no indication that they plan to act soon.

Our bill, in my view, would help fight violent crime, assist our law enforcement officials by relieving many of the frustrations of the current system. There will be no more delays, no more abuse of the system through habeas corpus petitions. It has penalties for those who use a firearm in the commission of a crime. They're the ones we ought to go after.

We also propose reforming the exclusionary rule to permit the admission of evidence that has been seized in good faith. And a meaningful Federal death penalty -- everyone's familiar with that and our position on that.

But my view is, the American people simply are tired of watching hoodlums walk, of seeing criminals mock our justice system with these endless technicalities. They want to bring order to the streets that are shaken by chaos and crime -- the people do. And yet, for more than 2 years Congress has failed to act on our proposals -- good, solid proposals -- to fight crime and to strengthen the rule of law.

So, we've got to wait and see what the final product will look like. I'm simply not going to sign just any bill, just call it an anticrime bill. And I will not sign any bill, frankly, that handcuffs our law enforcement people, our police, and that demoralizes the law enforcement community.

Now we just got word, however, this morning -- another disappointment, I might say -- but the Senate declined to adopt our exclusionary rule provision. Our proposal would have extended what they call a good faith exception of the exclusionary rule to warrant searches. This means that the evidence of serious crimes will be excluded at trial now because the officer did not have a warrant, even where the officer believes in good faith that no warrant was necessary.

So, as troubling as this is, what is worse is that the Biden exclusionary rule proposal remains in the bill. And although Senator Biden attempted to codify current case law, our view is that his language would actually make it harder to get evidence admitted as it does current law.

So, I hope the Senate will take a new look at these provisions. I hope that Congress or the House side of that Congress will act, and I can guarantee all of you who are giving a lot of your lives -- and your people are -- to law enforcement that the American people are with us in this; they want these things done. And I'm having great difficulty getting it through the Congress, so I hope the American people will speak up and let the Congress know that this kind of strong anticrime legislation has their support. We need some action.

It's a pleasure.

Note: The President spoke at 12:14 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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