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A Grim Assessment of Law and Order Today

In a March breakfast with Federal City Council (FC2) trustees, Chuck Rosenberg, the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, offered a sobering appraisal of the state of gun violence, law enforcement safety and drug abuse in the United States today.

Rosenberg noted that 120 people die daily of opioid overdoses in the United States. Those numbers have increased significantly with the arrival of synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl, and the spread of “a pain management and a pill culture” that encourages widespread opioid use.

“We are 5 percent of the world’s population, and we consume 99 percent of hydrocodone and 80 percent of oxycodone,” says Rosenberg, who also was a former chief of staff to the FBI director and a former federal prosecutor. “What are they doing in the rest of the world for pain? We have essentially sucked up the entire market.”

Rosenberg was joined at the breakfast by Chuck Miller, the FC2 general counsel and senior counsel at Covington & Burling; Pat Burke, Executive Director of the Washington, DC Police Foundation and Mike Anzallo, Assistant Chief of Police in the Investigative Services Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department.

When asked about recent school shootings, Rosenberg said he opposes giving guns to school personnel because there is no way to ensure they are sufficiently trained. Additionally, law enforcement officials most likely would not be able to distinguish between a shooter and a teacher with a gun, and might accidentally kill the teacher.

“Unless we knew we could ensure a high level of training, professionalism and competency in the schools, putting more guns in the schools is exactly the wrong thing to do,” said Rosenberg, who also opposes the sale of assault weapons, ballistic vests, bump stocks and armor-piercing rounds. 

Rosenberg said there has been some good news, as cities across the United States have seen violent crime rates decrease, including homicide rates. In the District, homicides have been meaningfully reduced in the last 20 years. In 2017, there were 116 homicides, compared with 280 in 1998.

“Violent crime rates have dropped dramatically,” said Rosenberg. “We’re now seeing some spikes in some cities, such as Baltimore, Chicago and Houston, that are very troubling and running against the general trend.