Ladies and gentlemen:
As you know, we are going to have a meeting with the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration people from selected States. The participants primarily will be from California, New York, Illinois, and Colorado.
During the course of the afternoon, the Attorney General and representatives of the Justice Department, as well as some of those representing the various States, will come in to brief the press as to the matters that we have considered.
The purpose of my appearance here is to set the stage for this meeting in terms of what it means as far as congressional action is concerned, and what it can mean in terms of support of the people of the country generally.
It happens that Colorado, according to the Attorney General, has one of the most outstanding all-around records of any State of the Union in this field of law enforcement and justice under law.
It doesn't mean that there aren't crimes here. There are crimes every place. And it doesn't mean there are not some weaknesses. There are weaknesses. But Colorado has been one of the most progressive States in this respect. That is one of the reasons we selected Denver for this meeting.
We also wanted the opportunity to point out the fact that at a time that we are cutting budgets, that there is one area where we are drastically increasing budgets.
In this particular field, aid from the Federal Government to the States and to cities for law enforcement administration rose from approximately $60 million in 1969, fiscal 1969, to $280 million in 1970, and this year's budget will be in the neighborhood of $450 million to $500 million.
We feel that this is the correct priority-the correct priority because the cost of crime to the country, not just in human terms but also in terms of the billions of dollars that the criminal elements take out of our society justifies this kind of investment, an investment not only in law enforcement but in crime prevention.
One of the matters that we are going to consider here, for example, is the matter of the treatment of narcotics, the methadone treatment, which has, in this particular county under the District Attorney, Mr. McKevitt, had, we think, rather outstanding success.
With regard to the Congress generally, and I do not say this in any partisan sense, I pointed out at San Clemente a few days ago that its batting average on the various pieces of major legislation we have requested in the fight against crime was a very poor one, 1 out of 13, despite the fact that the Congress has had these various measures before it for over 12 months.
Now, if we don't get a better batting average than 1 out of 13, we are going to have to get some new batters at the plate. I am not speaking in terms of whether they be Republican or Democratic batters, because crime, as I said outside there, is not something that has any partisan label on it. Law enforcement has no partisan label on it. We have participation today of people of all branches of our government and of both parties.
But we do need a sense of urgency on the part of the Congress to pass more of the national legislation, to add to the District of Columbia bill that has already been passed, to deal with this problem: organized crime, narcotics, the whole area of pornography, and the rest. These are matters that are before the Congress. They deserve priority. And Congress should not treat this as a business-as-usual matter. This shouldn't be treated on a 9:00 to 5:00 basis.
If necessary, the Congress, before it goes back to the people for election, should hold extra sessions in order to pass these major measures, these measures which have already been considered by committee at very great length.
They can be acted upon. They should be acted upon. They aren't going to solve the problem immediately, but without them we are not going to be able to give the assistance to the States and the local communities where the primary responsibility rests, the assistance that they need, because simply providing the dollars isn't enough.
We need the other legislation where the Federal Government can use its source of information and its officials throughout the country to assist local officials in a coordinated program in this field.
Another point that I would like to make is with regard to the responsibility of the American people, and also of those in the news media in this field.
What I say is not to be interpreted as any criticism of the news media. What I say now is simply an observation of the kind of times we live in and how attitudes develop among our young people.
Over the last weekend I saw a movie-I don't see too many movies but I try to see them on weekends when I am at the Western White House or in Florida--and the movie that I selected, or, as a matter of fact, my daughter Tricia selected it, was "Chisum" with John Wayne. It was a western. And as I looked at that movie, I said, "Well, it was a very good western, John Wayne is a very fine actor and it was: a fine supporting cast. But it was just basically another western, far better than average movies, better than average westerns."
I wondered why it is that the western survives year after year after year. A good western will outdraw some of the other subjects. Perhaps one of the reasons, in addition to the excitement, the gun play, and the rest, which perhaps is part of it but they can get that in other kinds of movies but one of the reasons is, perhaps, and this may be a square observation-is that the good guys come out ahead in the westerns; the bad guys lose.
In the end, as this movie particularly pointed out, even in the old West, the time before New Mexico was a State, there was a time when there was no law. But the law eventually came, and the law was important from the standpoint of not only prosecuting the guilty, but also seeing that those who were guilty had a proper trial.
Now, as we look at the situation I think the main concern that I have is attitudes that are created among our younger people and also people as well, in which they tend glorify and to make heroes out of those who engage in criminal activities. This is not done intentionally by the press. It is not done intentionally by radio and television, I know. It is done perhaps because people want to read or see that kind of story.
I noted, for example, the coverage of the Charles Manson case when I was in Los Angeles, front page every day in the papers. It usually got a couple of minutes in the evening news. Here is a man who was guilty, directly or indirectly, of eight murders without reason.
Here is a man, yet, who, as far as the coverage was concerned, appeared to be rather a glamorous figure, a glamorous figure to the young people whom he had brought into his operations and, also, another thing that was noted was the fact that two lawyers in the case--two lawyers who were, as anyone who could read any of the stories could tell, who were guilty of the most outrageous, contemptuous action in the courtroom and who were ordered to jail overnight by the judge--seem to be more the oppressed, and the judge seemed to be the villain.
Let us understand, all judges are not heroes. All policemen are not heroes. And all those charged with crime are not guilty. But let us well understand, too, that the system, the system in which we protect the rights of the innocent, in which the guilty man receives a fair trial and gets the best possible defense, that system must be preserved. 1
1 In a meeting with reporters in Denver at 2:18 p.m., August 3, 1970, White House Press Secretary Ronald L. Ziegler said:
"The President, in his remarks to you in this room earlier, was, of course, referring to the focus of attention and the dramatics that are oftentimes put on various criminal acts, alleged criminal acts.
"Quite obviously, the President in his remarks regarding the trial now underway was referring to allegations that had been raised and are now in a court of law.
"If you take the President's remarks in the context of what he was saying, there is no attempt to impute liability to any accused. The gist of his statement was just the contrary.
"I think when he concluded his statement in reference to the system, in concluding his remarks to you, he made it very clear that it is important that in our system, as it does exist, that individuals have the right of fair trial, although, apparently, many of you understood it to mean something other than as the President intended it in his total remarks, to suggest that he was referring to something other than the obvious, and that is the fact that he was referring to the allegations against Mr. Manson and the others on trial in Los Angeles."
And unless we stand up for the system, unless we see that order in the courtroom is respected, unless we quit glorifying those who deliberately disrupt, and unless we begin to recognize that when a judge necessarily, after intense provocation, must hold individuals in contempt of court, that judge is justified, that he is acting in our behalf, then the system will break down. The innocent will suffer, but more important, and just as important, I should say, the guilty will suffer as well because in a society without law, the guilty then have no trials.
I add finally this point, that on the other side of the coin, certainly, we find that our press and media are doing a very necessary job in alerting the American people to the dangers of narcotics and drugs for our young people, the necessity for a program of law and order and justice, and all of this is part of this program that we are attempting to talk about today.
I simply summarize it in this way: The Federal Government will act as forcefully as we can to the extent that we can, recognizing that the primary responsibility is in the States and the local communities.
As Governor Love will tell you, the States and the local communities are trying to upgrade their law enforcement, upgrade it in terms not only of the enforcement of the law but of the quality of the enforcement and respect for law, laws that deserve respect.
But in the final analysis, unless the American people have within their hearts a respect for the system, the system of law and order and justice which we have inherited from over hundreds of years, then anything that we do at the governmental level will not be successful.
And it is that system that is now under attack in so many areas.
So we can be concerned about those charged with crime, we can be concerned about any evidences that those who are enforcing the law are going beyond their powers. But above all, let us remember that this system of law and order and justice must be preserved, and we must speak up for it. We must come to its defense and we must not consider that those--the judges, the police, and the others--who are simply doing their duty, that they are the villains and that those who are provoking them are always in the right.