Our nation is living in a moment unlike any we have experienced in recent memory. Sparked by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police, people across the country are expressing their outrage with police brutality and frustration with the racism and injustice Black and other communities of color face in our country.

As a group of former homeland and national security leaders and experts from across the political spectrum, we share this sense of outrage and frustration. We affirm the Constitutional rights of Americans to peaceably assemble and petition the government, a right at the heart of our democracy and enshrined in the First Amendment. We oppose the use of the active duty military to patrol the streets of our cities in response to the ongoing protests. Our laws and time-tested experience carefully delineate the proper roles of civilian and military authorities, including the use of national guard units under the authority of state governors to support police. The deployment of active duty military forces must be reserved for the most extreme circumstances, and the mostly peaceful protests across the nation did not warrant such a response. We fundamentally believe that securing our streets during this time of protest and unrest is the job of our state and local civilian police departments with the support of federal law enforcement agencies and elected officials.

We do not tolerate the destruction of our communities or violence, and perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted. But we reject a militarized response to protests to deny citizens their constitutional rights.  Moreover, the blanket use of the label “terrorists” to justify the use of para-military and military force is both factually wrong and legally unsupportable—contradicting core constitutional principles. Simply put, this nation has been through challenging times before, and we believe our law enforcement and homeland security institutions are best situated both practically and legally to address these challenges.

We join with our fellow citizens who seek a more just and secure America. It is time to adopt meaningful reforms on the use of force and accountability and transparency.  Responsible policing is essential in a democracy, but police must not abuse the power granted to them nor be excused simply because they wear a badge. At the same time, we should ensure police departments receive the funding they need to focus on their primary duty to ensure the safety of our communities, while providing adequate resources to focus on training, diverse recruitment, and de-escalation techniques. Finally, the federal government must show leadership in analyzing data on police performance so we can understand national trends and systemic challenges to equitable policing.  Such measures are necessary to maintain trust in our law enforcement community and to make sure the American people are truly protected and served by their police.

We pledge to be allies in the work to heal the wounds of racism, injustice, and oppression. To implement positive and lasting progress we must come together and unite behind the ideals of this nation’s founding—that we are all created equal and deserve equal treatment under the law.

  1. Michael Chertoff
  2. P.J. Crowley
  3. Jane Harman
  4. Michael Hayden
  5. David Heyman
  6. Brian Michael Jenkins
  7. Juliette Kayyem
  8. Cathy L. Lanier
  9. Michael Leiter
  10. James Loy
  11. Alejandro Mayorkas
  12. John McLaughlin
  13. Lisa Monaco
  14. Matt Olsen
  15. John Pistole
  16. Daniel Prieto
  17. Tom Ridge
  18. Robert N. Rose
  19. Suzanne Spaulding
  20. Jessica Stern
  21. Miles Taylor
  22. William Webster
  23. Evan Wolff