Fact Check

Did Bernie Sanders Blame Cops for Crime?

Here's an actual quote from Sanders: "Criminal justice reform must be the civil rights issue of the 21st century."

Published Feb. 21, 2019

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Senator Bernie Sanders said in a speech that cops were to blame for crime.

In February 2019, a bit of text supposedly documenting a portion of a speech delivered by Senator Bernie Sanders, in which the Vermont legislator allegedly blamed police for crime began to circulate on social media:

“The way criminals have been treated by law enforcement when they break the law is nothing short of a national disgrace. How are criminals supposed to show they can behave better if they are locked inside cages [jails] like animals by law enforcement?” He continued, “Just because someone car-jacked someone on a Tuesday doesn’t mean they can’t be a changed person Thursday and perhaps if the cops weren’t creating a culture of fear, criminals wouldn’t feel the pressure to commit these crimes; it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy and it’s time for a change.”

The Thin Blue Brotherhood Facebook page, for instance, shared this text if it were an "ACTUAL QUOTE" from Sanders:

This quote, however, can't be traced back to any remarks delivered by the 2020 Democratic presidential contender. This statement originated with a satirical article published on the BlueNewsNetwork website on 16 February 2019.

That website states in its "About Us" page that all of its content is satirical in nature:

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a satirical news website. While some stuff may bear a strong resemblance to the truth, we assure you it is most decidedly bullshit. We are just a few bored cops who thought we would make sport of triggering people and having a little fun at the expense of rookies, dispatchers, and troopers. If you don’t like what we are doing here, I am sorry to tell you that we do not care. Have a great life, and stress less about the things you cannot control, like what we write on this site.

For the cops on the road, you have our respect, even if we tease you a little. Be careful, and come home safe.

Although the rumor that Bernie Sanders had "blamed cops for crime" during a speech originated with a satirical article, the Vermont senator has expressed criticism of the criminal justice system. During his 2016 presidential campaign, for instance, Sanders said that criminal justice reform was the "civil rights issue of the 21st century":

For too long in this country politicians have used getting tough on crime as a wedge issue to win elections. It is clearly about time to start talking -- as we have in this election -- about the really disastrous effects of too many politicians trying to win too many elections by locking too many people up.

All of this has led to the tragic reality that we -- the United States of America -- have more people in jail than any other country on earth. We have more people in jail than China which is an authoritarian state with a population many times our own. And we should lay it all right out on the table. People in American jails are disproportionately people of color. That’s the reality in America today. That’s a reality that has to change.


Blue News Network.   "Bernie Sanders Blames Cops for Crime, Says 'Time for Change.'"     16 February 2019.

BernieSanders.com.   "Presidential Justice Forum at Allen University."     21 November 2015.

BernieSanders.com.   "Sanders Calls Criminal Justice Reform the 'Civil Rights Issue of the Century.'"     21 November 2015.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.