U.S. News

Justice Department names new acting head of drug enforcement agency

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday it tapped Robert Patterson, a career investigator, to temporarily lead the Drug Enforcement Administration, after the drug office’s previous acting chief stepped down.

Patterson, considered the highest-ranking special career agent at the DEA, has been serving as the agency’s principal deputy administrator since November 2016.

He started his DEA career in the New York Division in 1988.

Chuck Rosenberg, a holdover from Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, left his job on Sunday. His departure came two months after he criticized Republican President Donald Trump for telling law enforcement officers not to be “too nice” to suspects.

It is unclear who will ultimately be named to permanently lead the DEA. Trump has yet to put forth a nomination.

Rosenberg had led the DEA as acting administrator since 2015. Prior to that, he was chief of staff to former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired in May.

The United States is facing a major opioid drug epidemic and the Justice Department has been stepping up efforts to police it.

There are also questions about whether the Justice Department will take a more aggressive approach toward enforcing federal laws prohibiting the use of or distribution of marijuana.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney