David M Jackson, USA TODAY
Law enforcement organizations are calling on presidential candidates — particularly Donald Trump — to endorse an overhaul of the criminal justice system that can help reduce crime and improve relations between police and the communities they serve.
“We believe there is an urgent need for the next Administration to help promote the public safety of this country, reduce recidivism, and reform sentencing policies,” said an open letter to the candidates from representatives of nationwide police chief and prosecutor organizations.
The groups said that overly harsh drug sentencing laws have swelled prison populations to the point where other aspects of law enforcement are being undercut.
“Though this may seem counter-intuitive, we know from our experience as law enforcement officials that over-relying on incarceration does not deter crime,” the groups said in the letter. “As prison budgets have continued to rise, funding for state and local law enforcement has been slashed, negatively impacting innovative work in the field including diversion programs, updating information-sharing systems, and smart policing tactics.”
Ronal Serpas, chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, said the need for reform is critical in light of last week’s police-related shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas.
“Ending unnecessary arrests and incarceration, moving police resources away from petty crimes and toward violent ones, and strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities are practical and realistic changes that can happen right now,” Serpas said. “All Americans want a safe place to live. These are concrete steps we can take to help us all move forward together in this challenging time.”
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton supports most of the organization’s goals, including federal sentencing reform.
Trump, who is fleshing out his law enforcement and criminal justice programs, proclaimed himself the “law and order” candidate and pledged support for the police in the wake of the recent killings of five officers in Dallas.
“America’s police and law enforcement personnel are what separates civilization from total chaos and the destruction of our country as we know it,” Trump said.
The letter to the candidates was signed by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National District Attorneys Association and the Police Foundation.
“Collectively our membership includes more than 30,000 law enforcement professionals — current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, district and assistant district attorneys, attorneys’ general and U.S.Attorneys from all 50 states,” it said.