Feb 15, 2017
While police unions are ecstatic over President Trump’s recent executive order calling for expanded federal support for local law enforcement, the directive was given a more critical reception by a group called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration. The libertarian-leaning group, which consists of more than 175 police officers and prosecutors, has been critical of the so-called war on drugs and what it perceives as an over-reliance on incarceration for non-violent offenses.
“We need not use arrest, conviction and prison as the default for every broken law,” wrote Ronal W. Serpas, a former police chief in Nashville and New Orleans, and former Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown in a report released last week. “For many nonviolent and first-time offenders, prison is not only unnecessary from a public safety standpoint, it also endangers our communities.”
Echoing the rhetoric of leading police unions, President Trump has described the country as being in the throes of a dangerous upsurge in violent crime. Serpas and Brown dispute that assessment, noting that the crime rate today is half of what it was in 1991.
“Dangerous, violent offenders should be behind bars,” they acknowledge, while insisting that “incarceration is not necessarily the best tool to put non-violent offenders back on the road to productive, law-abiding lives.” Too often, the current system creates “a perpetual cycle of catch-and-release that only diverts law enforcement resources from battling more serious threats to society.”
Rather than vigorously supporting the current system, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should “take leadership roles in the ongoing cross-partisan efforts to reform our justice system,” the group maintains.