A group of 200 current and former police chiefs and prosecutors released a five-part public safety blueprint this week for the Trump administration, which is gearing up to follow through on the president’s law and order vow.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was sworn in last Thursday, the same day President Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at reducing crime and protecting cops. On Monday, the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration released a 22-page report for the president. “Fighting Crime and Strengthening Criminal Justice: An Agenda for the New Administration” points to some of the holes in the Trump administration’s law and order strategy, as well as errors of the past.
“We urge the Administration and Congress to carefully consider new crime policies, and adopt and support those that fight crime effectively. Decades of experience have convinced us of a sobering reality: today’s crime policies, which too often rely only on jail and prison, are simply ineffective in preserving public safety,” wrote Law Enforcement Leaders co-chairs Ronal Serpas and David Brown in a foreword to the report. Serpas is the former Police Superintendent of New Orleans, and Brown is the former Police Chief of Dallas.
One of Trump’s executive orders signed last week defines new federal crimes and outlines penalties in an effort to protect police officers. Another one seeks to dismantle and prevent drug trafficking. A third creates a task force which will work to reduce violent crime.
Prioritize Fighting Violent Crime
Taking aim at the drug trafficking and violent crime task force orders, the Law Enforcement Leaders said the orders don’t go far enough.
They “do not target their language and efforts on fighting violent crime — the most serious threat to our public safety. Instead, they encourage law enforcement to focus on crime more generally. Federal resources are imperative to combat crime across the country, but failing to direct these resources toward our most immediate and dangerous threats risks wasting taxpayer dollars.”
The leaders said Sessions should direct law enforcement and the Justice Department’s 93 U.S. Attorneys’ offices “to prioritize their resources toward investigating, arresting, and prosecuting violent and serious offenders.”
Restore Funds for Community Policing Programs
Another concern for the leaders is the issue of community policing. “Hostile relationships between communities and law enforcement are a national concern and can benefit from a national solution,” reads the report.
According to the leaders, Congress allocated $1 billion annually to the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services program from 1995 to 2002. The program advances community policing efforts through state and local grants. The allocation is down to $200 million in the last three years. And while the funding dwindles, the Trump administration wants to cut it completely.
The agenda cites a report from The Hill, which outlines a Trump administration budget plan that would cut all funding to COPS. “We urge the president, instead, to request more funding in his next budget to Congress for the COPS Office to continue strengthening and expanding local community policing,” reads the report.
“Local police need these resources to mend community relationships, and in so doing, further reduce crime and enhance public safety,” the report continues.
Mental Health, Recidivism and Sentencing Reform
Another agenda item the leaders outlined includes a call to increase mental health and drug treatment, noting that “law enforcement officers are not mental health or addiction professionals,” and “jails and prisons cannot properly treat the mentally ill or addicted.”
“Few who need treatment receive it while incarcerated — only 27 percent of those with a mental illness, and only 11 percent of those suffering from addiction. As a result, when these people are released they are, at best, no better off than then they went in — and often worse,” reads the report.
The leaders urge President Trump to expand in-prison job training and education programs for inmates to help combat recidivism. They also support a pending bill that would reduce mandatory minimums on nonviolent crime.
“Law and order comes best when we have smart policing,” wrote Serpas and Brown. “It need not be a synonym for unnecessary arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. We know that doesn’t make us safer.”
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