From Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration:
Fighting Crime and Strengthening Criminal Justice: An Agenda for the New Administration
Forward by Ronal Serpas and David Brown
Throughout his campaign and in his first days as President, Donald Trump pledged to reduce crime and violence. In early February, in a speech to law enforcement, he stated his intentions to enact policies to curb crime, provide treatment to those who need it, and support law enforcement. We provide this report with our preferred policies on how the President can best do this.
As law enforcement veterans, we know firsthand the importance of this work. We have dedicated our lives and careers to protecting public safety, helping cut in half the 1991 crime rate.
It is critical that we continue to keep crime low. Police officers enter this profession because we care deeply about this country and its citizens. We take seriously our charge to uphold the law, and rigorously pursue those who violate it. And we take dangers head-on so that others can lead their lives free of fear and violence.
The President can help champion this effort. He can shape the national conversation, urge legislation, and steer federal dollars toward effective programs. While each community is best-suited to set its own crime-fighting practices, the federal government’s support is critical to these efforts.
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.
We need not use arrest, conviction, and prison as the default response for every broken law. For many nonviolent and first-time offenders, prison is not only unnecessary from a public safety standpoint, it also endangers our communities. Once inmates are released, they struggle to find employment, housing, and other necessities that would re-integrate them into society. Facing few legitimate opportunities, many ex-offenders return to crime. The higher the incarceration rate for such offenders, the less safe the citizenry.
We must instead consider those policies that better preserve public safety. Dangerous, violent offenders should be behind bars, but incarceration is not necessarily the best tool to put non-violent offenders back on the road to productive, law-abiding lives. For example, treatment may be preferable for those suffering from mental illness or drug addition, instead of a perpetual cycle of catch-and-release that only diverts law enforcement resources from battling more serious threats to society. Foreword 2 law enforcement leaders To better combat crime, we must improve our nation’s crime policies. We urge President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to join and take leadership roles in the ongoing cross-partisan efforts to reform our justice system. This report offers five policies the new Administration should support to forge a path to advance our common goal of a safer nation.
Serpas is the former Police Superintendent of New Orleans, Louisiana, Nashville, Tennessee and the Washington State Patrol. Brown is the former Police Chief of Dallas, Texas. They are co-chairs of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.
Read Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration’s agenda here.