April 2016 Newsletter

Law Enforcement Leaders Press Lawmakers for Sentencing Reform

Law Enforcement Leaders have taken to local outlets to press their case for passing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which is currently working its way through the Senate as lawmakers aim to negotiate a compromise.

Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney wrote in The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, that the nation is at a “critical juncture in its criminal justice policies” and it’s time to “join the movement for change” by supporting sentencing reform.

Several members of the state’s Congressional delegation have yet to get behind the bill, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.). Supporters of the measure say it will protect public safety while reducing America’s prison population.

Richard Pocker, a former U.S. Attorney for Nevada, called the Act “the epitome of bipartisan cooperation,” in a piece for the Reno Gazette-Journal, and urged Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to support the bill.

“We recognize that the system now needs to be fixed, and our current sentencing laws do not guarantee a safer America,” he wrote. Pocker also attended a Capitol Hill briefing earlier this year with two of the original cosponsors of the bill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Committee member Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Kevin Joyce, sheriff of Cumberland County, Maine, expressed his frustration about locking up those suffering from addiction and mental health problems. He asked Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) to support the bill.

“Spinning around in this revolving door doesn’t solve any problems and it directs resources away from finding and punishing violent criminals,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Lewiston Sun Journal. “They are the ones who pose the greatest threat to the safety of my community.”

Member News from New York, Massachusetts

As Law Enforcement Leaders speak out in support of criminal justice reform at the federal level, they’ve continued to be at the forefront of state reforms.

The Associated Press reported that New York City Police Department Commissioner William Bratton swore in Tracie Keesee as the Department’s new deputy commissioner of training. She helped start the Center for Policing Equity, and was the project director for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. She said she plans to build on Bratton’s efforts to grow relationships with the community and promote de-escalation policies.

Albany Police Chief Brandon Cox is supporting a new initiative that will give officers in his department some discretion in handling low-level offenders instead of automatically putting them into the criminal justice system. The Albany Times-Union reported the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program “will divert low-level criminals away from jail and into treatment services for addiction and mental illness.”

“We’re fed up with the way the system is, too, and we want to change it,” Cox said. “This is a no-brainer.”

And, last month, Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian was joined by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker for the official opening of the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction’s unit for military veterans, which will hold 18 inmates. Koutoujian “says the unit creates a community among incarcerated veterans who can share their military experiences and support each other,” reported Boston’s NPR station.

Members have also spoken out about President Barack Obama’s clemency policy in The New York Times, talked about new police department policies with a Los Angeles ABC station, and discussed federal Medicaid expansion in the Portland Press Herald.

Click here to read more news about members.

Member Spotlight: Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner

Kenton Buckner (left) has been the Little Rock Police Department chief since June 2014. Before that, he was in the Louisville Metro Police Department for 21 years.

“I joined Law Enforcement Leaders because the city of Little Rock is experiencing some of the issues that have been identified nationwide, particularly incarcerating individuals for nonviolent offenses that are taking up a lot of the jail space and prison space. We believe that would be better served for violent individuals, and some alternative measures taken to address many of those nonviolent issues, specifically mental illness and substance abuse.”

Watch his testimonial and others here.