March 2016 Newsletter
Law Enforcement Leaders Call on Congress to Pass Sentencing Reform
Republicans and law enforcement continue to press Congress to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a bill they believe would protect public safety while reducing the prison population.
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Law Enforcement Leaders Chairman Ronal Serpas (far left) penned an op-ed that ran Tuesday in The Hill.
“Targeted and appropriate sentencing is a superior approach to controlling crime,” they wrote.
And last month, Law Enforcement Leaders held a standing-room-only Capitol Hill briefing with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Committee member Mike Lee (R-Utah), two of the original cosponsors of the bill.
Serpas told the crowd that his support for the bill stems from his years of experience in the field. “We were there when these tough-on-crime policies were enacted,” he said. “Now we know that we need to switch course.” Serpas was joined by Mukasey, Major Cities Police Chiefs Association President Tom Manger (top, in uniform), and former Republican U.S. Attorneys Brett Tolman and Richard Pocker.
A handful of Republicans, such as Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) oppose the measure. Cotton has said the bill “would lead to the release of thousands of violent felons.” Mukasey disagreed, saying “shortening sentences will work for public safety.”
The briefing came on the heels of two letters from law enforcement to Senate leadership pushing for the bill’s passage.
Group members have also spoken out in other forums including The New York Times, NPR, The Hill, and PBS Frontline.
Law Enforcement Leaders Active in States
Law Enforcement Leaders members are also continuing to push for reforms in their states.
James E. Johnson, former Treasury Department undersecretary for enforcement, has advocated for expanding police use of body cameras throughout New Jersey. Late last year, the state announced a new $2.5 million program to purchase more than 5,000 body cameras for New Jersey police departments.
Earlier this year, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole was invited to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box during the president’s final State of the Union address. “O’Toole was chosen for what the White House described as her nationally recognized efforts to change department policies and build community ties,” The Seattle Times reported.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck (right) and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis joined California Gov. Jerry Brown to announce a ballot initiative that could reduce sentences for 25,000 state prisoners. Beck also penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on the importance of strong police and community relationships, noting that “investigating crimes and making arrests…are dramatically hampered if we don’t have the trust and confidence of the communities we serve.”
In New York City, Police Commissioner William Bratton aims to reduce the use of criminal sanctions for minor offenses. “[Bratton] has said the filing of criminal charges should be the last option when dealing with recalcitrant offenders but cops must have the discretion to decide when to issue summonses or make arrests,” Newsday reported.
Read more about the activities of group members in Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Oregon.
Member Spotlight: San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis
At the Law Enforcement Leaders launch, members discussed why they decided to join the group.
Bonnie Dumanis (left) has been San Diego County district attorney since 2003. She also served as a San Diego deputy district attorney for 12 years. Here’s what she had to say about joining:
“I’m joining Law Enforcement Leaders with a powerful message from across the nation. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials are coming together to say we can keep you safe as well as reduce those who are in prisons and find alternatives to custody at the same time.”
Watch her testimonial and others here.
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