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Top law enforcement to Trump and Clinton: Reducing arrests, imprisonment would promote law and order

Loyola press release - August 3, 2016

Leading the pack is Loyola criminology professor and retired New Orleans police superintendent Ronal Serpas.

Leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent nonpartisan law enforcement organizations joined forces Wednesday to call on the presumptive presidential nominees to embrace policies that would both reduce crime and incarceration. Embracing such changes together will not only promote public safety, they could also help repair relationships between police and communities, which have been deeply strained after the recent tragedies in Dallas, Minnesota, and Louisiana, officials say.

Leading the pack in this effort is Loyola professor of practice of criminology Ronal Serpas, a retired Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department who now serves as chair of the national organization Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.

“In the wake of the tragedies last week, it’s even more critical to reform and strengthen our criminal justice system,” said Serpas, who joined Loyola’s criminology department in fall 2014. “Ending unnecessary arrests and incarceration, moving police resources away from petty crimes and toward violent ones, and strengthening relationships between law enforcement and communities are practical and realistic changes that can happen right now. All Americans want a safe place to live. These are concrete steps we can take to help us all move forward together in this challenging time.”

In a letter to Republican Donald J. Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, leading groups representing more than 30,000 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, district attorneys, attorneys’ general and U.S. Attorneys from all 50 states called for sensible steps to address burgeoning prison populations. They say curbing unnecessary incarceration will reduce crime by redirecting resources where they’re most needed — to apprehend and bring to justice the most dangerous and serious offenders.

This call for criminal justice reform marks the first time the law enforcement community has united with one voice to ask major party candidates to support reducing imprisonment. The move is a powerful reversal from law enforcement’s past support of rigid sentencing laws, and signatories asked the candidates to consider the expertise and perspective that led them to the change of heart.

“We believe there is an urgent need for the next Administration to help promote the public safety of this country, reduce recidivism, and reform sentencing policies,” the letter reads. “Though this may seem counterintuitive, we know from our experience as law enforcement officials that over-relying on incarceration does not deter crime.”

The letter specifically calls on the next presidential administration to:

  • Redirect resources toward reducing violent crime instead of squandering them on arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning low-level offenders, and those suffering from mental illness and addiction.
  • Address the burgeoning national prison population by allowing lower-level offenders a chance for redemption through alternative punishments that are proven to reduce recidivism and rehabilitate.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

At home, Serpas and colleagues are working with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other organizations to review the state of criminal justice reform in Louisiana, including the many efforts and points of progress in recent years, as well as additional opportunities in the future. Joining the conversation are a variety of political leaders, lawyers, law enforcement and legal experts.