Police Chiefs Call for National Commission on Criminal Justice Issues: Cite Lack of Trust, Corruption, Police Violence, Racial Profiling 8/4/00

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The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has called for the next US President to establish a national commission to conduct a comprehensive review of law enforcement and the administration of justice in the US. (The full text of the call, "A Measured Response to Crime: IACP's Call for a National Commission," is available at http://www.theiacp.org/leg_policy/commcall.htm online.)

The IACP is the world's largest and oldest grouping of law enforcement executives, with 18,000 members in more than 100 countries.

Although the IACP's Board of Directors approved the call in March, and the organization announced it in an April 7th press release, mass media coverage has been spotty. (In fact, the report first came to DRCNet's attention this week.)

Harkening back to the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson empanelled the Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice as the ashes of Watts still smoldered, the police chiefs asked the major party presidential campaigns to make the creation of a new commission a high priority. They asked both candidates to agree to issue an executive order authorizing the commission as one their first acts in office.

Neither campaign has yet decided to support the call, the IACP's Sara Johnson told DRCNet. "They are both considering it," she said.

In their statement, the police chiefs said that "the time has come, once again" for "a comprehensive review of law enforcement and the administration of justice in the United States and to provide the nation with a measured response to crime."

"We stand at a critical point in our history where the public's trust and confidence is in question. And, in truth, these concerns encompass not only law enforcement but spread to all the participants in the criminal justice system -- to the courts, to prosecutors along with corrections and probation officials," said the IACP's call.

The IACP said it hoped the commission could "serve to ensure justice, to maintain order and peace, and to secure a trusting and confident relationship between the people of the United States and their criminal justice system."

The police chiefs identified a number of problems that led them to call for a new commission. Saying there is a "serious and widening gap" between police and communities, the police chiefs located its causes in "highly publicized incidents of use of force, racial profiling, corruption, and instances of unethical behavior of police officers and executives."

Many citizens, said the chiefs, believe the problems are "widespread and deeply rooted."

"Clearly they have a problem and apparently they're feeling the heat," Dan Maccallair of the Justice Policy Institute (http://www.cjcj.org/jpi/) told DRCNet.

Robert Bauman, who sits on the board of directors of Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (http://www.fear.org), agreed. Somebody finally figured out how bad law enforcement's image really is," Bauman told DRCNet. "Between the municipal scandals -- Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, and so on -- and the overall impression from having two million people in prison, the justice system has a real problem."

The police chiefs' call also contained some guiding principles for the proposed commission. It suggested that the commission study all elements of the criminal justice system, that its composition be broad and include outsiders, and that the role of new technologies be explicitly addressed.

The words "drugs" or "drug policy" do not appear in either the call itself or a subsequent press release.

FEAR's Bauman told DRCNet he had introduced a motion that the group endorse the police chiefs' call, but with two important caveats. "First," said Bauman, "the commission must explicitly address the war on drugs and its enormous impact on police procedures and corruption."

"Second, said Bauman, "we'll support it provided it is not loaded with police and prosecutors," said Bauman. "The commission must have a broad spectrum of public opinion."

When told that the IACP proposal called for broad participation, Bauman laughed. "Well, since FEAR was involved in getting some modest reform of federal asset forfeiture laws, maybe they'd like to hear from us. I've certainly got some suggestions."

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Issue #148, 8/4/00 The Shadow Convention: Drug Reformers Flex Muscles in Philadelphia | Canadian Appeals Court Calls Marijuana Laws Unconstitutional, Ottawa Must Act or Marijuana Could Be Legal in Ontario Next Year | Police Chiefs Call for National Commission on Criminal Justice Issues: Cite Lack of Trust, Corruption, Police Violence, Racial Profiling | A Barrel Full of Bad Apples: Police Corruption and the War on Drugs | Salt Lake City Mayor "Just Says No" to DARE | Follow That Story: Clinton Sets Juan Raul Garza Execution Date | From Real Life: Lawrence and Lamont Garrison | US Justice Department Petitions Supreme Court to Overturn OCBC Ruling | 9th Circuit Says Immigrants Cannot Be Deported For Expunged Drug Offenses | AlertS: Colombia, Mandatory Minimums, California, New York, Washington | HEA Campaign | Event Calendar | Washington, DC Job Opportunity for Public Interest Attorney, Other Positions | Editorial: Whitman's Victim
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