NEWS

Police Leaders Call for National Criminal Justice, Homeland Security Assessment

By Joseph Straw

The country’s police chiefs have asked that the next president commission a major evaluation of how the country fights crime and terrorism, as law enforcement’s expanded responsibilities stretch its resources.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), which represents 18,000 law enforcement officials in the United States, calls for the establishment of a national commission on criminal justice and homeland security within the first 100 days of the new administration.

Along with the primary law enforcement concerns of violent crime, gangs, illegal firearms, drugs, and civil liberties, IACP argues that the panel must also consider the emerging issues of border security, terrorism prevention, and information sharing while addressing the overarching issue of funding.

Nationally, violent crime tracked downward through the late 1990s, then leveled off entering the middle of this decade, according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Amid that trend, IACP President Ronald Ruecker, notes that the current scope of violent crime in the country: close to 100,000 Americans have been murdered since 2001, while 8 million have been the victims of violent crime.

“The United States needs a strategic plan that embraces the reality that protecting our communities depends on our ability to fight both crime and terrorism,” said Ruecker, director of public safety in Sherwood, Oregon.

IACP’s model is the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, established in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. Two years later, the Commission issued it’s book-length report, “The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society,” providing what Johnson called “blueprints” for addressing crime on a national scale.

Charles F. Wellford, a criminology and criminal justice professor at the University of Maryland, says Johnson’s commission “brought us new ways of measuring crime, an emphasis on research needed to combat crime in a free society, and evidence of which crime prevention and control programs worked.

“A new Commission would do all of this and, given the research base we now have to work with, establish a firmer foundation for confronting crime and terrorism in the 21st Century,” Wellford said.

The IACP calls for the proposed panel to include representatives from all elements of the criminal justice community, plus outside stakeholders, and for its work be conducted in a “thoroughly nonpartisan manner.”

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