Good intentions can leave law enforcement and their communities less safe

Good intentions can leave law enforcement and their communities less safe
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For the past couple of years, efforts to change the criminal justice system have become more and more popular while leaving law enforcement officers and the communities they serve less and less safe.

We see it again last week at the National Law Enforcement Summit where former Obama administration officials and their allies are trying to get President Trump to go back on his commitment to our brave men and women in law enforcement.

The thrust of their efforts, which would end civil asset forfeiture and reforming criminal sentences, seems to come from a place of good intentions.


Unfortunately, for the people charged with keeping our communities safe, good intentions don’t buy bulletproof vests and well-meaning doesn’t stop an ex-convict from committing more violent crimes.

But the advocates for these changes, cherry-picking best and worst-case scenarios to fit their narratives, are far removed from the streets where law enforcement officers serve.

And while their hearts might be in the right place, their heads have never had to face the threats that law enforcement does daily.

While using made-up buzzwords like “low-level offender,” Washington’s elite wants us to believe that America’s prisons and jails are packed with innocent men and women.

The painful truth is that all too often, a person committing a crime has already been in prison, and in some truly awful cases — like the highly publicized murder of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin last year — the perpetrators should have still been in prison serving their sentences instead of using their early release to spill more blood on the streets and cause more pain for our citizens.

Civil asset forfeiture might sound like a dirty word in the salons and ballrooms of Washington, D.C. hotels, but the funds local departments and offices raise from selling the ill-gotten gains of drug dealers are used to buy critical equipment.


In 2010, the Niagara County Drug Task Force raised more than $118,000 from selling seized assets from drug traffickers. With that money, not taxpayer money, they were able to purchase body cameras, defibrillators for the jail and other critical equipment that helped them serve the public. This year, the same task force has raised more than $7,000.

What would most taxpayers prefer? A drug-dealer’s new boat sitting in a junkyard for years or bulletproof vests for the people who show up when they call 9-1-1?

The answer should be obvious to every lawmaker and law-abiding citizen in this country, especially when they remember that the drug dealers end up paying for those bulletproof vests instead of the taxpayers.

Our members honor the United States Constitution, and we agree with some of the stated goals of these would-be reformers, particularly when it comes to significantly reducing recidivism rates.

But misguided changes based on misleading campaigns will only lead to more crime, more blood and more pain.

Just last week, as these politicians were gathering in Washington, the FBI reported that 118 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2016. That is a 37 percent increase from 2015 and it should be a wake-up call to the people who have never stood on the front lines against criminals.

To the law enforcement community, these numbers and our brave brothers and sisters they represent demand attention and action.

It is frankly beyond our comprehension how any responsible member of Congress could see these statistics and still make it their priority to further coddle and protect criminals.

We would like to give these advocates the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they don’t know just how dangerous their policies are or what havoc would result from emptying our prisons and stripping our law enforcement agencies of the equipment they need to do their jobs.

But ignorance is no defense, and good intentions won’t keep our communities or our law enforcement officers safe.

Lawmakers would do well to remember this and the people who protect them as they consider reforms that could well cost lives.

Jonathan Thompson is the Executive Director and CEO of the National Sheriffs’ Association.