Nobody likes to get arrested for drugs. Those tight handcuffs, the jail time, the fact that you get your drugs taken away. All are bummers. But who would have guessed that the dudes in blue hate making the arrests almost as much as the dudes they arrest?
That’s what the gathering of law enforcement officials in Washington D.C. last Wednesday was all about. Well, more generally, it was about a call to reduce the U.S.’s prison population, which is, as it happens, the largest ever in world history. Less generally, it was about tactics for reducing the country’s horrific incarceration rate like un-harshing drug laws.
“After all the years I’ve been doing this work, I ask myself, ‘What is a crime, and what does the community want?’” Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, one of the officials who serves as a chairman to the organization, told the New York Times. “When we’re arresting people for low-level offenses — narcotics — I’m not sure we’re achieving what we’ve set out to do. The system of criminal justice is not supporting what the community wants. It’s very obvious what needs to be done, and we feel the obligation as police chiefs to do this.”
The happening was attended by more than 130 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors from places where a lot of people go to jail such as Los Angeles, New York, Denver and Chicago. Like McCarthy, these top brass pigs want to find a way to stop arresting people for crimes no one cares about.
The catchy title for this initiative is Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration and, according to them, they are committed to identifying and implementing solutions to simultaneously reduce crime and incarceration” with the “goal of building a smarter, stronger and fairer criminal justice system.”
The group released a “Statement of Principles” last week, putting forth some pretty common sense ideas like “adopt[ing] policies that prioritize mental health and drug treatment instead of arrests and prosecution,” reclassifying non-violent felonies and (maybe coolest of all), reforming mandatory minimum sentencing – the implementation of which decades ago is one of the leading factors that contributed to our grotesque prison population problem.
The group (probably not all 130 of them) also met with President Obama Thursday.