(This article appears in news OpEd, Florida Today, this date.)
After serving 30 years in Miami-Dade County law enforcement — plus managing a major national security company for four more — I’ve seen my share of problems concerning life, death, crime, security and justice. There is so much to overhaul and streamline, it would exceed the limits for newsprint so I’ll narrow my views to a sampling of ideas.
If I had the magic wand, I would…
- Do away with electing sheriffs in counties by appointing chiefs/directors much like what’s done in municipalities. It has worked effectively in Miami-Dade County since 1966. Such a system diminishes politics and does away with good-old-boys, or its perception.
- Renovate the system of small city/town departments by merging local governments for efficiency. This would be more effective with the focus on services, training, and coordinating criminal matters. The four municipalities along 15 miles of Highway A1A is patrolled by four small departments under four police chiefs and its mini-bureaucracies. That could be reduced to one.
- Reduce jail and prison populations by invoking the European model, which hands out far shorter or lesser sentences while converting savings into funds for training and education.
- Help prisoners re-adapt to society after being caged for decades. A huge number of prisoners who return to society have no support system or opportunities to survive, particularly with criminal records. This often results in choice recidivism, i.e. convicts who commit crimes in order to return “home.”
- Decriminalize prostitution and establish laws that protect the consumers. This would legitimize, sanitize and control such unenforceable “crimes” that have been in the service business for centuries, regardless of laws.
- Reestablish a method by which we could identify people suffering from serious psychotic issues, even insanity, and rebuild our sanitarium systems as welcoming medical centers to treat the mentally ill — before they commit a crime, not after. This would include reserving space for prison inmates who are suffering from severe mental disorders.
- Abolish the death penalty, which is not a deterrent. It is an outrageous cost to taxpayers while the risks of killing an innocent are far too great even if only one in a thousand. The system is too flawed, as we’ve seen locally in Brevard County alone with too many innocent men being wrongfully convicted (that we know of). The state should not be in the business of killing
- Invoke a compromise in the abortion dilemma. Keep abortions legal for women in the first trimester, or fourth month, but prohibit late terms except to save the life of the mother. This should keep everyone happy without re-igniting the abortion black market, which was a nightmare for cops and courts. I know. I was there.
- Appoint a civilian committee made up of legal, social and law enforcement personnel, to redesign drug laws that would put more emphasis on control, treatment and mental health, rather than banishing users into prison cells for mega-years. That would also impact the supply side by decriminalizing many laws, thus paralyzing the black market that destroys lives indiscriminately while filling prisons.
- Do away with minimum-mandatory sentences. Statutes generally come with a certain number of years to serve if found guilty in court regardless of mitigating circumstances. Prosecutors use these laws to an advantage, often threatening defendants with long sentences while securing a guilty plea in exchange for a reduced sentence. Meanwhile, judges are stripped from exercising judicial discretion.
- Restart policies for community policing throughout America, establishing productive, eye-to-eye relationships between citizens and businesses. Just check where such programs have been enacted with success and follow that lead.
- Within strict procedural and social limits, states should allow for “stop-and-frisk” policies. It’s a policy that was enormously effective under two New York City mayors, saving hundreds of lives.
There is more, but that’s a start. Anyone listening?