Election 2016: Who Can Ever Forget It?
As a person of faith, retired police officer, and university lecturer in criminal justice, I went to bed just before midnight last night very puzzled. It was clear that Donald Trump would be our next President and that conservative thought dominated the election.
I voted twice for President Obama. And I confess I was an early supporter of Bernie Sanders. Yesterday, I voted for Hillary Clinton as much a statement to support women and despite her support of the death penalty which I vehemently oppose on so many levels.
Donald Trump was not my choice. Yet I think I becoming to understand why he will be sitting in the White House for the next four years. Democrats got too excited about having a woman president and failed to see that was going on the negatively impacted a great number of fellow Americans who were sick and tired of a failed Congress, no jobs, international terrorism, the global economy, spiraling healthcare costs, and the elitism (and success) of white, college graduate liberals like me.
America is a great country. We can come together. And we can improve our system of government.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking about how all this might affect the future of justice in America…
The death penalty:
Both Trump and Clinton favored the death penalty while both Third Party candidates opposed it. The saying “as California goes, so goes the nation,” bodes trouble for abolishing the death penalty. In this election, California not only re-affirmed it, but passed legislation that would expedite its use. Oklahoma, has the highest number of executions per capita in our nation and it voted to provide protections in its state constitution for use of the death penalty. It the first state to ensure the legality of the death penalty by placing it within its state constitution. Also in this election, Nebraska restored its death penalty. For years now, the nation has been split with regard to the death penalty (currently it is 60/40 in favor, the lowest support in 40 years) regardless of the fact that the death penalty primarily impacts poor people, those of color, and without adequate legal representation.
Somehow, somewhere, sometime we have to confront the gun problem in our nation. We cannot continue to grieve and mourn victims of gun violence without addressing the proliferation of firearms and the ability of persons of questionable character and background to purchase and possess them.
The Supreme Court:
The direction of our Supreme Court will continue with the current election. With a President and Congress actively supporting gun rights, corporate financing of elections, the low standard of police use of deadly force, broad “search and seizure” requirements for police, and sanctioning “pro-choice,” there will be a continuing legal challenges that will involve public protest, and, subsequentally, police involvement.
No doubt the election was a wake-up call for many women in our nation. The glass ceiling remains and the successes of women during the last 40 years with regard to equality in employment, medical decisions, education, holding public office, and harassment-free workplaces may be under question. Women consist of more than one-half of our electorate, yet they were unable to elect a woman to our highest office. Hopefully, this does not result in a chilling effect in the need to have women police, prosecutors, judges, and correctional officers. It would be a great loss if women were to turn away from participating fully in our criminal justice system.
I cannot imagine what our large undocumented population are thinking today (as well as those new citizens who are Muslim). Many of us in policing have opposed the use of local police as supplemental immigration officers because it jeopardizes those in our community by making them potential victims of crime. This simply happens because undocumented persons would be reluctant to report crimes against them and family members for fear of deportation.
Many police leaders have worked long and hard to keep the peace while responding to public protest and protecting that First Amendment guarantee. If police are expected to quickly and forcibly suppress protest in our society it will not contribute to their trust or support among those who wish to exercise that right. The nation has already seen great variation between how police handle protesting white ranchers and those involving Native Americans.
Community-Oriented Policing, the COPS Office, and other nationally-based reform efforts since the 80s, the recommendations of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century policing, and the use of consent decrees to force police improvements may be de-emphasized. What this means for the “cop on the street” remains to be seen. There is a danger that pre-election talk about “getting tough” and “rising crime rates” may mean less focus on controlling police behavior and opting for getting tough on crime.
A push toward law and order could result in judges imposing longer sentences, a renewed interest in prosecuting low-level drug offenses, overlooking bail-reform, avoiding community-based corrections, and choosing prison over rehabilitation.
With prison overcrowding a major issue among both Republicans and Democrats, something may happen. However, other issues such as private prisons, stringent sentencing guidelines, enforcement of low-level drug offenses, excessive use of solitary confinement, revoking prisoners and probationers for low-level violations of their supervision, mentally ill persons in jails and prisons, and use of the death penalty will continue to be controversial and areas in need of reform.
One of the major advances in both corporate and governmental leaders over the years has been the practice of less-coercive and collaborative leadership styles. The traditional top-down, coercive style of the past is being replaced by one that is less-coercive, more collaborative, and which values the input of rank and file workers. Hopefully, the negative and often bombastic tone of the past election campaign will not influence this style of leadership.
The future will soon be here and it will not be one in which those of us who call ourselves white will be the dominant group that influences elections. I sense that people of color, especially those who are of Hispanic descent, will not be dissuaded from being active in our government and system of justice. I believe our futurists are right; America will continue to grow in its diversity. This will be a major challenge to our values, our nation, and our government.
All in all, I really don’t know how President-elect Trump sees the criminal justice system. Does he believe we need reform in so many areas, or not?
Now we’ll have to see who he appoints and is confirmed to the Supreme Court, who he chooses to be his Attorney General, who is appointed to various federal judgeships, and his relationship with FBI Director Comey.
All things considered, it’s now time to come and work together for a better and inclusive America.
- For more read today’s Marshall Report.