Policing the 2016 U.S. Elections


Greetings! I am finally coming out of hibernation and back in the saddle and just in time to chime in on one of the most important things going on this year – the 2016 elections.

Electing a new president is always an important task for Americans to do every 4 years. Sadly given the amount of people not registered, or those who are registered to vote (in any election), we the people do not seem to really give a rats ass about electing people as much as we should based on local, state, and nationwide numbers tallied in the amount of people who actually exercise their right to vote. Since the time I turned 18 I have virtually not missed a major local, state, or nationwide election. I’ve missed a small level election here and there no doubt, but I have made it a point to vote as often and as regularly as I can. If the person I vote for loses then I have every right to bitch about the person who won for whatever term they have, assuming they are not producing in the way I would hope they would. In many cases voting does make a difference, especially in smaller, local elections. In 2013 in NYC approximately 24% of registered voters came out to vote in which 75% of them voted for Bill Deblasio, a decision many are now regretting and which may make for an interesting 2017 NYC election. This year we are facing a very different election cycle for president which has confounded even the most astute political pundits who thought for sure they had it down 6 to 9 months ago when it first ramped up. What has unraveled since then is astonishing for most and frightening for some.

I did an online questionnaire poll recently which quantified how much of a conservative and/or liberal you are. I came out as 52% conservative and 48 % liberal which sounds about right as I have always considered myself a progressive moderate. That’s one of the things that makes this upcoming presidential election challenging for me as there is no “automatic” choice for me to choose from either side (for me personally). Many people I know will only vote along party lines, so whomever the nominee of their party is it doesn’t matter who is on the other side because they will consciously, or blindly, follow their parties pick. I do not subscribe to that and while I have many times voted with the party I am currently registered with I have a number of times crossed over to vote for an opposing candidate. Believe it or not each party does have choices in it that you may find more appealing than the ones running in your own party so it is always a good idea to window shop all sides and vet each person out based on their own strengths and merits. See that’s one of the things a lot of people don’t want to do these days is take the time out to watch debates, or go to a town hall, or do some research to see what each candidate is all about which is only doing a disservice to themselves. Especially when it comes to an election such as this one where the stakes couldn’t be any higher. To give you an example, anyone who personally knows me will tell you that I am not a fan of the previous president. He seems like he would be a fun guy to watch a football game with but it still sends chills down my spine to think that W (at the behest of Cheney and others) was running our country (into the ground) for 8 years. A natural instinct would be to automatically discount his brother Jeb when this election cycle started just because. While I did have my early apprehensions about him, I took some time to listen to him speak and see what ideas he had for the future of our country. The determination I made was that I kind of wished he had been president instead of his brother (if we were able to go back and we had to choose between the two of them), but for this contest I did was not spurred to want to follow Jeb as I found him as exciting as taking an Ambien. If he and Carson were together it would be like taking an Ambien while watching paint dry. But I digress…my point is that for a brief moment I took the time to vet him out as I did with all of the candidates running and was fine when he decided to depart along with all of the others who have departed stage right.

Some people are “one issue voters” in that if a candidate is against the 2nd amendment or pro-abortion that makes that candidate dead to them almost immediately. Certainly there are some main, core issues that a candidate has to be on my radar with in order for me to flip the level next to their names, but as you have seen with candidates past and present you will almost never get a candidate who you agree with 110% so you have to get as close as you can in order to feel good about your selection. Also, it’s not only about you because candidates, while trying to represent you, are representing the many at the end of the day. It seems nowadays the “many” are corporations or super pacs with lots of money far beyond what you and I could possibly muster up from our profits of our garage sale or lemonade stand. That makes voting on a large scale election like this even more daunting of a task which is why so many don’t even bother because they feel their voice will not be heard. What is interesting about this election cycle is that you have “outsiders” such as Bernie Sanders (who to me is more of an insider than an outsider) and Donald Trump who is a clear outsider having no governmental experience whatsoever. A number of people are tired of the same old same old in Washington and want new fresh blood in there to break up with same old game of the establishment screwing us over. I can be down with that concept in that change is good and people who park themselves in comfortable positions will be more likely to help themselves to the pie before offering a slice to anyone else. That would also suggest that 100% of the politicians on a local, state, or federal level are completely bought and sold and could care less about the American people. While I think a number of them seem to act that way I do believe there are a number of them that do go into office looking to do the right thing and some do, while many say they will and maybe accomplish a fraction of what they said they would, and of course there are those who don’t get much of anything accomplished. If you can manage to get someone into an elected position who agrees with most of what your “issue” concerns are then you can only hope they will get enough done within their stay in office which will touch on at least some of the issues you are passionate about and then chalk that up to them being a successful pick. While some people are happy with mediocrity and not someone gut renovating the “system” it seems that we are getting to a point where more people are starting to see that it is long time past that we get people into office who are not looking to appease special interests only but are willing to work for the collective well being seeing the bigger picture that we are stronger together than we are in bits and pieces.

This blog (as you may have read in prior posts) largely revolves around law enforcement issues, good, bad, or otherwise. I am a fierce advocate of law enforcement and many times have had to defend them in some very hot button, high profile cases such as Ferguson and Eric Garner among others. I will opine on the actions of police and defend them based on the facts and evidence presented at the time. There are times where some cops have done some really stupid and in some cases illegal things in which I will also be the first one to come out and call shenanigans on them if that is the case. In my opinion those people do not belong in the profession I have staunchly defended ( and put my life on the line for ) because they reinforce the negative opinions many people have about the police and I have zero tolerance for that kind of behavior. I do truly believe that the overwhelming majority of police officers do their jobs bravely and professionally every day and we should be thankful for their service (next time you see one it wouldn’t a bad idea to say thanks – they would likely appreciate it). Because law enforcement has been under the spotlight in the last couple of years I was curious how the current remaining candidates for president, in both parties, have either voted or responded when asked about police, law enforcement or police-community relations issues. This is of course hitting close to home with me after spending nearly a quarter of a century in law enforcement, almost 22 years worth with the NYPD alone. I compiled a few snippets from http://www.ontheissues.org/Crime.htm as well as excerpts from N.Y. Times reports from the candidates to give you an idea as to where their mindset is on law enforcement related issues. Given the state of affairs in our country between strained relations between police and some communities and what has been deemed by some as a cold shoulder or unsupported feeling by the current administration towards policing it is important to consider where the candidates stand on this issue. Remember while the great men and women of our armed forces are at the front lines of defending out country, our police are at the front lines of defending out streets from those who prey on all of us for their own selfish and criminal reasons. Who is best to provide policing with the tools and training they need to help them better service our communities? Who will support law enforcement on all levels, especially when some of them won’t make it home to their families at the end of their shift because they made the ultimate sacrifice for us? This to me is an important issue because without basic safety and security, we as a society can’t accomplish virtually anything and the think blue line between order and chaos is thinner than you would know.

So let’s see how they stack up:

Former Sec of State Hillary Clinton
Former Sec of State Hillary Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D)

Mrs. Clinton has been the forefront of American public policy since the early 1990s, but her record on criminal justice reform is complex. In a speech earlier this year, Clinton laid out an ambitious agenda. “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America,” Clinton said at a forum hosted by Columbia University shortly after Freddie Gray died while in Baltimore police custody, sparking destructive riots. “There is something profoundly wrong when African-American men are still far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than are meted out to their white counterparts.” “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America.”
Clinton has called for mandatory police body cameras, rolling back federal programs providing military hardware to civilian police forces, diverting low-level offenders to alternative punishment programs, improving relations between police forces and minority communities through grants for community policing initiatives. She also wants to help law-enforcement officers buy homes in the communities they serve and eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent, low-level offenses.

In short, Clinton’s policies largely echo that of Sanders, her closest rival.

However, when Clinton’s husband occupied the Oval Office, his administration either put in place or, at least, fully supported many of the tough-on-crime policies criminal justice reform advocates argue are the root of the current tension between police officers and the communities they serve. “We need more police,” then-First Lady Clinton said in a 1994 speech. “We need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The ‘three strikes and you’re out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.”

Over time, Clinton’s rhetoric on crime and the war on drugs in particular have softened—just as the percentage of Americans listing high crime rates as a top political concern has dropped. “I think that the results not only at the federal level but at the state level have been an unacceptable increase in incarceration across the board, and now we have to address that,” Clinton said in a 2007 speech, during her last presidential campaign. “But we’ve got to take stock now of the consequences, so that’s why … I want to have a thorough review of all of the penalties.”

…and on the death penalty:
“I think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare.”
Mrs. Clinton has said that the death penalty has been applied too frequently and often in a discriminatory way, but she does not favor its abolition. – N.Y. Times

Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Bernie Sanders

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, (D)

As many of the independent senator’s supports will readily attest, Bernie Sanders has been a public supporter of civil rights for decades—he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. However, the progressive movement’s standard bearer had largely shied away from directly addressing the fundamental criminal-justice reforms at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. As such, Sanders has been repeatedly targeted by activists critical of his platform’s largely color-blind economic populism. The culmination of this tension occurred last weekend, when a pair of African-American activists barged onstage a Sanders rally in Seattle, interrupting the the senator’s speech.

“The chants are growing louder. People are angry, and they have a right to be angry.”
The activists’ goal in creating tension with the Sanders campaign was to push the most liberal major party candidate in the race, the one whose political philosophy most closely aligns with their own, to foreground the issues they care about. It worked. Sanders released a major policy statement on his website under the title “Racial Justice.” The plan, which earned plaudits from leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement, called for the demilitarization of America’s police forces, federal funding for mandatory police body cameras, requirements for all law-enforcement agencies to collect data on all police shootings as well as everyone who goes into police custody, the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing, and an end to private prisons.

“Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Samuel DuBose. We know their names. Each of them died unarmed at the hands of police officers or in police custody. The chants are growing louder. People are angry, and they have a right to be angry,” wrote Sanders in his policing reform plan. “We should not fool ourselves into thinking that this violence only affects those whose names have appeared on TV or in the newspaper. African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.”

…and on the death penalty:
“The state itself, in a democratic, civilized society, should itself not be involved in the murder of other Americans.”
Mr. Sanders took to the Senate floor in October to make a case against the death penalty, offering an implicit contrast with Hillary Clinton. – N.Y. Times

Sen. Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz (R)

He voted to convert regulatory crimes into civil offenses stating:

“The number of federal criminal offenses would now exceed 4,600. But even that does not capture the full scope of our overcriminalization epidemic because many federal regulations carry criminal penalties. If those regulations are included in the tally, then the total number of federal offenses could reach a staggering 300,000. Congress and the president should work together–perhaps through a commission–to scrub the entire US Code, eliminating crimes that are redundant and converting regulatory crimes into civil offenses.
Perhaps most importantly, Congress should enact legislation that requires the government to prove the defendant knowingly violated the law–or that, at least, allows a mistake of law defense–for certain classes of crimes that have no analog in the common law or that no reasonable person would understand to be inherently wrong. Where the government has criminalized non-blameworthy conduct for regulatory purposes, ignorance of the law should be a valid defense to criminal liability.”
Source: Brennan Center for Justice essays, p. 32-3 , Apr 28, 2015

World Court should have no say in Texas executions:
Ted Cruz argued and won a US Supreme Court case against 90 nations to guarantee the right for Texas and the US to carry out justice for a brutal murderer and rapist, without being subject to the laws of the World Court.
Ted successfully represented Texas in Medellin v. Texas [a capital case which resulted in the 2008 execution of Jos‚ Ernesto Medell¡n], which upheld US sovereignty and held that the World Court cannot bind the US justice system.
Source: Campaign website, www.tedcruz.org, “Issues” , Jul 17, 2011
Fully monitor sexual predators & bring them to justice

As Solicitor General, Ted Cruz played an essential role in helping crack down on the growing scourge of sexual predators. He defended the primary state law at the Texas Supreme Court that ensures sexual predators will be fully monitored and brought to justice.
Cruz successfully defended the constitutionality of Texas Sexually Violent Predator Civil Commitment law before the Texas Supreme Court, allowing the state to fully monitor predators determined to threaten children.
Source: Campaign website, www.tedcruz.org, “Issues” , Jul 17, 2011
Supports the death penalty.

Cruz supports the CC Voters Guide question on the death penalty
Christian Coalition publishes a number of special voter educational materials including the Christian Coalition Voter Guides, which provide voters with critical information about where candidates stand on important faith and family issues. The Christian Coalition Voters Guide summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: “Capital punishment for certain crimes, such as first degree murder & terrorism”
Source: Christian Coalition Voter Guide 12-CC-q8 on Oct 31, 2012

…and on the death penalty:
“I believe the death penalty is a recognition of the preciousness of human life: that for the most egregious crimes, the ultimate punishment should apply.”
Mr. Cruz has expressed support for the death penalty in the cases of the Boston Marathon bombing and the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C. – N.Y. Times

Gov. John Kasich
Gov. John Kasich

Governor John Kasich (R)

In an interview he responded to the following questions:

Save money by converting prisoners to taxpayers:
Q: You talk about the fact that, when you die, you’re not going to be asked at the pearly gates if you cut enough government spending, but did you help people who need it most? Beyond Medicaid domestically, where else does that principle guide you?
A: Well, it relates to things like early childhood education, poor kids, people who are in prison, giving them a chance to get their lives back if they want to earn their way there. But let me say that I knew that, number one, we would save money by taking people out of prison and letting them get a job where they could become a taxpayer. To me conservatism is giving everybody a chance to be able to be successful.
Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 16, 2015
Community must understand challenge of police & deadly force

Q: On police violence against innocent people: are you doing enough in Ohio to ensure that routine traffic stops, routine 911 calls, don’t end up with dead bodies?
A: We came out with a unanimous recommendation to create a statewide policy on the use of deadly force, and examination and recruiting and hiring practices [amongst police forces]. And now it is really critical that the community understands the challenges of police and that police can understand what is going on inside the community.
Source: CNN SOTU 2015 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 9, 2015
Death penalty is consistent with justice & Christian values

Q: Would you support ending the death penalty in Ohio?
KASICH: I don’t agree with that. Look, we’re just looking for the drugs that we need to administer it. And in this debate, sometimes we forget the victims. Listen, I review all these cases. And to some people I’ve said we will let them stay for life in prison if I wasn’t certain of who did what. But I’ve had these grieving families come to see me. And look, it’s about justice. It isn’t about revenge, it’s about justice. And I support the death penalty and will continue to do that, because a lot of times, families want closure when they see justice done.
Q: What about religious objection to the death penalty?
KASICH: I think it’s consistent with my Catholic faith. If I didn’t, I’d have to exorcise it. But look, at the end of the day, I’m also a secular official, right? I’m also the governor. Now, it doesn’t mean that my faith doesn’t influence me. But I have a job to do as administrator of the state of Ohio.
Source: Meet the Press 2015 interviews of 2016 presidential hopefuls , May 31, 2015

There’s a wonderful adage in the Bible: “Don’t judge another person when he has a speck in his eye, because you have a log in your own.” I read a line like that and set it alongside the stuff of my life and come to the conclusion that judgment is not our job. It’s God’s job to sort that stuff out. And let’s not forget that justice doesn’t always happen here on earth. When we think in our own minds that somebody is getting away with something he shouldn’t or that a certain punishment wasn’t severe enough to fit the crime, we get frustrated. Sometimes we see justice on this side of the grave, but I have the faith to believe that the ultimate judge, the highest judge, will bring justice in the long run.
But that’s justice–sometimes now but many times later.
Source: Every Other Monday, by John Kasich, p.212 , Jun 15, 2010

Columbine: Community involvement, not new laws.
[Regarding the Columbine High shootings, Kasich said that] passing laws in Congress to address schoolhouse violence wasn’t the way to respond to the event. “I prefer to leave it to the families and communities,” he said. “The easiest thing to do is pass a series of laws and say, okay, that fixed it. The harder responsibility is yours and mine,” he continued. “It’s whether you become a Little League coach or spend more time with the neighbor’s kids, that’s what fixes it.”
Source: The Concord (NH) Monitor, “Fly Fishing”, 5/2/99 , May 2, 1999
Voted NO on funding for alternative sentencing instead of more prisons.

Voted on an amendment that would reduce the funding for violent offender imprisonment by and truth-in-sentencing programs by $61 million. The measure would increase funding for Boys and Girls Clubs and drug courts by the same amount.
Reference: Amendment sponsored by Scott, D-VA; Bill HR 4690 ; vote number 2000-317 on Jun 22, 2000
Voted YES on more prosecution and sentencing for juvenile crime.

Voted to pass a bill to appropriate $1.5 billion to all of the states that want to improve their juvenile justice operations. Among other provisions this bill includes funding for development, implementation, and administration of graduated sanctions for juvenile offenders, funds for building, expanding, or renovating juvenile corrections facilities, hiring juvenile judges, probation officers, and additional prosecutors for juvenile cases.
Reference: Bill introduced by McCollum, R-FL; Bill HR 1501 ; vote number 1999-233 on Jun 17, 1999
Voted NO on maintaining right of habeas corpus in Death Penalty Appeals.

Voted on an amendment to delete provisions in the bill that would make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts [‘Habeas Corpus’].
Bill HR 2703 ; vote number 1996-64 on Mar 14, 1996
Voted YES on making federal death penalty appeals harder.

Voted on a bill to make it harder for prisoners who have been given the death penalty in state courts to appeal the decision on constitutional grounds in the federal courts.
Bill HR 729 ; vote number 1995-109 on Feb 8, 1995

Voted NO on replacing death penalty with life imprisonment.
Amendment to replace death penalty crimes in the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill with life imprisonment.
Bill HR 4092 ; vote number 1994-107 on Apr 14, 1994

Supports capital punishment for certain crimes.
Kasich supports the CC survey question on capital punishment.
The Christian Coalition voter guide [is] one of the most powerful tools Christians have ever had to impact our society during elections. This simple tool has helped educate tens of millions of citizens across this nation as to where candidates for public office stand on key faith and family issues.
The CC survey summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: “Capital punishment for certain crimes, such as first degree murder & terrorism”
Source: Christian Coalition Survey 10-CC-q8 on Aug 11, 2010
More prisons, more enforcement, effective death penalty.

Kasich signed the Contract with America:
[As part of the Contract with America, within 100 days we pledge to bring to the House Floor the following bill]:
The Taking Back Our Streets Act:
An anti-crime package including stronger truth in sentencing, “good faith” exclusionary rule exemptions, effective death penalty provisions, and cuts in social spending from this summer’s crime bill to fund prison construction and additional law enforcement to keep people secure in their neighborhoods and kids safe in their schools.
Source: Contract with America 93-CWA4 on Sep 27, 1994

…and on the death penalty:
“I support the death penalty and will continue to do that because a lot of times, families want closure when they see justice done.”
Mr. Kasich has said the death penalty “isn’t about revenge; it’s about justice.” – N.Y. Times

On a personal note, I recently read a story which surfaced about Kasich publicly calling an officer who gave him a traffic ticket ( 5 or 6 years ago ) an “idiot”. I reached out to the Kasich campaign to confirm the story as I was about to be part of a town hall with Megyn Kelly on Fox News in reference to one of the GOP debates, and they confirmed that incident did occur but the governor did apologize publicly and also invited the officer to his office where apologized privately to him directly. They all apparently moved on from that incident and it is not rearing it’s head since Kasich is still in the race and by defacto is still a threat to the other current GOP candidates.

Businessman Donald Trump
Businessman Donald Trump

Businessman Donald Trump (R)

Donald Trump’s unexpectedly successful run for the Oval Office began by him stoking fears of crime—specifically sexual assaults committed by undocumented immigrants from Mexico. It’s part of Trump’s long history of making public statements in favor of strong, extremely aggressive policing and punishment.

“The perpetrator is never a victim. He’s nothing more than a predator.”
“We can have safe streets. But unless we stand up for tough anti-crime policies, they will be replaced by policies that emphasize criminals’ rights over those of ordinary citizens,” wrote Trump in his 2000 book The America We Deserve. “Soft criminal sentences are based on the proposition that criminals are the victims of society. A lot of people in high places really do believe that criminals are victims. The only victim of a violent crime is the person getting shot, stabbed, or raped. The perpetrator is never a victim. He’s nothing more than a predator.”

Decades ago, Trump involved himself in the case of five minority teenagers who were accused of brutally raping a female jogger in New York’s Central Park in 1989 by taking out full-page ads calling for the death penalty for the assailants. Over a decade later, another man, previously unconnected to the case, admitted to the attack; all charges against the original suspects where withdrawn, and the city of New York eventually paid out a $40 million wrongful-conviction settlement.

Since then, Trump’s views on crime seem to have shifted little. When asked recently about the complaints of the Black Lives Matter movement on NBC’s Meet The Press, Trump said, “Well, I can certainly see what’s going on, but at the same time we have to give power back to the police because we have to have law and order. … We have to give strength and power back to the police.”

(In a debate response Mr. Trump also stated that the police are some of the most mistreated people in America)

“I have always been a big believer, and continue to be, of the death penalty for horrendous crime.”
After a woman was viciously attacked while jogging in Central Park in 1989, Mr. Trump took out full-page newspaper advertisements that declared, “Bring back the death penalty.” – N.Y. Times

Again, in fairness, all of the above was sourced from www.ontheissues.org and / or the N.Y. Times.

Generally, it seems that the Democratic contenders have been more concerned with courting the Black Lives Matters movement to garner more black vote than coming out strongly in support of law enforcement while the Republican candidates seem to be more in line with a more pro-law enforcement stance, which probably explains why many law enforcement personnel seem to lean Republican more often than Democratic nowadays. Once the field narrows down to 1 vs 1 and the debates start up I would imagine (during a discussion on domestic issues) that this subject will come up and each nominee will give a set of final thoughts as to how they, as commander in chief will play a role in law enforcement based on their current record and opinions.

I am very much looking forward to seeing who will emerge as the final 2 candidates to go up against one another in the November election. I am hoping for our country’s sake it is someone most qualified to do the job as they will have their hands full in the next 4-8 years.

About Tom Verni

As a retired NYPD Detective with nearly 22 years of experience as a Community Policing Officer, Certified Police Academy Instructor, City-Wide Community Affairs Liaison, and Crime Prevention Specialist, Tom Verni has a wide breadth of public speaking experience and extensive knowledge in various aspects of police training and community relations. He is now able to pass along this knowledge to law enforcement or other organizations seeking to enhance the skill sets of their personnel via training seminars. Tom is also available to media outlets for consulting services regarding crime issues or police related incidents.