8. The Fraternal Order of Police supports the creation of a national commission to examine our nation’s criminal justice systems and to make recommendations to Congress based on their findings. A similar commission established in 1965 resulted in a huge step forward for the profession of law enforcement and the criminal justice system at every level of government. We believe that the integrity and credibility of such a commission depends on it being created by an act of Congress, not an executive order. To this end, the FOP supports the passage of S. 306, the “National Criminal Justice Commission Act.” Would you sign this bill into law and would you support such a commission? How would you ensure that the Fraternal Order of Police and the interests of its members are represented on such a commission?
Obama: Although communities and law enforcement professionals have worked to achieve significant gains in public safety in the last few decades, the United States’ criminal justice system continues to face significant challenges. Over the past 25 years, the U.S. prison and jail population reached an all-time high and the number of people on probation and parole doubled. In 2009, nearly 7 million individuals were under supervision of the state and federal criminal justice systems. Yet despite these significant expenditures, far too many offenders return to drug use and crime upon their reentry into society.
To address these and other challenges in the criminal justice system, my administration has consistently supported law enforcement and community policing efforts, gang violence prevention, and drug treatment. Our National Drug Control Strategy encourages the implementation of a continuum of evidenced-based interventions to protect the safety of the community while addressing the needs of offenders. My administration will continue to focus efforts and resources on key activities and policy issues that will advance an effective and efficient criminal justice system. A blue-ribbon commission could help clarify the choices our country faces in addressing its criminal justice challenges.
Romney: Although I believe our national criminal justice systems need to be studied and improvements made, where appropriate, I do not believe meaningful and cost-effective reforms will come from a blue ribbon panel that removes accountability from our policy makers and political leaders. In my view, the best model for federal criminal justice reform can be traced to the strong leadership efforts during the Reagan administration to champion several groundbreaking initiatives, including transformational bail and truth-in-sentencing reforms. The best recipe for meaningful future reforms to our criminal justice system is strong presidential and executive branch leadership to propose and champion such reforms. As president, I would value and insist upon gaining the full participation and candid views of local, state, and federal law enforcement in any study or evaluation of our nation’s criminal justice system. The views of the Fraternal Order of Police would be a key and core component of my administration’s engagement with law enforcement.
9. The FOP has long been concerned about foreign governments providing shelter for criminals who commit murder or other serious violent crimes in this country, and subsequently flee to another. The FOP strongly opposes normalization of relations with Cuba until this issue is resolved, but travel restrictions that were in place for decades have recently been relaxed. We have been equally critical of other governments, including France, Israel, and Mexico, on this same point. At the FOP’s Biennial National Conference in 2007, our membership adopted a resolution urging the President of the United States and the Congress to take any and all measures necessary to enforce the 1978 Extradition Treaty made between the United Mexican States and the United States of America, “including, but not limited to the cancellation or renegotiation of the Extradition Treaty” and imposition of sanctions “including but not limited to rescinding all financial aid and support to that Government and any and all benefits afforded to that Government under the North American Free Trade Agreement” to ensure that those who commit crimes of violence in the United States are extradited and prosecuted under the laws of the United States. What steps will you and your Administration take to place pressure on Cuba, Mexico and other foreign governments that provide safe harbor for those who commit crimes of violence in the U.S.? Will you pledge to make sure that your Administration fully addresses the issue of extradition of existing and future fugitives when considering agreements with foreign governments?
Obama: Cooperation with U.S law enforcement efforts, including observance of the letter and spirit of the extradition treaty, is a key component of the shared relationship between Mexico and the United States. With respect to Mexico and other countries, my administration will continue to use the full range of diplomatic and political resources at its disposal to emphasize the importance of such cooperation and achieve improvements where necessary.
Romney: As a general matter, the United States has a compelling and legitimate interest in ensuring that individuals who commit violent crimes in this country are extradited and prosecuted under the laws of the United States. In dealing with foreign governments, my administration would consider the full range of options, from diplomacy to sanctions, to ensure that criminals are brought to the United States to face justice.
I have made it clear that my administration would take a tough approach with Cuba, including reinstating remittance and travel restrictions and ending the policies of appeasement that have been pursued with a predictable lack of success by the current administration. Throughout the last several decades, Cuba has become a safe haven for cop killers like Joanne Chesimard, who murdered a law enforcement officer in New Jersey, and Charles Hill, who was involved in the murder of a law enforcement officer in New Mexico. Cuba has refused to extradite these and other violent criminals to the United States to face prosecution. That is unacceptable, and any path towards normalized relations with Cuba must also include an agreement to extradite for prosecution those who have committed violent crimes in the United States.
Mexico’s track record is somewhat better in this area, particularly after a 2008 ruling by that country’s Supreme Court permitting extradition to countries where the accused could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. Nonetheless, Mexico continues to harbor violent fugitives who could face the death penalty in the United States. One foreign nation’s extradition policy should not dictate law enforcement or prosecution decisions in the United States. As president, I will work to ensure that Mexico continues to improve its extradition record with the United States, and that the issue of extradition is fully addressed when considering new agreements with foreign governments.