LETTER TO THE EDITOR: No evidence that death penalty saves officers’ lives

Don’t our law enforcement officers and corrections officers deserve better than guesses about what will reduce their risk of being murdered?

The outpouring of support for Cpl. Ballard and Sgt. Floyd indicates a genuine caring for these officers, their families, and colleagues. However, the support for House Bill 125, which proposes to reinstate Delaware’s death penalty, doesn’t do these officers justice.

At the recent committee hearing for the bill, supporters presented not a single bit of evidence that the death penalty saves the lives of officers. Those opposing HB 125 (including me) presented evidence that Delaware’s death penalty has failed to save lives. Prior to its being overturned last year by the Delaware Supreme Court as unconstitutional, Delaware actively used the death penalty. Yet, officers, including Chad Spicer and Joseph Szczerba, were murdered. In 2015, FBI statistics showed Delaware as having the eighth-highest murder rate. A study by the National Research Council of the National Academies found no deterrent effect of the death penalty on homicides.

Furthermore, Delaware’s death penalty rarely results in executions. Only 16 of the 60 men receiving death sentences in Delaware since 1976 were executed, and five of those were volunteers. That’s a failure rate of over 73 percent.

If Delaware reinstates the bill, those in support of Delaware’s costly death penalty will pat themselves on the back, thinking they have done something. Meanwhile, evidence-based strategies for keeping officers safe will go by the wayside.

Staffing, salaries, equipment, training, and programs based on proven best practices will struggle for funding. If we ignore these needs, then, we are complicit in future deaths of law enforcement officers. I urge readers to contact their legislators and tell them to vote “NO” on House Bill 125 and to put money saved toward proven strategies, not failed policies.

Kristin Froehlich


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