International Police Forum on the Death Penalty

Fighting Crime in the U.S. and Internationally: Is the Death Penalty Necessary?

A Unique Conversation Between U.S. and European Law Enforcement

On October 13, 2010, officials from the U.S. and Europe held what may have been the first international forum of law enforcement officers on the merits of the death penalty in reducing violent crime. The officers discussed whether capital punishment actually helps to keep citizens safe, assists healing for victims, and uses crime-fighting resources efficiently. The panelists addressed issues such as deterrence, closure to victims’ families, and costs as compared to alternative sentences. The panel was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and was moderated by Richard Dieter, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center. Elizabeth Zitrin, Coordinator of International Outreach and Communications at Death Penalty Focus and Laura Porter, Director of Organizing at Equal Justice USA offered opening remarks, and their organizations co-sponsored the event with DPIC. The officers’ also answered questions from the media and the public in attendance. The forum was followed by similar presentations at the Delegation of the European Union in Washington, D.C.

“I … know that in practice, [the death penalty] does more harm than good. So while I hang on to my theoretical views, as I’m sure many of you will, I stand before you to say that society is better off without capital punishment… Life in prison without parole in a maximum-security detention facility is a better alternative.”

-Police Chief James Abbott of West Orange, New Jersey, the Republican appointee to the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission.

Click here for the video of Chief Abbott’s remarks.

“Out of the 100 or more cases that I was personally involved in… in the vast majority of those, I do not think deterrence would have been an issue at all.” He continued, “If you were to use execution of killers as a deterrent, I think you would end up having to execute every killer in the hope that you might deter some potential killer in the future. I think the deterrence argument, while I do not dismiss it, is very, very weak.”

-Former Detective Superintendent Bob Denmark of Lancashire Constabulary, England.

Click here for the video of Detective Superintendent Denmark’s remarks.

“Nobody can assure that the death penalty can contribute to reduce the number of the most horrible crimes. In Portugal, we have – without the death penalty – one of the lowest statistics [rates] of violent crimes.”

-António Cluny, Senior Attorney General and Public Prosecutor from Portugal.

Click here for the video of Attorney Cluny’s remarks.

“What we need to do from a law enforcement perspective is to be smart on crime, not to be hard on crime… I couldn’t find evidence that the death penalty did any good here in the district, as a police officer… What we ought to be is smart on the crime. All of the money that we spend on the death penalty every year, I can imagine what that money can be involved in, if we used it in education and training for police… investing in things that can really make a difference in our community.”

-Ronald Hampton, Executive Director of National Black Police Association International Leadership Institute and a 23-year veteran of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

Click here for the video of Officer Hampton’s remarks.

Photos by abe@​ncadp.​org and M. Louden

Photos by and M. Louden

Additional Resources:
To learn more about law enforcement officials’ views on the death penalty, read DPIC’s report “Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the Death Penalty in a Time of Economic Crisis.” (contains results of a national poll of police chiefs in the U.S. on the death penalty).

Read more about Costs, Deterrence and Victims.

DPIC’s Press Advisory for the event.

Biographical information on the panel members.

Descriptions of sponsoring organizations.