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Opinion: Police officials argue death penalty doesn't make us safer
By James Abbott, Antonio Cluny, Bob Denmark and Ronald Hampton
Over the past decade, executions have dropped by more than 50 percent and the number of death sentences has steadily declined, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. As police and law enforcement officers with decades of experience in fighting crime in the United States and Europe, we believe that societies are better off without the death penalty. We recently came together in Washington, D.C., for the first international dialogue among law enforcement professionals about the death penalty and found important areas of agreement.
Europe has abandoned the death penalty, but European countries have lower murder rates and higher rates of solving homicides than the United States. In the United States, states with the death penalty generally have higher murder rates than states without it. For example, southern states have the highest murder rates and account for 82 percent of all U.S. executions. The deterrence argument is weak and it goes against our experience investigating serious crimes: the majority of offenders do not think through the consequences of their actions. In fact, they do not think they will ever be caught.
The death penalty, as it is applied, is too random to effectively deter potential offenders. If you execute a contract killer, for example, it would not deter a terrorist. If you execute a terrorist, it would not deter a young man who breaks into a house, gets startled, and shoots the owner.