Death penalty no deterrent, police chiefs say

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Police chiefs consider the death penalty one of the least effective tools for halting violent crime and the least effective use of taxpayer money, according to a nationwide poll of police chiefs released today.

The survey of 500 randomly selected police chiefs included interviews with 35 chiefs in Pennsylvania and eight in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The survey asked the chiefs to rank expanded use of the death penalty among crime fighting deterrents like adding more officers on the street, reducing drug abuse, improving the economy and adding job opportunities, eliminating barriers to prosecution, increasing sentences, and adding better lab technologies and databases.

Overall, the officers ranked "more officers" as a top priority followed by reducing drug abuse. One percent of the chiefs interviewed ranked the death penalty as a top priority.

Fifty-seven percent of the chiefs said they did not view it as a deterrent to crime.

Dale Vietmeier, Robinson Police Chief and former president of the Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association, agreed.

"I think law enforcement thinks it's a joke and that's probably why 1 percent thinks it's effective. It takes too long and there's too many people on death row that never get put to death," he said. He said he'd rank cutting drug addiction and boosting the number of officers as his top priorities.

In the context of a faltering economy, the Death Penalty Information Center also released a study today of the cost of the death penalty to states that pursue capital cases. New Jersey discovered the death penalty was three times as expensive as life without parole.


Gabrielle Banks can be reached at gbanks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.


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