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Peters unveils bill to review criminal justice system

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

With the backing of two Republican U.S. Senators, Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters on Tuesday introduced legislation that would create a National Criminal Justice Commission to review the U.S. criminal justice system.

According to Peters, the intent of the commission is to scrutinize the justice system from top to bottom and to propose reforms to issues facing the system.

“Recent incidents, like the traffic stop of Floyd Dent in Inkster, and civil unrest in areas like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, have highlighted the need ... for an evaluation of our criminal justice system,” Peters said.

“With a troubling rise in tensions between police and civilians in communities in Michigan and across the country ... it is clear that an overhaul of our justice system is long overdue.”

According to Peters, the last comprehensive review of the justice system took place in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson with the creation of the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.

That commission report offered 200 recommendations that have shaped the current criminal justice system, including the creation of the 911 system, the establishment of research organizations like the Bureau of Justice Statistics and improved training and professionalization for law enforcement.

“Things have changed dramatically since 1965 and it’s time to take another look at the justice system,” Peters said.

The legislation would create a 14-member, bipartisan National Criminal Justice Commission made up of Presidential and Congressional appointees, including experts on law enforcement, criminal justice, victims’ rights, civil liberties and social services.

It would be charged with completing an 18-month, comprehensive review of the national criminal justice system, including federal, state, local and tribal criminal justice systems.

It would issue recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices and laws to reduce crime, increase public safety as incarceration and the the reentry of felonies to society.

“The Police Officers Association of Michigan supports Sen. Peter’s bill to create a commission to review law enforcement from top to bottom,” said the group’s legislative director Kenneth E. Grabowski.

“In too many instances, the line police officer is forgotten about in the making of decisions for the law enforcement community. But, when things go bad, it's the line officer who first gets blamed. It is time for a major review.”

Michigan Fraternal Order of Police State President J.P. Sadowski also endorsed the legislation.

“The Michigan Fraternal Order of Police supports Senator Peters’ legislation that would create a National Commission on Law Enforcement ... to make recommendations that will improve policing, the administration of justice and our nation’s criminal justice system as a whole.”

Peters introduced the legislation with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas.

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