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Smart choices for public safety

Banner endorses Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins and former state rep. Warren Tolman for attorney general

Melvin B. Miller
Smart choices for public safety
“He’s planning to run for sheriff. He’s tried everything else!” (Photo: Dan Drew)

When an election is imminent, residents of the black community hope for someone to come forward to stop the violence and reform the criminal justice system. These hopes usually go unfulfilled, but that might change with the election of Steve Tompkins for Sheriff and Warren Tolman for Attorney General.

Suffolk County Sheriff

Most Americans learned about sheriffs from the movies. Cowboy films with such heroes as the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, Paladin and their ilk generally portray the sheriff as the one who maintained law and order. It was natural to grow up believing that Americans had created the office of sheriff to keep the peace in the Wild West.

However, those with a greater interest in knighthood and chivalry knew from the story of Robin Hood that his primary adversary was the Sheriff of Nottingham. In fact, Americans adopted the office of sheriff from the Anglo-Saxons as the primary law enforcement officer of the counties. Steve Tompkins has served effectively as the sheriff of Suffolk County and he should be re-elected.

A major responsibility of the sheriff is to assure that the inmates and pre-trial detainees are secure in the county jails. But Tompkins does more than that. He has determined that the most important strategy to protect public safety is to assure that his inmates do not return to a criminal way of life upon release from jail.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, two-thirds (67.8 percent) of inmates released from prison in 30 states in 2005 were arrested again in three years, and three-quarters (76.6 percent) were arrested in five years. Much of the crime that citizens have to endure is the work of repeat offenders.

With a highly professional, racially diverse staff, Tompkins manages vocational training programs to prepare inmates for jobs that he has obtained for them upon release. Other programs encourage at risk youth to make right decisions about their activities. Tompkins is helping to reduce crime by diverting citizens from the commission of criminal activity.

A vote for Tompkins for sheriff is a vote for a safer Suffolk County.

Massachusetts Attorney General

The jurisdiction of a sheriff is restricted to the borders of his county, but the attorney general’s responsibilities are statewide. The attorney general can interpret existing law to establish public policy, or use his or her influence with the state Legislature to gain support for laws that will effect that policy. The important issues for the voters are what policies will the AG advocate and what clout does the AG have to gain the support of the Legislature.

As a former state representative and state senator, Warren Tolman has extensive contacts on Beacon Hill. This experience will help him push his agenda in the Legislature. And what is more important, the issues of greatest interest to Tolman are gun violence and putting an end to mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenses, matters of great concern to the community.

Tolman has earned the hostility of the National Rifle Association with his advocacy of a law to require that guns sold in Massachusetts must be so-called “smart guns” — those with a personalized trigger mechanism. He also wants to establish a direct AG outreach to assist district attorneys in violent neighborhoods.

Once in office, Tolman would be absorbed in resolving many of the criminal justice problems that plague the community. Banner readers should support and vote for Warren Tolman for attorney general.