Messaging for Law Enforcement

From left,  Judge George Grasso , New York City Criminal Court Judge, former First Deputy Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, with  Domingo Herraiz , Director of Programs, International Association of Chiefs of Police

From left, Judge George Grasso, New York City Criminal Court Judge, former First Deputy Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, with Domingo Herraiz, Director of Programs, International Association of Chiefs of Police

Key Messages

  • Guaranteeing that every person accused of a crime has the right to a lawyer is a fundamental American right that is written into our Constitution.

  • Providing competent legal representation is necessary to prevent innocent people from going to jail.

  • A lack of funding in many places has resulted in people accused of minor crimes waiting in jail as long as six months to have a lawyer assigned to them and a hearing held.

The law enforcement members are more likely to be convinced to advocate for more resources for public defenders by message statements that highlight the constitutional requirement of public defense, preventing innocent people from going to jail, and making the criminal justice system fairer and more efficient. Another effective message in the law enforcement group cites people waiting in jail for six months because of a lack of public defenders. Yet this group is unenthusiastic about a message about overly burdensome caseloads. This is curious since most law enforcement participants expressed the view that they believe public defenders are overburdened. It appears that they agree with this statement of the problem (overburdened public defenders). However, it is their interest in seeing the system work fairly, efficiently, and constitutionally that motivates them, rather than a concern for the day-to-day experiences of public defenders. They prefer saying that improving public defense will "ensure" rather than "restore" a constitutional right. Several would rather that the statement asserting that better public defense will lead to fewer ruined lives apply to all people rather than only to young people.