- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

In the wake of the death penalty moratorium fiasco, the juvenile boot-camp crisis, and the federal grand jury investigation into the possible misuse of funds at the state office overseeing crime-control programs, to name just a few, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is understandably desperate to attain some semblance of credibility when it comes to handling the crime issue a question which will go a long way toward deciding the governor's race.

She has good reason to be concerned. The 15-point lead she previously held over Republican Rep. Robert Ehrlich in the governor's race has been transformed into a statistical dead heat: A statewide poll conducted from Aug. 10-18 by Gonzalez/Arscott Research shows Mrs. Townsend leading by a 47-43 margin.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Townsend seems to believe that her political fortunes will change if she runs campaign ads claiming credit for helping to put 100,000 new cops on the street. That's a huge mistake, because those 100,000 police are, at best, an exaggeration a creation of former President Clinton's spin machine.

At issue is something called the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, approved as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Although Mr. Clinton and political allies like Mrs. Townsend have long sought to claim that COPs put another 100,000 police officers on the street, at least three studies suggest the actual number was less than 60,000. For example, the Urban Institute predicted that the number of officers hired and deployed under COPS would not reach more than 57,200. In September 2000, the Heritage Foundation estimated that the number would peak at 57,175.

"Despite $9 billion in federal spending, the Community Oriented Policing Service's 100,000 new police claim is another Washington fraud," investigative journalist James Bovard wrote in The Washington Times in September 2000. The federal government, Mr. Bovard found, made no effort to verify claims of new hires.

What Mrs. Townsend is hoping, of course, is that media won't challenge her on whoppers like "100,000 new police." But even if she is challenged on that one, it's certainly preferable to receiving tough questions from the media and from her Republican opponent, Mr. Ehrlich, on some of the following crime-related issues:

• The juvenile-justice "boot camp" debacle. After Gov. Parris Glendening appointed her "crime czar," which included overseeing juvenile-justice reform, the result was a disastrously run system of "boot camps" for juvenile delinquents. After the Baltimore Sun ran a series of stories showing that young criminals at the camps were routinely beaten up by sadistic guards, juvenile-justice officials agreed to pay 900 of the delinquents $4 million as part of a legal settlement.

• Pretrial supervision of juvenile criminal suspects. Since late July, at least three teen-agers, supposedly under the supervision of Mrs. Townsend's state Department of Juvenile Justice, were charged in separate slayings after slipping off their home-detention monitors and hitting the streets. It would be interesting to know what this state agency, which is supposedly under Mrs. Townsend's control, is doing to prevent this from happening in the future.

• The investigation of the state crime-control office. A federal grand jury is investigating grants awarded to at least three Prince George's County non-profit groups by the Maryland Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), which Mrs. Townsend has overseen since 1995. U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio has been seeking documents related to more than $500,000 in federal grants which were to have been spent on rehabilitating 200 juvenile criminals in Prince George's County. One of the programs, which Mrs. Townsend oversaw, was plagued by administrative problems. Its leaders included a number of Democratic P.G. politicians, including state Sen. Gloria Lawlah, an ally of Mrs. Townsend. The lieutenant governor has dismissed the investigation as "political garbage," presumptively on grounds that Mr. DiBiagio is a Republican who is colluding with Mr. Ehrlich (never mind the fact that he's been quite willing to openly defy Mr. Ehrlich's wishes on other matters, and the fact that Democratic crime-office staff members have also complained about the questionable nature of some of their assignments). On Tuesday, the FBI subpoenaed the work records of Donald Franklin, a researcher and speechwriter for Mrs. Townsend, as part of its ongoing investigation of the GOCCP.

• The death penalty moratorium. Mrs. Townsend, who claims to be a supporter of the death penalty, came out in favor of a moratorium on executions in Maryland, despite the fact that there is no evidence that any of the 13 persons on death row in the state are innocent of the murders for which they were convicted. Mrs. Townsend said she did this in order to make possible a probe for racial "bias" against non-whites in the administration of capital punishment in Maryland, even though none has been shown to date. One of the first beneficiaries of the moratorium, instituted by Mr. Glendening at the behest of Mrs. Townsend, is a white killer from an affluent family named Steven Oken, who raped and murdered three women during a 1987 rampage in Maryland and Maine. How is the cause of social justice advanced by continuing to delay Oken's execution?

This catalogue of bad ideas, bad management and unsupportable claims of success by Mrs. Townsend disqualifies her from credibly claiming leadership on fighting crime.

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