Norm Stamper

Norm Stamper was a police officer for more than three decades and was Chief of the Seattle Police Department until he retired in 2000. During his 34 years in the line of duty, he responded to countless homicide scenes, but opposes the death penalty. He believes that the death penalty does not make us any safer.
The criminal justice system is not, and never will be flawless…There is no way to know for certain how many innocent people have been put to death. Surely, one is too many for the collective conscience of a civilized society to bear. We can, and must prevent such travesties in the future, even as we enhance public safety.

I believe an execution does absolutely nothing to enhance public safety, a view shared by most of my colleagues. Nor, despite the enormous public expense of prosecuting a capital case, does the death penalty provide for swift or certain justice. For many survivors of homicide, the extraordinary and essentially unavoidable length of time between crime and punishment, as well as the eventual execution of the perpetrator, only adds to the pain and anguish.

As a police officer I met many people who had lost a loved one to homicide. I remember, particularly, one such woman in Seattle who told me that because of the death penalty she and her husband had to relive for years the brutal death of their young child. Endless motions and appeals on death penalty cases have the effect of postponing or destroying any chance for surviving loved ones to heal.

The criminal justice system is not and never will be flawless. As we know, over 140 death row inmates have been exonerated and released in recent years. There is no way to know for certain how many innocent people have been put to death. Surely, one is too many for the collective conscience of a civilized society to bear. We can and must prevent such travesties in the future, even as we enhance public safety.