Clinton gives crime bill in Senate qualified support

February 16, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

LONDON, Ohio -- Standing before a battery of sheriffs and police chiefs, President Clinton yesterday gave qualified support to a controversial part of the Senate crime bill that would extend capital punishment for 50 federal crimes.

"It does add capital punishment for a number of crimes, and some of them are quite appropriate," the president told about 300 cheering law enforcement officers from across Ohio.

"When someone kills a law enforcement officer in the line of duty, I think the penalty for that ought to be death. There ought to be a deterrent that is clear and unambiguous."

Mr. Clinton, who supports capital punishment, has been relatively quiet in his backing for extending the death penalty.

During a trip to a central Ohio police academy, Mr. Clinton urged Ohio law enforcement officers to help him win quick congressional action on the crime bill.

"The American people have waited on this bill long enough," Mr. Clinton said, noting that a previous version failed in 1992.

Even though crime rates are dropping, polls in recent months have indicated that Americans are increasingly alarmed about crime and violence. Since November, Mr. Clinton has made several speeches about crime. Yesterday's speech was a repackaging of politically popular themes he has already announced.

He promised to cut red tape in Washington and put 20,000 new officers on the streets within a year if Congress approves final legislation soon. Mr. Clinton said he would pay for the proposals through reducing the federal bureaucracy, including cutting 252,000 employees.

Law enforcement officers responded warmly to his message.

"The priorities that he has in his crime bill are priorities that the law enforcement community has," said Allen County Sheriff Daniel W. Beck.

Springfield Police Chief Roger Evans said: "If we can put these extra policemen on the street, I think it will have a major presence."

During his speech, Mr. Clinton expressed support for another little-publicized section of the Senate crime bill that seeks to prevent violent crimes against women.

He said the bill would increase prison sentences for rape, require rapists to pay damages to victims, protect women from domestic violence and create training programs for judges, "because a lot of judges don't know how to handle these things as well as possible," Mr. Clinton said. "We have got to be more sensitive to this."

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