GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst unveils law enforcement plan

Norwich — Standing at a podium outside Norwich Superior Court, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Tim Herbst unveiled his “Six-Point Plan to Restore Law and Order to Connecticut.” 

The plan includes restoring the death penalty, boosting state police ranks, ending an early prison release program, “cracking down” on sanctuary cities in the state and stiffening drug crime enforcement.

Herbst, a former Trumbull first selectman, said he chose Norwich to unveil his plan, which also was posted on his website, because the Second Congressional District, which covers eastern Connecticut, is home to eight of the state’s 14 correctional facilities. He said cities like Norwich and New London have “tremendous assets,” such as architecture, location and job opportunities, but the “perceived and real essence of crime” is a deterrent to their success.

Herbst repeatedly criticized current Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his “radical left-wing” policies, although Malloy is not seeking re-election.

Herbst said he would work to restore the death penalty in cases where DNA evidence leaves no doubt that the person is guilty. He said residents strongly supported keeping the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. He also would shorten the appeal process for criminals on death row.

He pledged to restore state police ranks to a minimum of 1,248 troopers — more than 280 have been eliminated under Malloy, Herbst said — and offer funding to cities and towns to increase their police forces. He promised to end Malloy’s Risk Reduction Earned Credit early release program and is calling for stiffer penalties for drug crimes.

Herbst said he would crack down on sanctuary cities by eliminating by executive order Malloy’s directive to local law enforcement agencies that they do not have to enforce federal immigration law. Herbst would direct law enforcement to follow federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies. He would withhold state funding to so-called sanctuary cities if they do not comply.

Herbst is one of five Republican gubernatorial candidates seeking the party nomination at the Aug. 14 primary. Herbst is joined on the ballot by party convention-endorsed candidate Mark Boughton and challengers Steve Obsitnik, Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman.

“The criminal justice system itself is in tatters under the failed leadership of the current Democratic administration,” Herbst said, citing several incidents in the past two years, including a prison escape and violent crimes by felons released early under current state laws.

The six-point plan was put together by an eight-member task force appointed by the Herbst campaign, including current and former law enforcement officials; state Rep. Kevin Skulczyck, R-Griswold, and state Rep. William Petit, R-Plainville, the survivor of a 2007 home invasion in which his wife and daughters were murdered.

Herbst did not place a dollar figure on the cost of his plan but said he would work with the state police commander to work out costs and implementation plans. Declaring he also is “tough on taxes,” Herbst said the state has cut state police and other aspects of law enforcement.

He said he would tackle the state’s chronically underfunded pensions, an $86 million hole, he said, and reform the pension system to free up funding for law enforcement. He also said the money needed to enhance state police would “pale in comparison” to the $10 million approved by the state Bond Commission on Wednesday to study the possibility of installing electronic tolls in Connecticut.

Herbst said he adamantly opposes the controversial plan to build a new state police gun range in Griswold but insisted that the expanded state police force would be well trained.

Herbst said he would ask the state police commander to review possible sites in central Connecticut near the state police headquarters in Meriden for a proposed new state police gun range.

As Herbst unveiled his six-point law enforcement plan, his campaign announced that Herbst had received an “AQ” rating from the NRA Political Victory Fund. The rating would be a signal to NRA members that Herbst is a “solid pro-gun/pro-hunting candidate who is an advocate for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” read the letter from John Weber, state director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

In a campaign news release, Herbst welcomed the designation and again pledged a reversal of Malloy’s strong gun-control policies and advocacy.

“After years of vilification, Connecticut's law-abiding gun owners deserve a governor who will respect and fight for their constitutional rights and defend their way of life," Herbst said in the news release. "I am honored to have the endorsement of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL) and am thrilled to have the trust of the NRA with this perfect rating."

c.bessette@theday.com

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