“If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.
Former President Barack Obama
Say Their Names
A Decade of Watching Black People Die
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Charles Kinsey, Alton Sterling …and many more
How To Make This Moment the Turning Point For Real Change
- Aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices
- The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.
- It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions.
- We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
- Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.
Three Steps to Impact Change
We know there are specific evidence based reforms that would build trust, save lives and would not show an increase in crime that are included in the 21st Century Policing Task Force Report
- I’m urging every mayor, and city council official in this country to review your use of force policies with members of your community and commit to report on planned reforms. What are the specific steps you can take?
- Organizations like Campaign Zero and Color of Change are highlighting what the data shows what works, what doesn’t in terms of reducing incidences of police misconduct and violence. Lets go ahead and start implementing those, We need mayors, county executives and others who are in positions of power to say this is a priority.
- Every city in this country should be a My Brother’s Keeper community. We’ve got 250 counties, cities, tribal nations who are working to reduce barriers and expand opportunity for boys and young men of color..programs, policy reforms and public private partnerships.
Policing Reform At The Local Level
Address and demand these reforms/legislation with your county executives, mayors, and council members
“We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people
by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability.”
- End broken windows policy
- Community oversight
- Limit use of force
- Independently investigate & prosecute
- Community representation
- Body cams
- End For-Profit Policing
- Fair Police Union Contracts
New York City
Updated August 11
N.Y.P.D. Besieges a Protest Leader as He Broadcasts Live
A helicopter and dozens of officers, some in tactical gear, were deployed for an arrest at a Manhattan apartment but withdrew after protesters arrived.
NYPD Sued for Info on How Cops Treated Homeless People on the Subway
The Coalition for the Homeless sued the NYPD Monday for information on the scope and impact of cops’ efforts to encourage homeless people to get off the subways and into shelters. The much-publicized Subway Diversion Project, with its philosophy of “supports, not summonses,” was touted by Mayor Bill de Blasio as a way for officers to provide help without steering the homeless into the criminal justice system.
Who Opposes Defunding the N.Y.P.D.? These Black Lawmakers
Several Black City Council members have lashed out at progressives, comparing calls to defund the police to “colonization” and “political gentrification.”
Updated July 8:
NYC council passes six sweeping police reform bills that include:
- requiring officer badge numbers to be visible
- an official ban on chokeholds or any other maneuver that restricts air flow
- oversight of the New York City Police Department’s surveillance technology
- a penalty system for police officers with disciplinary issues
- a system to intervene with training for officers who are deemed “problematic”
- a bill that puts into law the right to record police interactions
New York City Council introduces bills including:
- criminalizing the use of chokeholds 536A
- creating standardized police discipline guidelines Intro 1309
- repealing the state law that shields police disciplinary records from the public Res. 750
- grant and protect a person’s right to record police activity. 721 A
- another which would call on the State to ban chokeholds and create the crime of strangulation in the first degree Res 27
- the NYPD would be required to “maintain a centralized system that is used to record, track, review, and evaluate officer activity and to identify officers that may be in need of enhanced training, monitoring, or reassignment.”
Additional Reforms In The News:
New York City Police Department’s Budget has been slashed by $1 billion
The approved budget includes nearly $484 million in cuts and will reallocate $354 million to other agencies “best positioned to carry out the duties that have been previously assigned to the New York Police Department, like the Department of Education, the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and the Department of Homeless Services.
The mayor also noted that $500,000 that was earmarked for NYPD major projects will now be redirected to youth centers and expanded access to high speed internet for public housing residents
The NYPD’s $6 billion budget amounts to more than the budgets for the Departments of Health ($1.9 billion), Homeless Services ($2.1 billion), Youth and Community Development ($872,000), and Small Business Services ($293,000) COMBINED. As a comparison, the Fire Department of the City of New York’s budget is $2.1 billion and the New York City Department of Education and School Construction Authority’s budget is $27.1 Billion
Comptroller Stringer to Mayor de Blasio: Cut $1.1 Billion in NYPD Spending Over Four Years and Reinvest in Vulnerable Communities and Vital Services
De Blasio Vows for First Time to Cut Funding for the N.Y.P.D.The mayor on Sunday declined to say precisely how much funding he planned to divert to social services from the New York Police Department.
Policing Reform at The State Level
Address and demand these reforms/legislation with your
governor and state legislators.
Updated August 11 2020
NYPD Disappeared Black Lives Matter Protesters Into Detention For Days At a Time. Lawmakers want to end the practice.
The public defenders accused the police department of deliberately slow-rolling standard procedures to keep protesters in jail as payback for demonstrations against police brutality. Judge James M. Burke of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan sided with the police. He accepted the NYPD’s rationale that the conditions on the ground should overrule preexisting state law: The 1991 Roundtree v. Brown decision established the 24-hour standard from arrest to arraignment.”
In Albany, State Sen. Michael Gianaris introduced a bill to codify the Roundtree decision and better track detentions. On Wednesday afternoon, the bill passed the full New York State Senate, clearing the way for it to appear before the State Assembly . A key component of the bill, Gianaris said, is that it would force all municipalities in New York state with over a million residents — only New York City would qualify — to create a detained persons registry.
New York State Bill Would Require Police Officers to Carry Liability Insurance
State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, D-Bronx, who is sponsoring the legislation, says the measure aims to establish a financial disincentive for police misconduct and create accountability.
Updated June 13, 2020:
N.Y. Bans Chokeholds and Approves Other Measures to Restrict Police
Many of the bills were introduced years ago but gained little traction because of fierce opposition from powerful police unions that for years held sway over elected officials in Albany, especially when Republicans controlled the State Senate. The 10 bills are now law and include:
- Transparency of prior disciplinary records of law enforcement officersThe most contentious of the legislation was a measure to repeal an obscure statute in the state’s civil code known as 50-a, which prohibits the release of “all personnel records used to evaluate performance” of police officers without permission from the officer or a judge.
Criticism of the law came to a head following the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island after a police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, held him in a chokehold in 2014. Despite a lawsuit to make them public, Mr. Pantaleo’s disciplinary records remained secret for years until they were leaked, revealing a long history of complaints.
New York was one of the few remaining states with such a secrecy law
- Banning chokeholds by law enforcement officersThe new law banning the use of chokeholds by law enforcement officers — named after Mr. Garner, whose mother, Gwen Carr, attended the law’s signing ceremony — makes the use of the technique a felony.
- Prohibiting false race-based 9-1-1 reports and making them a crimeThis law would give recourse to people who believe someone “called a police officer on them” because of their race, gender, nationality or any other protected class.
- Designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor for matters relating to the deaths of unarmed civilians caused by law enforcement.
Another law, pushed by a group of black mothers whose sons were killed by the
police, codified into state law a special prosecutor’s office within the state’s
attorney general’s office to investigate and prosecute police killings of unarmed
- New York State Police must wear body cameras during specific times while on duty.
- A person not under arrest or in the custody has the right to record police activity and to maintain custody and control of that recording, and of any property or instruments used to record police activities.
Law enforcement organizations in New York tried to push back against these reforms.
An Executive Order addresses 500 Local Police Departments and Agencies
Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order to reinvent and modernize police strategies and programs This require New York’s local police departments to develop plans to modernize their policing tactics with community input by April 2021, or risk becoming ineligible for state funding. He said the goal of the executive order is to restore trust.
Local governments and police agencies need to:
–Develop a plan that reinvents and modernized police strategies and programs in their community. Any agencies that don’t comply will not get funded.
–Must formulate a plan addressing use of force by police officers, crowd management, community policing, implicit bias awareness, de-escalation training and practices, restorative justice practices, community based outreach, a transparent citizen complaint disposition procedure and other issues raised by the community.
Additional Reforms In The News
NY State Police Plan to Go Forward With Body Camera Pilot Program
Last month, a nationwide poll found New York State Police as the country’s largest primary state law enforcement agency not equipped with body or dashboard cameras
Updated August 11
NJ lawmakers voted on dozens of police reform, criminal justice bills. Here’s what happened
The Senate passed three bills Thursday that go to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk, who decides whether or not to sign them into law:
- The S2635 bill would make false 911 calls, used to intimidate or harass a person based on their race or other protected class — like gender, age, disability and others — a crime.
- Bill S401 – Law enforcement agencies across the state must establish programs to recruit more minorities and women to the force.
- Another bill, S2689, would make cultural diversity and implicit bias prevention part of the standard training curriculum for all law enforcement officers in the state.
The NJ Assembly has passed various bills that must now go before the Senate:
- crisis intervention lessons for officers across the state to better help them address mental health issues
- bills impacting prison sentences and parole that aim to reduce racial inequity in the criminal justice system.
- bills that addressed laws that mandated especially severe punishments for offenses for which Black and Hispanic people often are disproportionately arrested and convicted:
- eliminate mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent property and drug-related crimes, such as shoplifting, hacking a government computer or dealing drugs,
- reduce required prison terms from 85% to 50% of the imposed sentence for second-degree robbery and second-degree burglary.
Other New Jersey Criminal Justice Reform bills passed the New Jersey Assembly and will now move onto the New Jersey Senate.
Hunterdon County is a county located in the western section of the U.S. state of New Jersey. The Hunterdon County Prosecutor followed up on the” Use of Force” Town Hall he attended along with Warren and Somerset county prosecutors. Williams outlined feedback and goals to the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders including:
- more transparency on the police use of force
- more education for law enforcement officers
- more training in dealing with individuals who might have mental health disorders or issues
- greater de-escalation training in order to decrease the amount of force police use or the types of force they may use
- increased police accountability when they employ use of force
- public access to use of force investigations
- more police visibility in neighborhoods so the officers are viewed as a part of the community itself
New Jersey will soon change the name of freeholders to commissioners. The state stands alone in the nation for using the Colonial-era term for the elected officials that oversee county governments.“As our nation tears down symbols of injustice, we must also tear down words we use in New Jersey that were born from racism.”
Updated July 8:
Governor Murphy Signs Legislation to Further Reform New Jersey’s Criminal Justice System
The Governor signed three pieces of legislation that make various reforms to New Jersey’s criminal justice system. One pertains to police reform.
Legislation A744 requires law enforcement agencies to provide internal affairs and personnel files of law enforcement officers to other agencies under certain circumstances. The reasons given include :
- we intend to give departments and jurisdictions all the information they need to determine if an applicant is the right fit
- There needs to be more accountability. If an officer faces disciplinary action within one agency in one town, and can easily move on to another agency in a different town without their record following them, we have an accountability problem.
- Ensuring departments have access to the personnel records they need to bring a new officer on board is about trust and confidence
- To strengthen the view of police as a force for good in the community, policies requiring disciplinary histories to be shared must be status quo.
- Police officers are given an immense amount of power and responsibility and the vast majority serve with honor and deference to the position.
- Police officers, quite literally at times, have the lives of our state’s most vulnerable in their hands
Should disciplinary records be public? In NJ The Answer is still No
Transparency is seen as one of the first and most necessary steps that must be taken for there to be meaningful police reform. New Jersey has continued to shield the identities of police officers accused of serious misconduct from public view. “The public can learn about allegations of misconduct against lawyers, judges, plumbers and manicurists. We deserve no less for the profession we empower to carry weapons and use force.” Alexander Shalom, Director of Supreme Court Advocacy for American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
The Senate’s Law and Public Safety Committee in the coming weeks will be holding hearings on use of force guidelines, police training, and proposals by N.J. Attorney General Grewal to create a licensing system for police officers. The issue of public disclosure of police disciplinary records is not currently being considered, but said it might ultimately be part of the discussion.
Governor Phil Murphy and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal are continuing to promote the Excellence in Policing Initiative which involves creating
- a crisis intervention team
- statewide licensing for police
- a use of force database
- an updated use of force policies
- an incident response team
Additional Reforms In The News:
Updated July 8
A Black Man Is Killed By a Trooper. His Family Wants Answers.
NJ.com created the most comprehensive statewide database of police use of force in the U.S. and lets you know how your police department compares to others in NJ in regard to use of force.
“New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal on Tuesday announced several initiatives designed to increase trust between police and the communities they serve, including an expansion of the state‘s use-of-force database and a proposed licensing program for law enforcement.”
Updated August 12
Pennsylvania lawmakers take first step toward police reform. What comes next?
The most substantial police reform bills, which would include banning chokeholds, narrowing the instances in which lethal force is permitted and appointing special prosecutors to investigate police shootings, haven’t budged in Pennsylvanias State House. Future reforms should include allowing the sharing of employment records with the public or anyone outside of law enforcement. “This furthers transparency, trust and accountability between police departments and the community.” An additional reform would would involve shifting police funds to other social and community programs.
What Black Lives Matter Has Revealed About Small-Town America A multiracial future has appeared, along with unprecedented conversations about race. Chambersburg Pennsylvania is a small town southwest of Harrisburg. Franklin County was not only conservative, but enamored of a brand of America-first politics that truly electrified many of the white voters. Trump won the county by more than 45 points. But the election also revealed a silent minority, long quiet about their politics. They began forming groups — Franklin County Coalition for Progress, Community Uniting, Concerned Citizens of Franklin County — planning events to celebrate Pride month, for instance, and digging into issues like redistricting reform.
Then the George Floyd demonstrations began. These protesters were not the Trump faithful, nor were they members of the so-called resistance. The protesters were mostly white but not exclusively so, not in a town where more than a third of the students in the local schools are minorities.
The most unexpected champion, perhaps, has been the Franklin County district attorney, Matt Fogal, a Republican. “I’m listening to them out there and just people honking in support, absolutely peaceful, a contrast to some of the images that we had been seeing,” he said. He sent a statement to local media. “Black lives matter. Period,” it said, going on to urge people to put country over party in November.
Updated July 8
Gov. Tom Wolf Will Sign Police Reform Bills Passed Unanimously By Pennsylvania Senate
- One bill is designed to prevent bad officers from continuing to find employment in police departments. A department must conduct background checks of job applicants that must include disciplinary actions, complaints and reasons for separation. The bill does not allow public access to the database.
- The other bill requires officers to be trained every other year in how to interact with people of different racial and ethic backgrounds and to receive annual instruction on de-escalation and harm-reduction techniques.
Pa. is making a rare show of unity on police reform. It’s unclear how far it’ll go.
The remaining bills being considered include
- the Senate’s measure that would ban chokeholds
- a requirement that police departments create and publicize official use-of-force policies.
- a requirement police departments track all uses of force, and release reports on those numbers to the General Assembly every year.
The 19 proposals demanded by the Legislative Black Caucus also included:
- significantly limiting the situations in which police can use deadly force
- appointing a special prosecutor for cases in which deadly force is used,
- making police body-camera footage more publicly accessible
- updating interrogation protocols
- creating a licensing system for police officers.
- drastically limit the arbitration process that lets police unions bargain to save officers’ jobs, even after outside investigators concluded that a cop was guilty of misconduct.
Gov. Tom Wolf announces law enforcement reforms in wake of George Floyd protests:
- review training and education of police
- citizen advisory boards
- Creating a Deputy Inspector General within the Pennsylvania Office of State Inspector General (OSIG)
- Creation of a Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Advisory Commission.
- Creation of ‘a racial and ethnic disparities subcommittee’
- Enhancing officer safety and wellness
- Supporting legislative reforms
Additional Reforms In The News
On Tuesday, a group of state House Democrats and local Philadelphia lawmakers proposed dozens of reforms regarding police training, discipline, and oversight.These lawmakers are also lobbying Wolf to require the State Police to create and maintain a database of disciplinary actions and complaints lodged against officers.
While state law lays out the circumstances under which an officer may use deadly force, not every department has a written policy on how it should be used.
Updated August 12
California Eyes 11 Police Reforms After George Floyd’s Death
Lawmakers have until Aug. 31 to approve and send legislation to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. The bills include the following, and more.
- Duty to Intercede
- Decertifying Officers
- Sheriffs Oversight
- Journalists – right to cover protests without interference from police
- Police Records
Are California police officers trained enough and in the right things?
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who sits on the Senate Standing Committee on Public Safety, says the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which sets the legal standards for policing in California, ought to start by reviewing its curriculum.“Where are the criticisms? Where are the deficiencies? Who’s making the mistakes?” he said. “They have state-of-the-art training. So now the question is: How much and how often and how do you even know if it’s working?”
Updated July 8
California lawmakers this week introduced bills to strip problem police officers of their badges and better equip police agencies from hiring officers with a checkered past. California is one of five states without the authority to take away an officer’s badge for crimes and serious misconduct.
Other bills being considered include an effort to reform and broaden SB 1421, the landmark 2018 law granting public access to police disciplinary records of officers involved in shootings and other uses of force.
Attorney General Becerra Calls for Broad Police Reforms and Proactive Efforts to Protect Lives
The California Attorney General Becerra urges law enforcement agencies statewide to develop and implement policies, as appropriate, and to adopt the following use-of-force reforms:
- Ban Chokeholds and Carotid Restraints
- Verbal Warnings
- Moving Vehicles
- Deadly Force As Last Resort
- Comprehensive Reporting
- Canine Use
After a week of engagement with civic leaders and law enforcement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and demonstrations nationwide, Governor Newsom today announced his support for new policing and criminal justice reforms:
- the end of the carotid hold and other like techniques directing that the carotid hold be removed from the state police training program and state training materials.
- commits to working with the Legislature on a statewide ban that would apply to all police forces across the state.
- the creation of new standards for crowd control and use of force in protests
Additional Reforms In The News
Chokeholds, rubber bullets and tear gas targeted in California police reform proposals
Bay Area leaders chosen to advise governor on police reform; here’s what they have in mind
- Gov. Newsom appointed a 30-year police veteran, Ronald Davis who served with both Oakland and East Palo Alto police departments and civil rights leader Lateefa Simon.
- Their job is to listen to community members and bring police reform ideas to the governor’s desk. “I’m going to be talking to about 50 groups in the next couple of days that I have worked with consistently over .. 25 years,” said Simon, president of the Akonadi Foundation.
Updated August 12
Massachusetts Police chiefs back reform package in letter “We stand proudly with the members of the Black and Latino Caucus in their vision for a 10 Point Plan that will stand to
- improve training for law enforcement officers
- professionalize policing in general, demonstrate and demand excellence in policing programs, policies, and services,
- adopt best practices and proven national standards
- highlight continued organizational transparency and
- hold all officers accountable for any and all acts of misconduct or malfeasance,”
Massachusetts policing bill differences remain unresolved as negotiations stretch into August
The Senate bill, proposed as House leaders were preparing their own proposal, proposed a much more far-reaching series of reforms. It would create an oversight board that included police officials and civilians, strengthen use of form standards, as well as temporarily ban facial surveillance, limit qualified immunity and restrict what student information can be shared with outside law enforcement agencies.
The House version similarly includes use of force changes, a facial surveillance ban, student information restrictions and other elements of the Senate proposal. It differs in the structure of the oversight board, proposing one mostly comprised of civilians. It also calls for a training committee comprised of law enforcement officials and an investigative arm.Another key difference in the redrafted House bill is that it would strip an officer of qualified immunity protections only if he has been decertified.
Updated July 8
Baker Unveils ‘First Step’ Police Reform Bill
Under the bill, the state would
- create a Police Officer Standards and Accreditation Committee tasked with certifying all officers. Every member of law enforcement would be required to undergo a licensing process every three years. The committee would compile a database of all personnel so that departments could track training and disciplinary records.
According to the bill text the new committee would be responsible for:
- revoking certification and would be instructed to do so for a range of reasons
- Officers with a “sustained internal affairs complaint,” including use of a chokehold or similar restraint, failing to prevent another officer from using excessive force, or filing a false police report, would also be automatically decertified.
Legislative leaders had already set their sights beyond law enforcement certification. Gonzalez said Wednesday that the legislation is a “start in the right direction” but addresses only one part of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus 10-point proposal for police reform. (Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus proposal listed below under “Originally Reported“)
As Baker Files Reform Bill, What Will Change In Mass. Policing?
With Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka all signaling support for the idea, it’s hard to imagine POST not becoming a reality in the not-too-distant future.
There’s a caveat, however: according to state representative Russell Holmes, who’s pushed for a POST system for years, the state’s various police unions still need some convincing. “They should be in the room and they should be in every discussion,” he added. “And they should be at the front of those discussions, not at the end.” Right now, though, police in Massachusetts aren’t just being asked to accept greater oversight. They’re also being pushed to fundamentally alter their use of force.
And as State Senator Chang-Diaz notes, the longer it takes for Beacon Hill to act, the less likely action becomes.“That is how, most often, proposals having to do with racial justice die,” she said. “It’s not that someone stands up and says, ‘I don’t support racial justice.’ It’s that other priorities take precedence.”
It’s a point worth pondering as we watch what gets done at the State House in the coming weeks — and what doesn’t.
As of June 5, 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker says he’s been in discussions with the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus about what law changes the state should make following the widespread protests — and to expect proposals supported by his office next week.
Additional Reforms In the News
What comes after the protests? Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus have 10 proposed police reforms including:
- create a special commission to study and make recommendations for a Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) system, which would set standards for the hiring, training, ethical conduct, and retention of law enforcement officers.
- According to the ACLU, Massachusetts is one of just six states without some sort of system to license police officers
- establish a new office to review — and potentially reform — the current diversity plans of all state agencies and a “Commission on Structural Racism”
- impose new limits on police use of force — including chokeholds and other potentially fatal tactics
- require an independent investigation of all officer-related deaths.
- Miranda’s legislation would also require departments to collect data on the race of all individuals subject to arrest and police use of force.
- declare racism a public health crisis “worthy of treatment, assessment and financial investment in order to eradicate negative health impacts.”
- create municipal civil review boards — independent of police departments — with subpoena power to investigate allegations of law enforcement wrongdoing (advocates say that the reliance on police departments to do their own investigations is often a barrier to addressing misconduct).
Policing Reform At The Federal Level
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R Biden, Jr.
The Biden Plan For Strengthening America’s Commitment To Justice
- We can and must reduce the number of people incarcerated in this country while also reducing crime.
- Our criminal justice system cannot be just unless we root out the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system.
- Our criminal justice system must be focused on redemption and rehabilitation.
- No one should be profiteering off of our criminal justice system.
Vice President Democratic Nominee Kamala Harris’ 2019 plan:
“Transform the Criminal Justice System and Envision Public Safety in America”
“This plan will fundamentally transform our criminal justice system to shift away from mass incarceration and to invest in building safer and healthier communities.”
- End Mass Incarceration and Invest Resources into Evidence and Community-Based Programs that Reduce Crime and Help Build Safe and Healthy Communities
- Law Enforcement’s Primary Mission is to Serve and Protect Communities. It Should Instill Trust and Be Accountable to the Communities It Serves
- The System Must Treat Individuals Equitably and Humanely
- The System Must Protect Vulnerable People
Read more details about Biden and Harris’ policies proposals from my earlier post Criminal Justice Reform.
Address and demand these reforms/legislation with your Senator and
House of Representatives Member
Updated July 8
The House approved the Democrats’ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
- bans federal police from using chokeholds and other dangerous restraints
- bans no-knock warrants in drug-related cases.
- lowers legal standards to pursue criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct
- empowers prosecutors to scrutinize police for misconduct
- grant the Justice Department subpoena power in “pattern or practice” investigations examining whether police departments have engaged in racial discrimination
- would limit “qualified immunity”, a legal doctrine that makes it difficult to sue police for misconduct
The Senate Republican Justice Act measure:
- focuses on data collection
- includes training protocols
- withholds federal funds for states or units of local government which do not have a policy that prohibits the use of chokeholds except when deadly force is authorized.
- encourages reporting on practices, like no-knock warrants in narcotics cases and suspect take-down tactics with an eye toward potentially changing or ending these down the road.
- would reduce by 20% federal grant money in the first fiscal year after the law is enacted and a 5% reduction in each following year for departments that fail to report annually to a national database all use of force incidents that result in “serious bodily harm” or where a firearm was discharged. ABC NEWS
- would beef up funding for popular Community Oriented Policing (COP) programs,
Both would :
- offer federal incentives to state and local police departments who ban chokeholds and implement best practices while ending controversial tactics, and penalize those that don’t
- ramp up the use of police body cameras
- include a measure that would make lynching a federal crime.
Neither bill focusses on defunding the police. This initiative focuses on shifting funds from law enforcement toward other social services like education and food aid that could address the root causes of inequities.
Senate Democrats blocked the Republican Justice Act. Chief among the problems they cited is the lack of legal accountability demanded of police. It also does not include federal mandates to curb police use of force and other questionable practices, like chokeholds.
Federal bills that were introduced in both The House of Representatives and the Senate:
1.Harris, Markey, and Booker Introduce Senate Resolution to Abolish Qualified Immunity for Law Enforcement, Hold Officers Accountable for Police Brutality
Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine in United States federal law that shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity, unless their actions violated “clearly established” federal law or constitutional rights.
2. A Federal Ban on Chokeholds
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced Senate legislation, the Eric Garner Excessive Force Prevention Act, which would make the use of chokeholds or maneuvers that restrict oxygen intake or blood flow to the brain by law enforcement unlawful under federal civil rights law.
3. Restrict shipments of military surplus
Lawmakers begin bipartisan push to cut off police access to military style gear.
4. Pressley, Omar, Bass, and Lee introduced a resolution to condemn police brutality, racial profiling and the excessive use of force:
5. The Congressional Black Caucus and the House Judiciary Committee, as well as Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Kamala Harris of California, crafted the plan The Justice of Policing Act It includes, but is not limited to:
- prohibit the use of chokeholds
- lower legal standards to pursue criminal and civil penalties for police misconduct
- ban no-knock warrants in drug-related cases
- create a national registry to track police misconduct
- limits the transfer of military-grade weapons to state and local law enforcement agencies and requires the use of body cameras
- empower attorneys general and the Justice Department to play a much larger role in its oversight of police agencies
Additional Injustice Campaigns
Address and demand these reforms/campaigns with your local, state
and federal representatives
Color of Change
“Color of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by 1.7 million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world
for Black people in America.”
- holding prosecutors accountable and accelerating prosecutor reform
- ending profit incentives fueling mass incarceration
- decriminalizing poverty and stopping unnecessary prosecutions
- implementing fair sentencing laws and sentence reductions
- stopping prison expansion and prison labor exploitation
- stopping anti-black violence and vigilantes
Where does your state stand on other Criminal Justice reforms?
- placed a moratorium on the death penalty
- proposed to close the Division of Juvenile Justice and proposed closing two state prisons
- proposed expanding opportunities for rehabilitation and shortening prison time for offenders participating in treatment programs, in education programs and otherwise engaging in good behavior
- increased access to higher education for young people who are incarcerated.
See Determined-Spririts February 2020 post on Criminal Justice Reform for more policy recommendations by the 2020 Presidential candidates.
My Brother’s Keeper Alliance
“MBK Alliance leads a cross-sector national call to action focused on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity”
- Getting a Healthy Start and Entering School Ready to Learn
- Reading at Grade Level by Third Grade
- Graduating from High School Ready For College and Career
- Completing Post Secondary Education or Training
- Successfully Entering The Workforce
- Keeping Kids on Track and Giving Them Second Chances
Re-Imagining Public Safety
Updated July 8:
A Black Man is Killed by a Trooper His family wants answers.
Mr. Gordon, a 28-year-old black man who had moved to the United States from Jamaica to work and attend college, had been shot and killed by a New Jersey State Police trooper during a traffic stop on May 23. Mr. Gordon was frisked before entering the trooper’s car and was not carrying a weapon, There had been a struggle, his mother said she was told, and Mr. Gordon had been shot four times.
He was being treated for schizophrenia. His mother, sister and a family lawyer neither confirmed nor disputed that, but they said it was irrelevant to his death.
“The alternative is not more money for police training programs, hardware or oversight. It is to dramatically shrink their function. We must demand that local politicians develop non-police solutions to the problems poor people face. We must invest in housing, employment and healthcare in ways that directly target the problems of public safety. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, we need publicly financed supportive housing; instead of gang units, we need community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and jobs for young people; instead of school police we need more counselors, after-school programs, and restorative justice programs. “
Is it time to re-imagine public safety? In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, some cities are asking if the police are being asked to do jobs they were never intended to do.
Police Department Reform
Updated July 8:
The City That Really Did Abolish the Police (The strange, hopeful, politically complicated story of Camden, N.J.)
“You had to change the underlying principles of the way police officers were being trained and taught, and the culture in the department,” said former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who supported the changes in Camden. “The most effective way to do that was to start over.”
Yet, the Camden police reform was—and remains—politically divisive.
- The most obvious change was that the Camden police was now bigger
- No longer would officers be the “arbitrary decider of what’s right and wrong,” he said, but rather consider themselves as “a facilitator and a convener”.
- The internal metric system for rating an officer’s performance was also overhauled—no longer were officers rewarded for the number of tickets they had written, or how many arrests they had made. Thomson says his highest priority was working to integrate officers into the fabric of the community.
- Sean Brown, business owner, now feels safer in his city than ever before, in part because police actively check in with him on the status of his neighborhood.
- Police officers can now be seen hosting block parties, flipping burgers and competing in games alongside kids in the neighborhoods.
- Last year, the department implemented a use-of-force guidebook developed with New York University’s Policing Project, which has gotten the seal of approval from both the ACLU and the Fraternal Order of Police.
- Union contracts were thrown out.
- Salaries were cut.
- Critics also say the department has been less than transparent. Camden was one of 21 cities selected for the Obama federal partnership, and it’s the only one that hasn’t posted any data yet
- There is also high turnover in the police department
- The department’s force does not reflect the community
- A list of demands exist including working to help officers eliminate racial bias in policing, the creation of an independent civilian review board and recruiting a more diverse force.
The City That Remade Its Police Department Over the past seven years….Camden… has undertaken some of the most far-reaching police reforms in the country, and its approach has been praised by former President Barack Obama.
- Identify the government officials responsible for these campaigns/reforms at the state, local, municipality and federal levels. I’ve provided links.
- Educate yourself as to what policing reforms are necessary locally This varies state to state, town to town.I’ve included what they are, at this moment in time (June 2020), for New York, New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, and Massachusetts Check your media regularly for updates.
- Create Zoom/Google Groups/ Skype and other meetings where everyone works on their letters, emails, and/or phone calls at the same time with the same initiatives. Support each other within the same state so you can exchange the names, addresses, emails, etc. of your elected legislators and candidates.
- Email/phone/write/question proposed cuts to education, housing, homelessness, food insecurity, mental health, addiction, health inequity, community-based anti-violence programs, trauma services and jobs for young people and youth services on the local and state level.
- Donate, join and/or volunteer for each of these Obama-recommended organizations. Support their evidence based reforms:
- Email/phone/write/question your elected officials about these reforms/campaigns. If you live outside of the 5 states in this post include:
- Council Members
- County Executives, Supervisors, Freeholders
- County District Attorney
- County Sheriff
- State Senator
- State Assembly/Representative
- State Attorney General
- Congressional Senator
- Congressional House of Representatives Member
- Follow up on what became law, and what didn’t. Repeat again until it does.
- Send thank you letters to legislators who act on reform bills.
- Americans Living Abroad may be limited to voting on the federal level depending on your home state rules. You can still, however, contact your home state local, state and federal representatives. Use your home state primary address, should your legislator ask for one before emailing him or her.
- Attend and ask questions about these reforms/campaigns at your legislator’s town hall meetings (virtual)
- Email/phone/write/question your 2020 Candidates about these reforms/campaigns.
- State and County Judges are elected by the people. Email/phone/write/question your county and state judicial candidates regarding their record on these reforms.
- Vote vote vote – my next post will focus on voting.
- Make this an intergenerational initiative – all ages can contribute.
- Read recommended resources from family and friends. A must read should include Invisible No More. Attorney Andrea Ritchie examines violent encounters between police and citizens from the perspective of black women, women of color, transgender women and others.
- Join Indivisible initiatives and work together to bring about permanent change.
- Participate in marches and demonstrations wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart. Vulnerable populations are valuable participants with the legislation initiatives above.
- Follow police misconduct lawsuit settlements in your state.
- Work with local community groups, governments and police departments to follow this task force’s recommendations :
21st Century Policing Task Force
5 Things Law Enforcement Can Do
- Review and update policies, training, and data collection on use of force, and engage community members and police labor unions in the process.
- Increase transparency of data, policies, and procedures.
- Call on the Police Officers Standards and Training Commission to implement all levels of training.
- Examine hiring practices and ways to involve the community in recruiting.
- Ensure officers have access to the tools they need to keep them safe.
5 Things Communities Can Do
- Actively engage with local law enforcement by participating in community meetings, surveys, listening posts, civilian oversight boards, citizen academies, chaplain programs, and innovative activities related to technology.
- Participate with officers in problem-solving efforts to reduce crime and improve quality of life in neighborhoods.
- Work with local law enforcement to ensure that they are deploying resources and tactics that reduce crime, improve relationships with the community and mitigate unintended consequences.
- Call on state legislators to ensure that the legal framework does not impede the ability of the community to hold local agencies accountable for their policies and practices.
- Review school policies and practices that may have an unintended consequence of pushing children and young people into the criminal justice system and advocate for strategies that are more effective at prevention and early intervention.
5 Things Local Governments Can Do
- Create listening opportunities with various areas and groups in the community. Listen and engage in a dialogue regarding concerns or issues related to trust.
- Specifically allocate local government infrastructure and IT staff expertise to support law enforcement reporting on activities related to implementation of the task force recommendations. These should include making public all relevant policies and procedures, records, and open data sets. Let the community know what you have done and will be doing.
- Conduct community surveys on community attitudes toward policing, and publish the results along with associated data. Establish baselines and metrics to measure progress, and use the results as a means to engage the community in dialogue.
- Define the appropriate form and structure of civilian oversight to meet the needs of the community.
- Recognize the correlation between poverty, urban decay, and unemployment to quality of life, the breakdown of community cohesion, and the increase of crime. Link economic development and poverty reduction to longer-term problem-solving strategies for addressing crime.
WHOM TO CONTACT
Who is responsible for policing and injustice reform at
the State & Local Levels?
New York State
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
New York Attorney General Letitia James
Your New York State Senator and your New York State Assembly Member
Your County Sheriff
Sheriffs are selected by voters. The County Sheriff provides: criminal law enforcement, traffic patrol, emergency rescue operations, homeland security programs, SWAT operations, civil emergency response, jail operations, courtroom security, and civil litigation process. Sheriffs are elected to four-year terms in 42 states, including New York.
Your County District Attorney is elected.
New York State has one District Attorney for each of its 62 counties, in addition to a D.A. for each of New York City’s five boroughs.
Your New York State County elected/appointed Executive/ Manager, Legislature or Board of Supervisors.
New York State Counties have various responsibilities including police and public safety, jail operations, the district attorney and public defenders.
The Mayor/Supervisor of your town/city/village
Your New York town/city/village Board/Board of Trustees/Council
The Structure of Policing in New York State
Local Level Police Departments
Cities, villages, and towns are responsible for their own police departments. This is the same for New York City
New York State Police – responsibility of the New York State Government
New York State Department of Corrections – responsibility of the New York State Government
New York City
Mayor Bill DeBlasio
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
The public advocate’s primary role is to be a check on city agencies and investigate complaints about city services
NYC Sheriff Joseph Fucito
The Sheriff of the City of New York is appointed by the mayor. He holds jurisdiction over all five county-boroughs within the city. Deputy Sheriffs of the City of New York can issue summonses, carry and use a firearm, batons, pepper spray, handcuffs, and use physical and deadly force.
Your County District Attorney
New York State has one elected District Attorney for each of its 62 counties, in addition to a D.A. for each of New York City’s five boroughs. (on bottom of page)
Your Borough President
When New York City was consolidated into its present form in 1898, all previous town and county governments within it were abolished in favor of the present five boroughs and a unified, centralized city government. Borough presidents have many responsibilities that include appointment of members to community boards and can spearhead legislation at the City Council.
Your New York City Council Member
New York City Council – Responsibilities include legislation having to do with all aspects of City life, city budget negotiations, land use and monitoring city agencies such as the Department of Education and the NYPD to make sure they’re effectively serving New Yorkers.
Your New York City Community Board Members
Community Boards are local representative bodies. There are 59 throughout the city. They are advocates and service coordinators for the community and its residents. Community Boards assess the needs of their own neighborhoods, meet with city agencies and make recommendations in the City’s budget process to address them.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal
Your New Jersey Senatorand your New Jersey General Assembly Member
Your County Sheriff
Sheriffs are selected by voters. These elections could shape immigration policy, law enforcement, and jail conditions. Sheriffs are elected to four-year terms in 42 states, but three-year terms in New Jersey.
Your County District Attorney
County Prosecutors in New Jersey are appointed by the Governor for a term of five years, and must be affirmed by the State Senate. Contact your Governor/ State Senator regarding DA decisions.
Your County Board of Freeholders
In New Jersey, all 21 counties have elected boards of freeholders. The county government responsibilities vary, but include maintaining and operating the county jails, court and juvenile detention facilities.
The Mayor of your town/city/borough
Your City/Borough/Township Council Members
The Structure of Policing in New Jersey
Local Level Police Departments
New Jersey is divided into 21 counties and contains 565 municipalities consisting of five types: 254 boroughs, 52 cities, 15 towns, 241 townships, and 3 villages. Municipalities are responsible for their own police departments Any town that does not have its own police has State Police protection.
New Jersey State Police – Responsibility of New Jersey State Government
New Jersey Department of Corrections – Responsibility of New Jersey State Government
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro
Your Pennsylvania State Senator and your Pennsylvania House of Representatives Member
Your County Sheriff
In Pennsylvania, sheriffs are either selected by voters or county executives.A Pennsylvania sheriff retains all arrest powers and has the authority to enforce the criminal laws as well as the vehicle laws of Pennsylvania, Sheriffs are elected to four-year terms in 42 states, including Pennsylvania.
Your County District Attorney
There is one elected Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Office for each of the state’s counties and the City of Philadelphia.
Your County Board of Commissioners.
Pennsylvania is divided into 67 counties. Most counties are governed by a board of commissioners, consisting of three elected members. Other counties have adopted a “home rule” form of county government. They may have an elected county executive and an elected county council. The County Board’s responsibilities vary, but include policing.
The Mayor of your town/city
Your City/Borough/Township Council Members
The Structure of Policing in Pennsylvania
Local Level police departments
Municipalities are responsible for their own police departments, others have joint police departments by region, others can contract their police services out to a nearby municipality, and lastly, they can contract out to state police.
Pennsylvania State Police – responsibility of Pennsylvania State Government
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections – responsibility of Pennsylvania State Government
California Governor Gavin Newsom
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
Your California State Senatorand your California Assembly Member
Your County Sheriff
California sheriffs are elected by voters for four year terms. Once elected, sheriffs in all 58 counties have power over jails and policing.
Your County District Attorney – In California the District Attorney (DA) is an elected county official. Ten cities, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Pasadena, have city prosecutors.
Your County Board of Supervisors
Other than San Francisco, which is a consolidated city-county, California’s counties are governed by an elected five-member Board of Supervisors.
The California Constitution allows a county or city to make and enforce within its limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations that do not conflict with the state’s own general laws. Most legislative acts, including using the police power, are adopted by ordinance.
The Mayor/Manager of your city.
Most small cities have a council–manager government, where the elected city council appoints a city manager to supervise the operations of the city. Some larger cities have a mayor–council government,
Your City Council Members
The Structure of Policing in California
City police departments
48% of all full time law enforcement employees in California were municipal police officers.
39% of all full time law enforcement employees in California were county sheriff officers. The county sheriff is elected.
The sheriff’s department of each county polices unincorporated areas As such, the sheriff and his or her deputies in rural areas and unincorporated municipalities are equivalent to police officers in the cities. Sheriff’s departments in California are also responsible for enforcing criminal law on Native American tribal land.
California Highway Patrol
The CHP has patrol jurisdiction over all California highways and are also known as the state police. They also have jurisdiction over city roads, and have the right to conduct law enforcement procedures there. They are the responsibility of California State Government
California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation – responsibility of California State Government
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey
Your Massachusetts State Senator and your House of Representatives Member
Your County Sheriff
Massachusetts has 14 counties . Sheriffs are elected to four-year terms in 42 states, but six-year terms in Massachusetts.Though most county governments have been abolished, each county still has a Sheriff’s Department which operates jails and correctional facilities and service of process within the county.
Your County District Attorney
Massachusetts has an elected District Attorney for each judicial district – called District Courts. These districts can represent more than one county or town. Check which District Court you belong to.
Your City,Town Mayor/Manager
A few medium to large size towns have a Manager/Council form. Most of the cities operate with a Mayor/Council form of government.
Your Select Board, Council or Board of Aldermen
Nearly 1,200 select board members serve in 292 towns in Massachusetts. They operates as a collective decision-making body. A city has a council or board of aldermen.
The Structure of Policing in Massachusetts
City, Town and County
Cities and towns are responsible for their own policing. Many municipalities have their own police departments, as do many Massachusetts colleges and universities. Massachusetts State Police have sole authority under state law for investigating homicides, except for Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.
Massachusetts State Police – responsibility of Massachusetts State Government
Massachusetts Department of Corrections – responsibility of Massachusetts State Government
Who is responsible for policing and injustice reform at the Federal Level?
Your U.S. House of Representatives Member
Your U.S. Senator
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