Why We Need Police Reform
In the United States there is perhaps no public service sector more hostile to criticism than our police forces. At even the mildest criticism, the response from the police is almost universally one of abject whining. A police officer in Birmingham was recently pistol-whipped after he hesitated to use force against a suspect. A lot of officers are being too cautious because of whats going on in the media, the officer said.
In other words, police are now openly admitting that upon being criticized their first instinct is to stop doing their job. When the citizenry expresses a bit of unhappiness with the regular criminal violence and corruption that marks many police departments today, the response from the police themselves is to become scared and cease to do the things we pay them to do. It is yet more evidence that, as I have before, in many parts of the United States the police no longer work for you.
The arrest of Sandra Bland was a textbook example of this dismal trend. Bland committed suicide in her Texas county jail cell after being arrested by a state trooper. The reason she was arrested in the first place would be laughable, if she were not dead. The officer ordered Bland to put out her cigarette, and sheunder no legal obligation whatsoever to do sorefused. The police officer was offended, as police officers are wont to be. The situation escalated from there, culminating in Blands arrest and her eventual, as-of-yet inexplicable hanging.
Becoming Abolitionists: Derecka Purnell On Why Police Reform Is Not Enough To Protect Black Lives
- human rights lawyer, abolitionist, columnist for The Guardian and author.
Derecka Purnell draws from her experience as a human rights lawyer in her new book, published this month, Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom, to argue that police reform is an inadequate compromise to calls for abolition. Since the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville in 2020, many states have passed laws aimed at reforming police, but congressional talks at the federal level have broken down. Purnell reflects upon her personal journey as a Black woman who believed in police reform before pivoting to abolition, saying, I became a part of social movements who pushed me to think more critically about building a world without violence and how to reduce our reliance on police.
- human rights lawyer, abolitionist, columnist for The Guardian and author.
This comes after a series of police killings of African Americans last year prompted a racial reckoning, including George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Many states have since passed laws aimed at reforming police, but efforts to pass a federal law to overhaul policing failed to pass the Senate, and bipartisan talks over police reform broke down last month.
Derecka, welcome back to Democracy Now! You are a
DERECKAPURNELL: Hi. Thank you.
AMYGOODMAN: Its great to have you with us. Congratulations on this book.
Come Up With An After
You might find it is easier to relax after the day is over if you have a routine to follow after your workday. It helps you learn to relax your mind and let go of the stresses of the day. You might try deep breathing exercises and telling yourself that you are leaving work behind, both mentally and physically. Try to do something enjoyable after the day is over. For example, if you enjoy vaping, take some time to do that.
If you don’t have a good vaporizer, you might consider purchasing the Volcano Hybrid vaporizer, either for yourself or the person who appreciates quality at every corner. The Volcano Hybrid vaporizer has several fun features, including the latest Bluetooth controls. No matter what you enjoy, spend a bit of time mentally going over the things you are looking forward to doing after work. You might text a friend and just focus more on your life. Do some experimentation to figure out what best suits you.
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Policing Diverts Billions Of Dollars From Schools Health Care And Other Vital Programs That Need More Funding To Strengthen Our Communities And Support Shared Well
U.S. cities collectively spend $100 billion a year on policing, while needed investments in education, health care, housing, and other critical programs go unfulfilled, particularly in poor communities and communities of color. New York City, for instance, spends more on policing than it does on the Departments of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined.
Our tax dollars must be reallocated from this system that regularly murders Black people with impunityand instead invested in programs that strengthen our communities.
Restructure Regulations For Fraternal Order Of Police Contracts
Unions are important. However, the Fraternity Order of Police Union has become so deeply embedded in law enforcement that it obstructs the ability for equitable and transparent policing, even when interacting with police chiefs. Police union contracts need to be evaluated to ensure they do not obstruct the ability for officers who engage in misconduct to be held accountable. Making changes to the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights at the state helps with this, but the Congress should provide more regulations to help local municipalities with this process.
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We Need Police And Police Reform It Wont Be Easy
It has been an eventful two weeks.
City Council is informed it faces $120 million in lost revenue over the next two years but responds favorably to a proposed budget that adds $8 million to its police departments funding for next year. Black Lives Matter and other activists who had called to defund the police in the wake of the homicide of George Floyd respond angrily that day and at a press conference Aug. 13. Some called the jump in the bloated police budget a slap in the face.
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San Antonio Police Department officer Humberto Zuniga Jr. is charged with sexual assault. His girlfriend said he forced himself on her over her objections, causing her to grab a knife and cut his bicep. He told detectives they didnt have sex that night, but the detectives noticed the cut on his bicep. Zuniga, 41, was suspended in 2015 for reportedly threatening a former girlfriend that if she didnt drop a lawsuit against him he would send sex videos of her to her family and friends.
A San Antonio Express-News analysis shows homicides in the city are up 34 percent from last year, echoing a Wall Street Journal article that found the citys increase was the fourth highest in the nation.
Then, of course, there is the daily crime blotter, the burglaries, the robberies, the assaults, the rapes, the murders, the drunk-driving homicides. And a bloody weekend with a teenager shot and a gun battle at a flea market.
Years After The Supreme Court Judgment In Prakash Singh Case We Must Ask What’s Holding Up Police Reforms Indians’ Lack Of Appreciation For Good Policing Or The Feeling Of Having Given Up
On 22 September 2006, the Supreme Court of India delivered its landmark judgment in the famous Prakash Singh case, mandating country-wide police reform and issuing seven crucial directives to immediately start the implementation process. The 15th anniversary of the judgment this week is a good occasion to take stock of where we stand on the reform front.
Unfortunately, not much has changed in the way policing is done in India. Despite widespread disenchantment and discontent with the functioning of the police force, the cause of reform has not captured the imagination of Indians. Is it because of inadequate appreciation of the importance of good policing for the health of a vibrant democratic society with economic potential to develop into a world power? Or, is it sheer apathy a feeling of having given up? Possibly, a mix of both.
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Bipartisan Police Reform Talks Crumble
Negotiators had tried to focus on a slimmed down version of the legislation without qualified immunity reform. But even that proved too difficult.
The bipartisan police reform talks have officially collapsed.
The end to the discussions comes after Sens. Cory Booker and Tim Scott and Rep. Karen Bass spent months trying to reach an agreement with little progress. The negotiators had moved their self-imposed deadline for coming to a deal several times, but the differences between both sides ultimately proved too vast.
Among the key sticking points was reforming qualified immunity, which shields police officers from civil liability for misdeeds. Negotiators hit a stalemate on that provision and ultimately decided to take it off the table this summer. Instead, they focused on a slimmed down version of the legislation but even that proved too difficult.
“The effort from the very beginning was to get police reform that would raise professional standards, police reform that would create a more transparent way, one that would create accountability and we were not able to come to agreements on those three big areas,” Booker told reporters Wednesday. “It was clear to me that we weren’t making any more substantive progress.”
Scott, meanwhile, blamed Democrats for walking away from the talks and said that he had tried to introduce a compromise bill, but Democrats rejected the idea.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the end to the police reform discussions.
There Has To Be A Solution We Cannot Go Without One
Just recently, a young man suspected of stealing pizza in New York City was assaulted by police as he was surrendering. He was defenseless and holding his hands up, which is when one of New Yorks finest thought it would be a good time to punch him thrice in the head. It is again entirely probable that the violent, hair-trigger policeman in this case will suffer no meaningful consequences whatsoever, outside of perhaps being put on a weeks desk duty inside an air-conditioned precinct.
In Virginia, an Iraq War veteran was sleeping in a model unit of his apartment building due to a plumbing problem in his own unit a neighbor thought he was breaking and entering and called the police on him. The police inexplicably responded by conducting a no-knock raid. The veteran awoke surrounded by three officers with their guns drawn and aimed at him he was handcuffed and searched before they discovered his identity. A shift commander described this inept, terroristic response as on point.
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Policing In The Us Was Established To Maintain White Supremacy
The police are not a neutral body, and the institution is inherently biased. In the U.S. slave patrols and night watches were the beginning of a racially directed system of law enforcement designed to secure capital for white settlers.
Over the past 40 years, the expansion of racially targeted policing and policies such as stop-and-frisk and the war on drugs have helped fuel mass incarceration in the U.S., with African-Americans incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people. Black and Brown people are disproportionately targeted from a young age, with hundreds of thousands of children ages six to 14 arrested, often by police officers stationed in schools as school resource officers.
Police forces have also become more militarized. Since 1990, the federal government has transferred $6 billion of excess military equipment to local law enforcement agencies under its 1033 Program, giving police access to mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles, and grenade launchers. For years police have also undergone warrior training that teaches them to see every encounter as potentially life-threatening, especially when those encounters involve people of color. Every year on-duty police kill an estimated 1,000 people.
Whats more, a recent study revealed that hundreds of active duty officers from across the country are members of racist and anti-government groups on Facebook.
A Better Path Forward For Criminal Justice: Police Reform
Below is the first chapter from “A Better Path Forward for Criminal Justice,” a report by the Brookings-AEI Working Group on Criminal Justice Reform. You can access other chapters from the report here.
Recent incidents centering on the deaths of unarmed Black Americans including George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, William Green, and countless others have continued to apply pressure for wide sweeping police reform. To some, these incidents are the result of a few bad apples.1
To others, they are examples of a system imbued with institutional and cultural failures that expose civilians and police officers to harm. Our article aims to combine perspectives from across the political spectrum on sensible police reform. We focus on short-, medium-, and long-term solutions for reducing officer-involved shootings, racial disparities in use of force, mental health issues among officers, and problematic officers who rotten the tree of law enforcement.
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D Raisingthe Stakes Of Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence
Understanding todayâs policing crisis as a problem of legalestrangement clarifies and raises the stakes of our Fourth Amendmentjurisprudence. When judges rule on the lawfulness of police conduct in a singlecase, they are ruling on a âprogram.â312That program is bigger than systematic Terrystops-and-frisks of young African American and Latino men.313The program is endemic to policing itself, including serving warrants314and responding to calls for assistance. Because of thelongstanding social, cultural, and symbolic meaning of the police among AfricanAmericans and in racially and socioeconomically marginalized communities,policing casesâmore than othersâsend messages to groups about socialinclusion and, indeed, social citizenship. Legitimacy theory does not offer aconsistent mode of response to this problem.315
In Whren v. UnitedStates, the Court ruled, inter alia, that challenges to policeinvestigations based on race-based selective enforcement must proceed throughFourteenth Amendment equal protection analysis rather than Fourth Amendmentanalysis.320Given the very high bar for proving racial discrimination under the EqualProtection Clause post-Washington v.Davis,321Whren significantly curtails thedegree to which Fourth Amendment jurisprudence on police investigation could beused to correct racial discrimination in the conduct of police investigations.
We Need Better Data To Evaluate Police And Crime
As it stands, the federal government does a terrible job collecting data on crime and police actions. Nationwide crime reports tend to come out with a lag period of a year or more. And virtually every expert agreed this data very likely undercounts crime, since it misses crimes that arent reported to the police.
We know virtually nothing about crime in America other than murder, kidnapping, and arson, Roman said. Rape, robbery, assault, motor vehicle theft, gangs, drugs we dont report data back to the federal government that allows the federal government to tell law enforcement how to behave more efficiently or helps researchers understand how crime is created and evolves.
But more comprehensive, current data could be very useful for fighting crime, several experts argued.
We know virtually nothing about crime in America other than murder, kidnapping, and arson
You need that comparative information so you can determine whether that problem youre experiencing in your own community is relatively distinctive or specific to local community conditions or its a common problem in many, many other communities, Rosenfeld said. If its the latter, you want to consult with those other communities to see how theyre addressing it. If its the former, then you know you have to devise strategies that respond to the specifics of the problems in your own community.
Beyond Reform: Racial Justice Policing And The Path Forward
The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others have sparked international outrage and a nationwide reckoning with the persistence of police brutalitybut also with the fundamental racism of a policing system that has deliberately oppressed Black and Brown people for generations.
The ACLU has been fighting police brutality for 100 years and recognizes that this is a watershed moment for racial justice. With the municipal budget season in full swing, state lawmakers contemplating reforms and massive popular momentum nationwide, the ACLU of Massachusetts is advocating for a fundamental shift in the role police play in the Commonwealth. In short, that role must be smaller, more circumscribed, and less funded with tax-payer dollars.
Here, you can find an outline of the ACLUs advocacy goals, as well as links to our latest work on this issue, including litigation, legislation, and calls to action.
To be meaningful and effective, any policies designed to address systemic racism in policing should be based on the following three pillars.
Divest from police invest in communities
Overhaul police practices
Hold police accountable
See below for more resources.
If Police Get This Right They Can Boost Faith In Cops And Their Legitimacy In Crime
Theres an underlying point in all these strategies: More effective and transparent policing really can solve the two big problems racial bias and higher crime pegged to police in America today.
Whenever another police shooting of a black person hits the news, opponents of Black Lives Matter tend to fall back on a question: But what about black-on-black crime? The suggestion is that far more black people are murdered by black civilians, so thats really what someone worried about black lives should worry about.
What these critics miss is that distrust in the police the key driver behind Black Lives Matter is also a key driver of crime in minority neighborhoods. When communities dont trust the police and are afraid of the police, then they will not and cannot work with police and within the law around issues in their own community, Kennedy said. Then those issues within the community become issues the community needs to deal with on their own and that leads to violence.
Better policing cant stop all crime. There are many other issues, from jobs to housing, that also have an impact. But police, if they are trusted by the community, can have a sizable effect.
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