Restructuring American Police
Black Americans are more likely to be stopped by the police, subjected to excessive force, and arrested. Black Americans are almost three times as likely to be killed by police and five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans. Systemic racism, militarization of policing, and excessive force continue to pervade American law enforcement, despite recent efforts at reform. We need to employ mental health professionals and social workers in situations that have traditionally but incorrectly engaged police officers. We need to hold officers fully accountable for their actions, increase officer accountability, and prohibit the equipment and tactics that enable excessive use of force. We need to reimagine the role of law enforcement to genuinely serve and protect our communities.
Why We Need It
Law enforcement in the South began as slave patrol, with teams of vigilantes hired to recapture escaped slaves. Then, when slavery was abolished, the police harshly enforced Jim Crow laws. Aggressive policing practices including racial profiling, stop and frisk, broken-windows policing, police brutality, and the war on drugs—waged almost exclusively in communities of color—threaten American livelihood. By jailing and targeting our most vulnerable communities, we aren’t making them safer. We’re making them more violent and unstable. A 2017 report showed that when the NYPD purposely pulled back on “proactive policing”, it received 2,100 fewer crime complaints over just several weeks. We police and punish people for poverty and social disorganization instead of caring for communities and eradicating underlying conditions. Poverty is the cause of crime, not the result of it. We must stop shifting the burden of responsibility for declining living conditions onto marginalized communities and stop purporting that the solution to all social ills is more aggressive policing. It’s not working.
Throughout the past decade, we’ve implemented more training for police, along with body cameras, diversity initiatives, and community policing. We now know that these steps were merely cosmetic changes. It’s discouraging to see city governments, like ours in Los Angeles, spend a majority of their budget on policing the people, instead of caring for them, when we know over-policing doesn’t work. Real progress requires deeper change.
What We’re Fighting For
Our economy is being devastated by income inequality, automation, and COVID. Studies show that the desperation caused by poverty and unemployment can be driving factors for crime. Instead of watching our communities crumble and locking up our neighbors on the way down, let’s ensure that our communities are cared for by investing more in jobs, healthcare coverage, mental health support, housing, food, hospitals, schools and other important community resources and services.
We’ll work to shift federal funding of local police to employ mental health providers, social workers, victim advocates, and community members as emergency responders, replacing the need for a militarized police presence in cities across America. We’ll gradually reappropriate funds from military equipment for police, which will reduce law enforcement’s access to resources that put our communities in danger. We will reinvest that money back into our communities, to fund schools, hospitals, housing, and food, all of which will reduce the underlying causes of crime.
We’ll fight to:
- Demilitarize police by restricting military gear in our communities to police that are required to use it, such as SWAT team members. Those officers should also be held to the same standards as members of the military.
- Encourage independent civilian oversight boards equipped with the power to issue administrative subpoenas and impose penalties for police misconduct.
- Prohibit profiling by law enforcement and intelligence agencies based on race, religion or national origin, by enacting the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (H.R. 1498).
- Ensure accountability and fairness in prosecution by ending qualified immunity for officers and government officials and holding them fully accountable for their actions.
- Ban no-knock raids.
- Establish a national domestic violence registry with a heightened class of offenders, consisting of domestically violent armed officers, along with other policy measures.
- Call for more Department of Justice investigations of police departments, as departments that receive federal intervention have 25-30% fewer police shootings than those that do not.
- Ban the use of “resisting arrest” as a sole justification for arrest.
- Require all costs of police-related lawsuits be covered by officer pensions and/or personal liability insurance, which will remove taxpayer burden, among there being other resulting benefits as well.
- Remand the pensions and ban from working those officers convicted in excessive force cases.
- Cap overtime pay for military exercises.
- Reduce the size of the police force.
- Abolish civil asset forfeiture, which is routinely used to arbitrarily separate citizens from property without regard for due process.
What It Will Do
With over 1,000 Americans killed by police every year, and Black Americans disproportionately affected, it is our duty to put better policies in place. Devoting resources to mental health and social worker first responders, demilitarizing police forces, and gradually reappropriating police funds towards community investment will enable appropriate, peaceable responses to all emergency situations. And by ensuring officers who breach protocol are held fully accountable by external agencies and not above the law, we’ll establish law enforcement that truly serves and protects the people. By recognizing the truth, that American Police originated as a racist institution, and by pushing for systemic change to erase that legacy, we will create a safer and more equitable America.