Community Peace/Stopping Police Violence
We have experienced many deaths and tremendous suffering from our national culture of violence, but none cut so deeply into the heart of our communities as the abuse of physical power by the our own government via the police. The institutions we should trust to protect and help us, instead betray us with suspicion, assumed guilt, fear, and murder. Although many police officers deserve praise for their service, too many we trust to protect and help us instead betray us with hostile suspicion and quick resort to fatal violence.
A long-standing pattern of abuse of the state’s police power for African Americans, particularly men, has become known to all our country. We must act immediately to stop police violence, stop all instances of violence in our culture, and bring peace to our families, streets, and the relationship between communities and law enforcement. Our goal is peace in our communities, with police respecting people in every interaction, each step of their work – and return to their best role, peace keepers.
- Prevention of Police Violence and Reduction in Community Violence
- Increased screening and training for local police – use federal and state support to distribute best practices from the most successful, tolerant police forces in the country; the federal government should help local departments help other local departments. Emphasize de-escalation with more training hours than weapons training hours.
- Eliminate disparity between communities and their police forces – Fund a state survey of racial parity of local police forces to their communities; pro-actively identify areas with significant gaps and then support local recruitment to achieve parity quickly. Set a three-year goal for each state and local force to have 50% of the officers living in the jurisdiction they are policing.
- Early intervention to identify problem officers – Determine simpler systems for identifying officers with records of unnecessary violence, to improve on the current, complex system that often doesn’t work in time or is too much of a local administrative burden to work effectively.
- Full funding for social workers – Dramatically increased funding for social workers at the local level; the federal government can help communities by re-programming funds from the federal Department of Energy, as we switch from nuclear power to safe, local renewable electricity. Social workers are our front line to help protect children from abuse, which is a major predictor and cause of adult violence in both police and other adults.
- Elevate violent offenders to non-violent paths – Promote the successful model of Richmond, California’s “life mapping program” which, under a Green Party mayor Gayle McLaughlin, reduced street murder of all kinds by 83%. This public/private partnership reduced street violence to historic lows. The reduced overall community violence changes the community’s atmosphere for all. http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2014/01/06/richmond-reports-lowest-homicide-total-in-33-years-credits-multipronged-efforts/
- Provide mental health rapid response to accompany police – Provide 24-hour, on site mental health response individuals to accompany police to any possible mental health-related situation. Trained specialists have precedence in initial assessment of a situation. This will protect the officers, emotionally disturbed individuals, and the community immediately. The program will also pay for itself in the long run with reduced health care and legal costs.
- Avoidance of Physical Confrontation and Violent Police Response
- Mental health units have priority – Support establishing Mental Health units in all local social service departments as a professional standard, which police must call for all behavioral and mental health incidents before drawing any weapon. Put emphasis on simple containment of the person using non-violent means, no matter how disruptive temporarily to traffic or neighborhoods, putting the disturbed person’s life ahead of “maintaining order” for its own sake.
- Raise the standard for “acceptable force” above the legal minimum – Implement the 30 recommendations of the Police Chiefs Research Forum (PERF), a group of police chiefs and commanders. In January 2016 the group issued a 30-point policy paper, among them calling for a redefinition of acceptable force and many other specific, practical means to reduce excessive force. http://samuelwalker.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/PERF30Principles.pdf
- Accountability and Truth
- Local citizen oversight boards– support implementation of oversight boards in all police departments, with all three components of authority to make independent investigations, review of police department’s investigation, and audit of internal review processes. The federal role should provide program training and measurement systems for local programs.
- Automatic external investigation of every police killing – a local or state investigation should occur with every police killing, without having to wait for federal intervention which may be delayed or politically influenced. Set a common expectation among police that all taking of life will have this external review.
- Police body camera footage as public property –set a national standard that this footage is gathered in the course of public service, and is to be made available to the community within a set time period such as seven days of any killing. In this unique case, an officers’ important personal right to privacy is outweighed by the security risk to the public of problem officers, since only the police have the state-granted authority to take life in certain circumstances.
Resources for You on Community Peace/Stopping Police Violence:
Record incidents and preserve evidence –
The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has an app to help you legally monitor, record, and report police interactions. Download here. The app’s main functions are:
- Record button allows you to record exchanges between police officers and themselves or other community members. The audio and video files are automatically sent to the ACLU of Maryland so that evidence can’t be destroyed.
- Witness function sends out an alert when police stop someone so that community members can move toward the location and document the interaction.
- Report feature gives you the option to complete an incident report and send it directly to the ACLU of Maryland for review. ACLU legal staff will review videos that are sent along with a detailed incident report.
- Know Your Rights section – in English and Spanish – provides an overview of your rights when you are stopped by law enforcement officers.
- Notification function allows you to get news about action alerts and events on police accountability, to help you get involved in the movement for reform.