15 Things We Can Do to End Police Brutality & Reform Our Broken Criminal Justice System
15 Things We Can Do to End Police Brutality & Reform Our Broken Criminal Justice System
African Americans protest against police brutality in Harlem, New York, 1963
By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
May 3, 2017

Here are 4 excellent articles about how to end police brutality and reform our broken criminal justice system. Together they offer a holistic and comprehensive approach that should get us well on our way towards the more just and egalitarian world we all long for. The key is to start implementing these solutions in our own cities, one project at a time: 

 

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Of course, raising awareness regionally and nationally is a big part of the overall strategy to see these solutions implemented everywhere, so if you've only got a minute to spare right now, go ahead and share this on social media, then share it again later with folks in your community.

Here is our own list of actions, taking many points from the above articles:

1. Investigate the democratic channels which are available for citizens to enact policy level changes - whether via speaking and meeting with our elected city officials or the police department directly. Through these channels, we should present a list of policy changes we wish to see enacted. Following are some of the specific policies we would like to see our city commission and police department adopt:

2. Establish a strict "use of force" standard that clearly limits the acceptable use of lethal force to the narrowest possible definitions. We can look to other countries and some police departments in the US for examples.

With a clear "use of force" standard, it will be easier to prosecute and jail officers who unjustly murder citizens. Currently, the vague definitions of 'reasonable force' allow cops to cite personal danger way too easily and the laws support that. To make killer cops accountable and to prevent cops from having the authority to use lethal force, we need every police department to have the strictest "use of force" standard possible.

3. Pass specific policy that bans racist policing, and repeal any policies that have proven to perpetuate racial discrimination, such as "broken windows policing."

4. Police should treat people with addictions or mental illness as well as the homeless with compassion and strive to help them, not treat them like criminals, harassing them, fining them and putting them in jail. While this is starting to happen to some degree, more comprehensive public pressure will help take this further.  

5. During the police training process, officers should be vetted for empathy and sensitivity, rather than aggressiveness and insensitivity, as they are now. Cops say they do this because sensitive cops will quit and the department will lose 6 months of costly training funds, but as Captain Ray Lewis has pointed out, a cop that kills someone unjustly and gets their department sued for $20 million dollars doesn't offer cost savings. It is also the right thing to do. 

6. All cops should be trained in non-violent conflict resolution and communication skills.

7. All cops should be required to listen to at least 20 hours of audio and video recordings of grieving mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of those who were unjustly slain or abused by police.

8. Cops should be encouraged by their superiors and in policy to connect more directly with the communities they serve. This means, among other things, attending local police injustice vigils in plainclothes (off duty) to listen to those grieving and affected. (This was an idea suggested by a speaker at a Lawrence, KS vigil.)

9. Our community should have a direct influence over big decisions. We need more direct democracy and avenues for the public to influence city and police policy.

10. Independent prosecutors should be responsible for handling cases against police officers, not the district attorneys, whose conflict of interest is too great to be impartial.

11. The police should refuse all military equipment.

12. Create an external oversight committee for police conduct.

13. Overhaul the laws which govern traffic and other municipal citations and fines. These fines are frequently used as a revenue source for the city, and it's estimated that 90% of an officer's work is to issue fines to generate revenue. This unjustly burdens the poor and working class in particular, who frequently cannot pay the fines, then get fined for not paying the fines, and get caught in an endless cycle of exploitation. For more, read this police officer's account of how a traffic offense can be a ticket to prison.

14. Reduce the number of unnecessary criminal statutes which unfairly burden the poor.

15. Decriminalize all drugs and release all non-violent drug offenders from local prisons. Drug use should be considered a mental health issue and not a crime. 

*See this link for details. Other than 1, 5, 6, 7, and 15, these proposals are taken directly from the first article above.

This list could surely have many more solutions added to it and is meant to provide a starting point for action and further discussion. If you have other ideas, contact us via our contact page. We'll be updating this guide over time.

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15 Things We Can Do to End Police Brutality & Reform Our Broken Criminal Justice System