While we respect good police officers who are doing their best to protect our communities, our policing system is long overdue for change. Police abuse and systemic racism have plagued communities for far too long. We cannot pretend to be blind to such a flawed system, and the time for change is now.
We must develop and implement bold policies that hold the police accountable to the communities they serve, and we must end policies that serve as shields for racism and violence. We cannot lose another Black life because of police brutality.
Federal law currently states that to charge and convict police for killing or harming an individual, prosecutors have to prove willful intent on the part of the police officer to kill or harm the victim. But proving willful intent from police officers can be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
There are thousands of victims of police brutality who have never received the justice they deserve.
We must allow officers to be prosecuted if they kill or harm someone who is acting with “reckless disregard”. We must stop officers from getting away with crimes while doing their job poorly.
In the past, courts have given police officers broad immunity from being sued if they have violated the constitutional rights of an individual, a phenomenon known as qualified immunity.
The moral and legal standard for our nation’s police forces can not be lower than that for the average American. No one in our country should ever be above the law, regardless of holding a badge or title.
We must end qualified immunity and make it easier for plaintiffs to recover damages against police officers that violate their rights.
On March 13, police shot and killed innocent 26-year-old Breonna Taylor after using a battering ram to break down her door and exchanging fire with Taylor’s boyfriend. The police were executing a search warrant for a drug case involving two completely separate individuals but broke down Taylor’s door because they believed the men were receiving packages at her apartment.
No-knock warrants violate the rights of innocent Americans to live without fear. We can’t allow more lives, like Breonna Taylor, to be lost due to the negligence of the police.
No-knock warrants should only be used if there is a credible threat of imminent harm or death.
George Floyd died after a police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Restraint tactics that kill innocent civilians like George Floyd need to be banned from our nation’s police forces. Police chokeholds, which impede victims’ ability to breathe, must be banned immediately.
Right now, there’s currently very little data available to other police departments about misconduct among officers, making it difficult to identify past offenders and ensure that they don’t receive jobs in new departments.
We must create a national misconduct registry that would enable local police departments to make informed hiring decisions and prevent dangerous police officers from shifting departments—and brutalizing innocent civilians in other cities.
Moreover, there is no transparency regarding how often officers are using force to restrain civilians. States must be required to report the use of force to the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies must be made aware of how often police are using force. This data will allow the federal government to determine which departments are excessively forceful—holding police officers and their departments accountable for their actions.
Registries like these are crucial: not just to hold our law enforcement officers accountable, but to make informed policy decisions for the future.
None of these rules will make a difference if they aren’t enforced. If we allow police departments to police themselves, we create a recipe for corruption.
As we’ve seen time and time again, police brutality is often covered up by police departments in an effort to avoid punishment and justice.
State attorneys general should be encouraged and offered resources to create an independent review process to investigate misconduct or excessive use of force in their local police departments.
Police brutality affects Black lives the most. That is why we have to institute national standard for racial bias training for police officers. Racial bias training is aimed at forcing law enforcement officers to recognize their own explicit and implicit biases — and how these attitudes affect the way they respond in different situations.
In addition to requiring it at the federal level, funding for state and local police should be withheld if police forces refuse to commit to implementing racial bias training programs.
We must also train our officers in safer de-escalation techniques and require officers to use deadly force only as a last resort.
In addition to discussions of police brutality, we must also recognize the rise in modern-day lynchings, such as that of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man killed by two white neighbors while jogging.
Even though lynching has taken innocent Black lives for centuries, there remains no law on the books classifying lynchings as a federal crime.
Federal officers must be required to use body cameras and dashboard cameras. Local and state law enforcement should have federal funding withheld if they refuse to implement body and dashboard cameras.
To receive federal funding, police departments must be required to have body cameras on at all times and keep footage readily accessible. Officers who refuse to turn their body and dashboard cameras should be punished and dismissed.
Military equipment, such as armored vehicles and drones, do not belong on America’s streets. The military should not be able to distribute excess equipment to local law enforcement agencies. Additionally, local law enforcement agencies should not be able to purchase military grade equipment for use on our streets.