Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lots to do to end police violence

Activists who are part of the movement against violence inflicted on Black individuals and communities have offered a list of remedies they call Campaign Zero. This effort is wider, more of a coalition effort than Black Lives Matter, which leads a vibrant cri de coeur that inspires Black people to come together and assert their simple right to be. Campaign Zero gives everyone who will listen lots of specific campaign objectives that might help.

An easy deflecting response to demands for change is always "what do you people want, anyway?" We've been given an extremely comprehensive list. I'll crib a summary from Molly Weasley at Daily Kos as she's done a good job of catching some details of a program that has multiple local, state and federal components.

End broken windows policing. This calls for an end to the decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities, especially in neighborhoods with people of color. Also addressed are the need for different approaches to those with mental health issues and an end to racial profiling.

Community oversight. This calls for an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office. Both offices would have specific responsibilities and across-the-board power.

Limit use of force. This solution seeks to establish standards monitor how force is used.

Independently investigate and prosecute. Among other recommendations, this point seeks a permanent Special Prosecutor’s Office at the state level to investigate any police shooting.

Community representation. This calls for officers to be a more accurate representation of the communities they serve.

Body cams/film the police. This would require and fund body cameras as well as dashboard cameras. All citizens would have the right to record police interactions on a cell phone, and police would not have the right to confiscate that phone, as is the case in some states.

Training. This calls for rigorous and sustained training, especially about racial bias.

End for-profit policing. This calls for an end to quota systems and limits fines for low-income people.

Demilitarization. This seeks the end of the sale of military weapons to the nation’s police forces.

Fair police union contracts.
This seeks to rewrite police union contracts that create a different set of rules for police, and asks that disciplinary records be open and accessible.

Different pieces of this will take center stage in different localities, depending in part on who lives where and what the power relations are between various communities. Where Black people and other people of color are numerous and are able to exercise political influence (usually but not always by voting), it might be realistic to focus on police recruitment, training and community oversight issues. Where Black people have little power (almost all state level decisions), the core issues are likely to be for-profit policing, demilitarization (police don't have to acquire all that armament) and "police rights" deals that negate their duty to serve the people by protecting individual officers rights as employees.

Getting and keeping the Justice Department on the side of widespread oversight is unequivocally a political issue. Minimally, we can't afford a Republican president or an indifferent Democratic one.

Police have been substituted for a mental health system in most of our urban areas. A huge fraction of police violence happens when a mentally disturbed person confronts insecure officers with a military mindset equipped with badges, tasers and guns. Police also kill disabled personsdisproportionately. This is worst in communities of color, but our failure to fund services to the mentally ill happens everywhere.

As a fix, body cams are tricky. As police have usually done with requirements they display their badges at all times so we at least can know who did the bad deed, officers will figure out how to avoid the scrutiny they create. They will also fight to ensure that review of film is limited to their peers and it is never released to the public. Yet having the political fights over these issues seems a good way to build the struggle. It matters when majorities say "Hey -- that's not right!"

There's so much more. None of us lack for something to do.

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