& POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
BLACK LIVES MATTER
I am proud of our community and the statement we are making. It was a privilege to be out there with you.
Until real change has been attained criminal justice reform must be a national priority. The murder of George Floyd has exposed what black Americans have always known--our criminal justice system is racist and communities of color, specifically black communities, have been dehumanized, abused, and overpoliced. Reform is needed now.
In the past few decades, the U.S has drastically increased policing’s scope, now spending close to $200 billion/year on police and incarceration—while chronic disinvestment in black communities further widens the racial wealth and health gap. We must shrink police power and budgets and instead invest in community-led health and safety solutions, as well as resources for black people to survive and thrive.The first steps in ensuring equitable law enforcement are divestment from the police force and investment into our communities. As more officers, guns, jails, and prisons only exacerbate racial disparities, injustice, and police violence, we must instead, reallocate resources to the healthcare, housing, and education that people deserve. Police departments must acknowledge the harm their institution has caused black families, make an apology, and commit resources to families and communities who have been forced to suffer.
Additionally, I echo the call for the federal government to provide direct cash payments, rent cancellation, mortgage cancellation, a moratorium on utility and water shutoffs, and cancellation of student, medical, and other forms of debt. Long-term economic solutions like a Universal Basic Income will go a long way in addressing the immediate crisis and paving the way for a just recovery that doesn’t prioritize corporations and leave our communities behind.
The rights of protestors are to be respected. Violations of property should never be equated with the violation of human life. Local and state officials must ensure that there are no abuses of power and no use of lethal force on protestors.
Beyond divestment, our current leaders in Congress are swiftly calling for police accountability. In accordance with the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, I support changing the standard by which police can be charged with excessive force from “willfully depriving” an individual of their Constitutional rights to “knowingly or with reckless disregard” to the Constitutional rights of an individual and granting subpoena power to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate all allegations of police misconduct, which will in turn “incentivize state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations” into police departments with a history of abuse of people of color. As well, I support the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry and a federal database including all reports of force against civilians.
Qualified immunity laws spawn from a racist history of horrific abuse towards people of color and is a major barrier to a victims’ success in civil rights cases against the police. Thus, I support repealing qualified immunity laws. In accordance with this, I support establishing independent review mechanisms to investigate police misconduct and strengthening guidelines for police to report all instances of force such that no misconduct is swept under the rug. To do this, we must give the community civilian oversight power and place disciplinary procedures in the hands of those on the receiving end of daily policing practices.
Beyond the operations of police, the militarization of America’s police force is inappropriate and completely ill-suited to the notion of keeping our communities safe and vibrant. Thus, we must eliminate the Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 Program and the Homeland Security Grant Program which allows for the transfer and purchase of military-grade arms and equipment to police departments. As well, I support banning the use of armored vehicles (i.e. MRAPs), military helicopters, machine guns, automatic weapons, grenade launchers, bayonets, and combat airplanes by police departments.
Finally, we must reform police practices for use of force. In order to do this, we must ban the usage of chokeholds and carotid holds, require officer training on racial bias and duty to intervene and ban no-knock warrants in drug cases. In the legal sense, we must change “the standard to evaluate whether law enforcement use of force was justified from whether the force was reasonable to whether the force was necessary” and require federal law-enforcement officers to wear body cameras and use federal funding mechanisms to increase usage of these cameras among police.
Although the spotlight currently shines most brightly on the need of policing reform, it is also imperative to address the systemic racism that permeates other aspects of the criminal justice system. Once Americans have paid their debt to society and reformed their lives, they should be afforded the same rights and privileges as their fellow Americans—that means unfettered access to voting rights, housing rights, and employment rights.
We must expunge the records of non-violent drug offenders as marijuana approaches nationwide legalization. I will fight for marijuana legalization that also addresses the unfairness of incarcerated individuals. For decades, black and brown Americans have carried the burden of overpoliced law enforcement of minor marijuana possession. The fact that black Americans are incarcerated at 4 times the rate of whites for marijuana possession speaks volumes to the severity of a prejudiced system that has ravaged communities of color for too long. It is absolutely essential that black and brown communities are able to benefit economically from marijuana legalization in the form of small business grants and targeted loans to even the playing field.
America’s strength has always been its diversity---but that diversity can only flourish if all Americans are treated equally by those serving to protect. America is even stronger when everyone has the same rights and opportunities to thrive in our country. I will fight to make sure that’s the case.