The police are meant to protect and serve, not disproportionately kill or terrorize marginalized and vulnerable populations. Yet, we continue to witness police brutality against vulnerable people of all types, especially those people who have been racialized, impoverished, or who experience disability. Each year, the police kill people of every type and background, BUT, and it is a big BUT, the police kill certain ethnicities at a greater rate than other ethnicities.
In the United States, Native American and blacks are most likely to be killed during an encounter with the police. Hispanic and Latino people are next, then whites, and finally Asian and South Pacific Islanders. Keep in mind that black people make up only about 14% of the entire US population. Proportionately, they are a small community, but overall, black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police than white people. In Chicago, police killed black people at 22 times the rate that they killed white people, and in 2019 alone, 7 city police departments across the nation managed to kill black men at a higher pace than the US murder rate. These are statistics that deserve attention.
Why is nothing done to stop police brutality?
There are politicians out there that are working to prevent systemic violence toward black Americans by the police. After Ferguson, Obama established a ‘Taskforce on 21st Century Policing’. The intention of this task force was to identify the best practices in policing and to discover the best way for police departments to build public trust.
The Taskforce acknowledged that public trust in the police is necessary and created a set of recommendations that would repair the relationship between the police and the American people:
Trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential in a democracy. It is key to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing servicesExecutive Summary of the Report on 21st Century Policing
The task force recommendations, each with action items, are organized around six main topic areas orExecutive Summary of the Report on 21st Century Policing
“pillars:” Building Trust and Legitimacy, Policy and Oversight, Technology and Social Media, Community Policing and Crime Reduction, Officer Training and Education, and Officer Safety and Wellness. The task force also offered two overarching recommendations: the President should support the creation of a National Crime and Justice Task Force to examine all areas of criminal justice and propose reforms; as a corollary to this effort, the task force also recommends that the President support programs that take a comprehensive and inclusive look at community-based initiatives addressing core issues such as poverty, education, and health and safety.
OK THEN!! So some politicians decided to start acting on these recommendations and they introduced a bill to get things going. Wow America would have been so great if only everyone wanted police reform and to protect black lives from the brutality perpetrated by those ‘few bad apple’ cops that were prone to using excessive force. Sadly, the hope for police reform was short lived, despite the efforts of well meaning politicians.
These politicians tried to stop police brutality:
The ‘S.1938 — 116th Congress: Police Training and Independent Review Act of 2019’ was introduced by Senators Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillebrand, Mazie Hirono, Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, and Bernie Sanders in 2019. A lot of people liked the bill, especially organizations that advocate for black Americans and other people of color, or who are vulnerable citizens that are disproportionately targeted by the police. Organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). People liked it because the bill was aiming to reduce injustice. Who wouldn’t like this:
The use of an independent agency, civilian review board or outside law enforcement department, such as the State Police, responsible for independently investigating and prosecuting all officer use of force allegations.
The appointment of the State Attorney General, or a special prosecutor overseen by the State Attorney General, responsible for conducting the criminal investigation and prosecution.
The use of an independent prosecutor, who does not reside or work in the same county as the county where the officer’s use of force was committed.Duckworth
The Police Training and Independent Review Act would create a financial incentive for states to require training for law enforcement officials on fair and impartial policing as well as best practices for working with members of the community who are disabled and mentally ill. It would also encourage communities to use independent prosecutors to investigate law enforcement officials’ use of deadly force by authorizing the U.S. Attorney General to award grants to states that require an independent investigation and, if warranted, prosecution in cases where one or more of the alleged offenses result in death or serious bodily harm.Duckworth
These politicians refuse to take action:
The Republican Senators could not seem to get behind the Police Training and Independent Review Act. Many have dismissed the need for police reform.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to McConnell, said that law enforcement reform legislation was “opportunistic” and “misses the point.”
“This idea that we somehow are going to paint all of law enforcement with a brush of racism is outrageous in and of itself and it’s obviously designed to divide the country further,” Cornyn said about the prospects for legislation.The Hill
“I think it’s pretty hard to come up with national police reform measures, which is why I think it’s better that the Justice Department work with individual police departments … to help them determine what they could be doing better.” –Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo). Yes, so hard. A taskforce did a big study and laid it out for you. Did you read their report?
“I think these are conversations that we need to have. … Is there a right legislative response? I don’t know,” — Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Read: Who knows what can be done about police brutality. Its such a complicated issue.
“With no animosity, I object at this time. I hope we can get it [as] part of a broader agenda,” — Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Not even the Democrats are united on this very simple issue:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that rank-and-file Democrats disagree over whether the goal should be sweeping legislation or a piecemeal approach, which might have a better chance of becoming law.The Hill
Despite widespread civil unrest in 2020, McConnell declined to add police reform to the Senate’s agenda. Now that Democrats have control, will police reform make it onto the agenda?
In the Senate, Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is publicly urging McConnell to vote on legislation before the two-week July 4 recess, but the GOP leader’s outline for the Senate’s agenda in June does not include police reform.The Hill
Almost a year later, attempts at police reform continue to stall, while instances of police brutality seem to be accelerating. Instead of progress, the ‘bad apple’ cops seem to be acting with impunity. Police are rarely charged in brutality cases, and those that are charged often are excused for their actions by media personalities and members of the public. While few are charged, even fewer are convicted. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to hold police accountable for their actions.