Alternatives to Calling the Police and Police an Justice Reforms

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Enduring Myth of Black Criminality


Table of Contents

Police Violence Statistics

Alternatives to Calling the Police

Police Reform

Restorative Justice


Police Violence Statistics

Mapping Police Violence

  • 27% of U.S. police killings between January 2013 – June 2017 were committed by police departments of the 100 largest U.S. cities.
  • Black people were 39% of people killed by these 100 police departments despite being only 21% of the population in their jurisdictions.
  • Only 1 of the 100 largest city police departments did not kill anyone from Jan 2013 – Jun 2017 (Irvine, CA).
  • 48% of unarmed people killed by the 100 largest city police departments were black. These police departments killed unarmed black people at a rate 4 times higher than unarmed white people.
  • Rates of violent crime in cities did not make it any more or less likely for police departments to kill people. For example, Buffalo and Newark police departments had low rates of police violence despite high crime rates while Spokane and Bakersfield had relatively low crime rates and high rates of police violence.

Click on the Police Accountability Tool to learn the police violence statistics in your state

The New Progressive: The Ultimate White Privilege Statistics & Data Post

  • Young black boys/men, ages 15-19, are 21 times more likely to be to be shot and killed by the police than young white boys/men.
  • Blacks are less than 13% of the U.S. population, and yet they are 31% of all fatal police shooting victims, and 39% of those killed by police even though they weren’t attacking.
  • A 2007 U.S. Department of Justice report on racial profiling found that blacks and Latinos were 3 times as likely to be stopped as whites, and that blacks were twice as likely to be arrested and 4 times as likely “to experience the threat or use of force during interactions with the police.”
  • Blacks are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Blacks are 20% more likely to be sentenced to prison than whites.
  • Once convicted, black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes.
  • 1 in every 15 black men (and 1 in every 36 Latino men) are currently incarcerated, while for white men the statistic is 1 in 106.
  • Minorities are less than 28% of the U.S. population, but they are nearly 60% of the prison population. Blacks in specific are less than 13% of the U.S. population, but they are 38% of the American prison population.
  • Black boys are five times as likely to go to jail as white boys; Latino boys are 3 times as likely. 

Click on this Link to Learn more about Racial Disparities

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Alternatives to Calling the Police

Often calling the police on people of color can trigger forms of racial oppression from harming the victim, deportation, loss of job, to escalating the situation causing harm or death.  Many of these consequences can be triggered by minor violations such as noise complaints, selling marijuana, public intoxication, etc.  It’s important to understand the consequences of calling the police and to always search for alternatives when possible.

Possible Negative Impacts of calling the police

  • Police often arrest and harm the victims, especially back women and black transgender people, causing further trauma
  • If the person is undocumented you could trigger an ICE deportation
  • Police could escalate the situation causing harm, harassment, trauma or death
  • Victims could go to jail causing them to lose their job, experience financial hardships, harming family relations, exposure to abuse, affecting future school and job opportunities and/or entering people into a prison cycle that perpurates further and more erve crimes
  • Could create harmful divides in your community

Steps to Ask Yourself Before Calling the Police

According to the group Petworth Immigrant Rights & Police Accountability

  1. Is this merely an inconvenience to me? > Can I put up with this and be okay?
  2. No, I need to respond > Can I handle this on my own, is this something I could try to talk-out with the person?
  3. No, I need back-up > Is there a friend, neighbor, or someone whom I could call to help me?
  4. No, I need a professional > Can we use mediation to talk through what’s happening or is there an emergency response hotline I could call?
  5. No >  If I call the police do I understand how involving the police could impact me and the other person?

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Alternatives to Calling the Police

  1.  Know your Neighbors!  Spend time meeting and building relationships with your neighbors.  Exchange contact info.  Many neighborhood conflicts can be resolved easily by contacting the right neighbor.
  2. Volunteer with local community mediation groups.  If there isn’t one organize your community to create one.
  3. Join or organize a neighborhood group to organize to help conflicts and challenge police oppression.
  4. Research and develop a list of hotlines and resources to contact first before calling the police.  Share with your community.  Ideally make it a live doc that everyone can update.  Find resources and hotline numbers for the following
    • Mediation
    • Mental Health
    • Victim Support
    • Sexual Assault
    • Severe Heat or Cold
    • Undocumented Immigrant Help
    • BilingualHotlines
    • Human Trafficking
      • National Human Trafficking Hotline (888) 373-7888 24/7 200+ languages.  A trained and experienced Anti-Trafficking Advocate will speak with you about your needs, your options, and the resources. Anonymously report tips, seek services, and ask for help.
  5. Take anti-racist, de-escalation, mediation and anti-harassment trainings when possible.  Make a list of all the local organizations that host these trainings  and share with your community
  6. Volunteer with local organizations that support anti-racism, anti-police oppression and community policing initiatives.  Again, make a list and share with your community.
  7. Advocate and support efforts for local legislation to fund anti-police oppression programs and community-led peacekeeping and mediation efforts.
  8. Continue to educate yourself.  Read and follow this frequently updated resource

     —

    New Zine: 12 Things to do Instead of Calling the Cops

    Calling the police often escalates situations, puts people at risk, and leads to violence. Anytime you seek help from the police, you’re inviting them into your community and putting people who may already be vulnerable into dangerous situations. Sometimes people feel that calling the police is the only way to deal with problems. But we can build trusted networks of mutual aid that allow us to better handle conflicts ourselves and move toward forms of transformative justice, while keeping police away from our neighborhoods.

    1 Don’t feel obligated to defend property—especially corporate “private” property. Before confronting someone or contacting the police, ask yourself if anyone is being hurt or endangered by property “theft” or damage. If the answer is “no,” then let it be.

    2 If something of yours is stolen and you need to file a report for insurance or other purposes, consider going to the police station instead of bringing cops into your community. You may inadvertently be putting someone in your neighborhood at risk.

    3 If you observe someone exhibiting behavior that seems “odd” to you, don’t assume that they are publicly intoxicated. A traumatic brain injury or a similar medical episode may be occurring. Ask if they are OK, if they have a medical condition, and if they need assistance.

    4 If you see someone pulled over with car trouble, stop and ask if they need help or if you can call a tow truck for them. If the police are introduced to such a situation, they may give punitive and unnecessary tickets to people with car issues, target those without papers, or worse.

    5 Keep a contact list of community resources like suicide hotlines. When police are contacted to “manage” such situations, people with mental illness are sixteen times more likely to be killed by cops than those without mental health challenges.

    6 Check your impulse to call the police on someone you believe looks or is acting “suspicious.” Is their race, gender, ethnicity, class, or housing situation influencing your choice? Such calls can be death sentences for many people.

    7 Encourage teachers, coworkers, and organizers to avoid inviting police into classrooms, workplaces, and public spaces. Instead, create for a culture of taking care of each other and not unwittingly putting people in harm’s way. If you’re part of a group that’s holding a rally or demonstration, don’t get a permit or otherwise cooperate with the police.

    8 If your neighbor is having a party and the noise is bothering you, go over and talk to them. Getting to know your neighbors with community events like monthly block parties is a good way to make asking them to quiet down a little less uncomfortable, or to find another neighbor who is willing to do so.

    9 If you see someone peeing in public, just look away! Remember, for example, that many houseless people do not have reliable access to bathrooms.

    10 Hold and attend deescalation, conflict resolution, first-aid, volunteer medic, and self-defense workshops in your neighborhood, school, workplace, or community organization.

    11 Street art is beautiful! Don’t report graffiti and other street artists. If you see work that includes fascistic or hate speech, paint over it yourself or with friends.

    12 Remember that police can escalate domestic violence situations. You can support friends and neighbors who are being victimized by abusers by offering them a place to stay, a ride to a safe location, or to watch their children. Utilize community resources like safe houses and hotlines.

What To Do Instead of Calling the Police
A Guide, A Syllabus, A Conversation, A Process

When the Police Knock on Your Door
Your Rights and Options: A Legal Guide and Poster

Great Example of a Local “Alternatives to Calling Police” Guide


Police Reform

Campaign Zero Policy Changes to End Police Violence

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1. End Broken Windows Policing

A decades-long focus on policing minor crimes and activities – a practice called Broken Windows policing – has led to the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color and excessive force in otherwise harmless situations. In 2014, police killed at least 287 people who were involved in minor offenses and harmless activities like sleeping in parks, possessing drugs, looking “suspicious” or having a mental health crisis. These activities are often symptoms of underlying issues of drug addiction, homelessness, and mental illness which should be treated by healthcare professionals and social workers rather than the police.

Policy Solutions

End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses

The following activities do not threaten public safety and are often used to police black bodies. Decriminalize these activities or de-prioritize their enforcement:

  • Consumption of Alcohol on Streets
  • Marijuana Possession
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Loitering
  • Disturbing the Peace (including Loud Music)
  • Spitting
  • Jaywalking
  • Bicycling on the Sidewalk

(Example: Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2015)

End Profiling and “Stop-and-Frisk”

Establish enforceable protections against profiling to prevent police from intervening in civilian lives for no reason other than the “suspicion” of their blackness or other aspects of their identity. This should include:

  • immigration status, age, housing status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, HIV status, race, religion and national origin as protected groups
  • the right for people to seek court orders to stop police departments from profiling
  • bans on both intentional profiling and practices that have a disparate impact on protected groups
  • ban stops for “furtive” movements such as a reaching for waistband or acting nervous
  • ban stops for being in a high-crime area
  • ban stops for matching a generalized description of a suspect (i.e. black male ages 15-25)
  • require officers to establish objective justification for making a stop and to report every stop including location, race, gender, whether force was used and whether a firearm was found.
  • end the use of predictive policing technology, which uses systematically biased data to enhance police profiling of black people and communities
  • prohibit police departments from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, report, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.
  • prohibit police departments from transferring an individual to federal immigration authorities for purposes of immigration enforcement.
  • prohibit officers from being placed under the supervision of federal agencies or deputized as special federal officers or special federal deputies.

(Examples: End Racial Profiling Act of 2015NYC Community Safety Act; NYC Stop-and-Frisk Reforms; California Senate Bill 54)

Establish Alternative Approaches to Mental Health Crises

Mental health crises should not be excuses for heavy-handed police interventions and are best handled by mental health professionals. Establish and fund Mental Health Response Teams to respond to crisis situations. These approaches have been proven to reduce police use of force in these situations by nearly 40 percent and should include:

  • a multidisciplinary co-responder team that includes mental health professionals, social workers and crisis counselors as well as specially trained police officers
  • involvement of this multidisciplinary team in planning, implementation and response to crises
  • at least 40 hours of crisis intervention training for police officers (Ex: LAPD Mental Evaluation Team)

Learn More About This Issue

2.  Community Oversight

Police usually investigate and decide what, if any, consequences their fellow officers should face in cases of police misconduct. Under this system, fewer than 1 in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible. Communities need an urgent way to ensure police officers are held accountable for police violence.

Policy Solutions

Establish effective civilian oversight structures

Establish an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office with the following powers:

The Police Commission should:

  • determine policy for the police department based on community input and expertise
  • share policy and policy changes in publicly accessible formats
  • discipline and dismiss police officers
  • hold public disciplinary hearings
  • select the candidates for Police Chief, to be hired by the Mayor
  • evaluate and fire the Police Chief, if needed
  • receive full-time, competitive salaries for all members
  • receive regular training on policing and civil rights
  • not have current, former or family of police officers as members
  • select its members from candidates offered by community organizations

The Civilian Complaints Office should:

  • receive, investigate and resolve all civilian complaints against police in 120 days
  • establish multiple in-person and online ways to submit, view and discuss complaints
  • be immediately notified and required to send an investigator to the scene of a police shooting or in-custody death
  • be allowed to interrogate officers less than 48 hours after an incident where deadly force is used
  • access crime scenes, subpoena witnesses and files with penalties for non-compliance
  • make disciplinary and policy recommendations to the Police Chief
  • compel the Police Chief to explain why he/she has not followed a recommendation
  • have the Police Commission decide cases where the Police Chief does not follow recommendations
  • issue public quarterly reports analyzing complaints, demographics of complainants, status and findings of investigations and actions taken as a result
  • be housed in a separate location from the police department
  • be funded at an amount no less than 5% of the total police department budget
  • have at least 1 investigator for every 70 police officers or 4 investigators at all times,whichever is greater
  • have its Director selected from candidates offered by community organizations
  • not have current, former or family of police officers on staff, including the Director

(Ex: San Francisco Charter Policies on Police Commission and Office of Citizen Complaints)

Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct

For all stops by a police officer, require officers to give civilians their name, badge number, reason for the stop and a card with instructions for filing a complaint to the civilian oversight structure.

Learn More About This Issue

3.  Limit Use of Force

Police should have the skills and cultural competence to protect and serve our communities without killing people – just as police do in England, Germany, Japan and other developed countries. In 2014, police killed at least 253 unarmed people and 91 people who were stopped for mere traffic violations. The following policy solutions can restrict the police from using excessive force in everyday interactions with civilians.

Policy Solutions

Establish standards and reporting of police use of deadly force

A. Authorize deadly force only when there is an imminent threat to an officer’s life or the life of another person and such force is strictly unavoidable to protect life as required under International Law. Deadly force should only be authorized after all other reasonable means have been exhausted. (Ex: International Deadly Force Standard; Tennessee Deadly Force Law)

B. Require that an officer’s tactical conduct and decisions leading up to using deadly force be considered in judgements of whether such force was reasonable. (Ex: LAPD Use of Force Policy)

C. Require officers give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force and give subjects a reasonable amount of time to comply with the warning (Ex: Las Vegas Metro PD Policy)

D.  Require reporting of police killings or serious injuries of civilians (Ex: The PRIDE Act; Colorado law)

E. Require the names of both the officer(s) involved and victim(s) to be released within 72 hours of a deadly force incident (Ex: Philadelphia PD Policy)

Revise and strengthen local police department use of force policies

Revised police use of force policies should protect human life and rights. Policies should include guidance on reporting, investigation, discipline, and accountability and increase transparency by making the policies available online. This use of force policy should require officers to:

  • restrict officers from using deadly force unless all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted (Ex: Philadelphia PD Policy)
  • use minimum amount of force to apprehend a subject, with specific guidelines for the types of force and tools authorized for a given level of resistance (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
  • de-escalate first (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
  • carry a less-lethal weapon (Ex: Seattle PD Policy)
  • ban using force on a person for talking back or as punishment for running away (Ex: Cleveland PD Policy)
  • ban chokeholds, strangleholds (i.e. carotid restraints), hog-tying and transporting people face down in a vehicle (Ex: NYPD Policy)
  • intervene to stop other officers who are using excessive force and report them to a supervisor (Ex: Las Vegas Metro PD Policy)
  • have first aid kits and immediately render medical assistance to anyone in police custody who is injured or who complains of an injury (Ex: New Baltimore PD Policy)

End traffic-related police killings and dangerous high-speed police chases

Prohibit police officers from:

Monitor how police use force and proactively hold officers accountable for excessive force

A. Report all uses of force to a database with information on related injuries and demographics of the victims. (Ex: Seattle PD Policy; Indianapolis Metropolitan PD reporting website)

B. Establish an early intervention system to correct officers who use excessive force. These systems have been shown to reduce the average number of complaints against officers in a police department by more than 50%. This system should:

  • report officers who receive two or more complaints in the past month
  • report officers who have two or more use of force incidents or complaints in the past quarter
  • require officers to attend re-training and be monitored by an immediate supervisor after their first quarterly report and terminate an officer following multiple reports

C. Require police departments to notify the state when an officer is found to have willfully violated department policy or the law, committed official misconduct, or resigned while under investigation for these offenses. Maintain this information in a database accessible to the public (Ex: Illinois Law) and prohibit these officers from serving as police officers, teachers or other governmental employees.


Campaign Zero reviewed police department use of force policies in 91 of the largest U.S. cities. Eight use of force policies were found to be associated with fewer police-involved killings and killings of police officers. Learn more at UseofForceProject.org.

4. Independently Investigate & Prosecute

Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals. This makes it hard for them to investigate and prosecute the same police officers in cases of police violence. These cases should not rely on the police to investigate themselves and should not be prosecuted by someone who has an incentive to protect the police officers involved.

policy solutions

Lower the standard of proof for Department of Justice civil rights investigations of police officers

Allow federal prosecutors to successfully prosecute police officers for misconduct by passing legislation to eliminate the requirement that an officer must “willfully” deprive another’s rights in order to violate Section 242.

Use federal funds to encourage independent investigations and prosecutions

Pass legislation such as the Police Training and Independent Review Act of 2015 or use of existing federal funds to encourage external, independent investigations and prosecution of police killings (see Action Items 2.2.2 and 2.2.3 of the President’s Task Force Report).

Establish a permanent Special Prosecutor’s Office at the State level for cases of police violence

The Special Prosecutor’s Office should be:

  • required and authorized to prosecute all cases of where police kill or seriously injure a civilian, in-custody deaths and cases where a civilian alleges criminal misconduct against a police officer
  • equipped with an office and resources to conduct thorough investigations
  • required to have its Chief Prosecutor chosen from a list of candidates offered by community organizations

Require independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians

The independent investigators should be:

  • required and authorized to prosecute all cases of where police kill or seriously injure a civilian, in-custody deaths and cases where a civilian alleges criminal misconduct against a police officer
  • required to investigate all cases where police kill chosen at random from a list of the largest ten agencies in the state
  • required to report their findings to the public

Learn More About This Issue

5.  Community Representation

While white men represent less than one third of the U.S. population, they comprise about two thirds of U.S. police officers. The police should reflect and be responsive to the cultural, racial and gender diversity of the communities they are supposed to serve. Moreover, research shows police departments with more black officers are less likely to kill black people.

Policy Solutions

Increase the number of police officers who reflect the communities they serve

Require police departments to develop and publicly report a strategy and timeline for achieving a representative proportion of police officers who are women and people of color through outreach, recruitment and changes to departmental practices (Ex: Connecticut Law)

Use community feedback to inform police department policies and practices

Require a regular survey (Ex: Milwaukee survey) to be fielded to the community to gauge their experiences and perceptions of the police and use this information to inform:

  • police department policies and practices
  • police officer evaluations
  • police officer pay incentives

Learn More About This Issue

6.  Body Cams/Film the Police

While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable. Nearly every case where a police officer was charged with a crime for killing a civilian in 2015 relied on video evidence showing the officer’s actions.

Policy Solutions

Body cameras

Require the use of body cameras – in addition to dashboard cameras – and establish policies governing their use to:

  • record all interactions with subjects who have not requested to be kept anonymous
  • notify subjects that they have the option to remain anonymous and stop recording/storing footage if they choose this option
  • allow civilians to review footage of themselves or their relatives and request this be released to the public and stored for at least two years
  • require body and dash cam footage to be stored externally and ensure district attorneys and civilian oversight structures have access to the footage
  • require police departments, whenever they want to deny a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for body or dash cam footage, to prove in court that the footage constitutes a legitimate FOIA exemption (Ex: Illinois House Bill 4355)
  • permanently delete footage after 6 months if this footage hasn’t been specifically requested to be stored
  • include a disciplinary matrix clearly defining consequences for officers who fail to adhere to the agency’s body camera policy.
  • consider whether cameras or mandated footage are tampered with or unavailable as a negative evidentiary factor in administrative and criminal proceedings
  • prevent officers from reviewing footage of an incident before completing initial reports, statements or interviews about an incident
  • prohibit footage from being used in tandem with facial recognition software, as fillers in photo arrays, or to create a database or pool of mugshots. (Ex: Baltimore PD Body Cam Policy)
  • update privacy laws to protect civilians from having video or audio recordings released publicly that do not contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, discharge of a weapon or death.

(Ex: ACLU Model Policy)

https://www.themarshallproject.org/mp-graphics/201412-dod/embed.html#NY

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7.  Training

The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. For example, police recruits spend 58 hours learning how to shoot firearms and only 8 hours learning how to de-escalate situations. An intensive training regime is needed to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities.

Policy Solutions

Invest in Rigorous and Sustained Training

Require officers to undergo training – including scenario-based training – on the following topics on at least a quarterly basis and involve the community – including youth of color – in their design and implementation:

  • Implicit bias
  • Procedural justice
  • Relationship-based policing
  • Community interaction
  • Crisis intervention, mediation, conflict resolution, and rumor control
  • Appropriate engagement with youth
  • Appropriate engagement with LGBTQ, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals
  • Appropriate engagement with individuals who are english language learners
  • Appropriate engagement with individuals from different religious affiliations
  • Appropriate engagement with individuals who are differently abled
  • De-escalation and minimizing the use of force

Intentionally consider ‘unconscious’ or ‘implicit’ racial bias

Require current and prospective police officers to undergo mandatory implicit racial bias testing, including testing for bias in shoot/don’t shoot decision-making, and develop a clear policy for considering an officer’s level of racial bias in:

  • law enforcement certification
  • the hiring process
  • performance evaluations
  • decisions about whether an officer should be deployed to communities of color

Learn More About This Issue

8.  End For-Profit Policing

Police should be working to keep people safe, not contributing to a system that profits from stopping, searching, ticketing, arresting and incarcerating people.

Policy Solutions

End police department quotas for tickets and arrests

Ban police departments from using ticket or arrest quotas to evaluate the performance of police officers

(Ex: Illinois law)

Limit fines and fees for low-income people

Pass policies requiring local governments to:

  • ban issuing fines or arrest warrants for civilians who fail to appear in court for a traffic citation (Ex: Ferguson Policy)
  • ban generating more than 10% of total municipal revenue from fines and fees (Ex: Missouri law)
  • allow judges discretion to waive fines and fees for low-income people or initiate payment plans (Ex: Pennsylvania law)
  • prohibit courts from ordering individuals on parole or probation to pay supervision fees and other correctional fees

Prevent police from taking the money or property of innocent people

Prohibit police from:

  • seizing property of civilians (i.e. civil forfeiture) unless they are convicted of a crime and the state establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture
  • keeping any property that has legally been forfeited (instead, this property should go to a general fund)
  • participating in the federal Equitable Sharing program that allows police to engage in civil asset forfeiture

(Ex: New Mexico law)

Require police departments to bear the cost of misconduct

  • Require the cost of misconduct settlements to be paid out of the police department budget instead of the City’s general fund
  • Restrict police departments from receiving more money from the general fund when they go over-budget on lawsuit payments

Learn More About This Issue

9. Demilitarization

The events in Ferguson have introduced the nation to the ways that local police departments can misuse military weaponry to intimidate and repress communities. In 2014, militarized SWAT teams killed at least 38 people and studies show that more militarized police departments are significantly more likely to kill civilians. The following policies limit police departments from obtaining or using these weapons on our streets.

Policy Solutions

End the Federal Government’s 1033 Program Providing Military Weaponry to Local Police Departments

End the supply of federal military weaponry to local police departments under the 1033 program. (Ex: Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act)

Establish Local Restrictions to Prevent Police Departments from Purchasing or Using Military Weaponry

Restrict police departments from:

  • using federal grant money to purchase military equipment (Ex: Montana law)
  • deploying armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, drones, Stingray surveillance equipment, camouflage uniforms, and grenade launchers
  • using SWAT teams unless there is an emergency situation or imminent threat to life and high-ranking officers have given approval (Ex: Cincinnati PD Policy)
  • conducting no-knock raids without probable cause to believe someone inside the home is an imminent threat (Ex: Cincinnati PD Policy)
  • accessing federal grant money or purchasing military equipment if the department has been recently found to demonstrate a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory policing
  • in addition to these restrictions, wherever possible agencies should seek to return to the federal government the military equipment that has already been received (Ex: San Jose)

See What Your Local Agency Received from the Department of Defense

Learn More About This Issue

10. Fair Police Union Contracts

Police unions have used their influence to establish unfair protections for police officers in their contracts with local, state and federal government and in statewide Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights. These provisions create one set of rules for police and another for civilians, and make it difficult for Police Chiefs or civilian oversight structures to punish police officers who are unfit to serve. Learn more about how police union contracts help officers avoid accountability here.

Policy Solutions

Remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight

Remove contract provisions, local policies, and provisions in state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights laws that:

  • allow officers to wait 48 hours or more before being interrogated after an incident
  • prevent investigators from pursuing other cases of misconduct revealed during an investigation
  • prevent an officer’s name or picture from being released to the public
  • prohibit civilians from having the power to discipline, subpoena or interrogate police officers
  • state that the Police Chief has the sole authority to discipline police officers
  • enable officers to appeal a disciplinary decision to a hearing board of other police officers
  • enable officers to use the contract grievance process to have an outside arbitrator reverse disciplinary decisions and reinstate officers who have committed misconduct
  • prevent an officer from being investigated for an incident that happened 100 or more days prior
  • allow an officer to choose not to take a lie detector test without being punished, require the civilian who is accusing that officer of misconduct to pass a lie detector first, or prevent the officer’s test results from being considered as evidence of misconduct

Keep officers’ disciplinary history accessible to police departments and the public

Remove contract provisions, local and state policies, and provisions in state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights laws that allow police officers to:

  • expunge or destroy records of past misconduct (both sustained and unsustained) from their disciplinary file
  • prevent their disciplinary records from being released to the public via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request

Ensure financial accountability for officers and police departments that kill or seriously injure civilians

Remove contract provisions, local policies, and provisions in state Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights laws that:

  • require officers to be given paid administrative leave or paid desk-duty during an investigation following a police shooting or other use of deadly force
  • prevent officers from receiving unpaid suspensions as discipline for misconduct or allow officers to use vacation or discretionary time to pay themselves while on suspension
  • allow officers to receive paid leave or paid desk-duty after being charged with a felony offense

Campaign Zero reviewed the police union contracts in 81 of the largest U.S. cities. 72 of the 81 cities’ contracts imposed at least one barrier to holding police accountable. Learn more at CheckthePolice.org.

Use of Force Policies

Police Use of Force Project: How police use of force policies can help to end police violence

POLICE USE OF FORCE POLICIES currently LACK BASIC PROTECTIONS AGAINST Police violence

These policies often fail to include common-sense limits on police use of force, including:

  1. Failing to make life preservation the primary principle shaping police decisions about using force
  2. Failing to require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
  3. Allowing officers to choke or strangle civilians, in many cases where less lethal force could be used instead, resulting in the unnecessary death or serious injury of civilians
  4. Failing to require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
  5. Failing to develop a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.
  6. Failing to require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force.
  7. Failing to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian.
  8. Failing to require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians

We (Use of Force Project) reviewed the use of force policies of 91 of America’s 100 largest city police departments* to determine whether they include meaningful protections against police violence.

Click here for full report and highlights

34 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officers to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.


                    Philadelphia Police Department Use Of Force Continuum

77 of the 91 police departments reviewed have a Force Continuum or Matrix included in their use of force policy, defining the types of force/weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.


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21 of the 91 police departments reviewed explicitly prohibit chokeholds and strangleholds (including carotid restraints) or limit these tactics to situations where deadly force is authorized.


56 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officer to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force.




19 of the 91 police departments
 reviewed prohibit officers from shooting at people in moving vehicles unless the person poses a deadly threat by means other than the vehicle (for example, shooting at people from the vehicle).



31 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to using deadly force.


30 of the 91 police departments reviewed require officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force.



Overview

We ( Use of Force Project) compared police department use of force policies with police killings data for 91 of the 100 largest police departments to see if there was a relationship between the two. We found that police departments with policies that place clear restrictions on when and how officers use force had significantly fewer killings than those that did not have these restrictions in place.

Results

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For each of the 8 policies examinedpolice departments that had implemented the policy were less likely to kill people than police departments that had not.

Police departments with four or more of these restrictive use of force policies had the fewest killings per population and per arrest. After taking into account other factors, each additional use of force policy was associated with a 15% reduction in killings by police. According to our analysis, the average police department would have 54% fewer killings and a police department with none of these policies currently in place would have 72% fewer killings by implementing all eight of these policies.

  

DISCUSSION

These results indicate that while the chances of killing a civilian increases the more arrests a police department makes, that likelihood is shaped by the department’s policies governing how and when police can use force during those encounters. This suggests that advocacy efforts pushing police department to adopt more restrictive use of force policies – and the accountability structures to enforce them – can substantially reduce the number of people killed by police in America. And while this analysis was limited to examining rates of deadly force, these policies may also be associated with reductions in other forms of police violence as well.

Despite their potential impact, efforts to push for these changes have often been opposed by police organizations that claim more restrictive use of force policies “endanger officers” (See herehere, and here). We find that these assumptions are not supported by the data. Officers in police departments with more restrictive policies in place are actually less likely to be killed in the line of duty, less likely to be assaulted, and have similar likelihood of sustaining an injury during an assault.

In short, a commitment to protect and preserve life necessitates the immediate adoption of more restrictive policies governing when and how officers use force in our communities.

 


Restorative Justice

INTRODUCTION TO RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

“Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.

Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:

  1. identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
  2. involving all stakeholders, and
  3. transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

Restorative justice theory and programs have emerged over the past 35 years as an increasingly influential world-wide alternative to criminal justice practice. This tutorial will provide you with an overview of the movement and of the issues that it raises.

CLICK ON THIS LINK TO UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

BRAVE NEW FILMS: Restorative Justice: Why Do We Need it?

5 Beneficial Things about Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice in Schools

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Learn More

MIC: Before you call the police ask yourself: Is this going to get someone killed

New Zine: 12 Things to do Instead of Calling the Cops

Follow Campaigns

Alternatives to Stop Policing

Black Lives Matter

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)

National Association for Community Mediation

Campaign Zero

Use of Force Project

The Marshall Project: Nonprofit journalism about criminal justice

The Marshall Project:  See What Your Local Agency Received from the Department of Defense

CheckthePolice.org

wetheprotestors.rog

Mapping Police Violence:  Police Accountability Tool

 

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