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Public Safety Reform

06•12•2020
  • Issues

Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are among the names we know, but for each of them there are hundreds of others who have been lost to police violence without a public reckoning. The tragedies of their deaths point to a truth that must be acknowledged and acted on—systemic racism plagues our state and our nation. 

Like others in power who took an oath to protect and serve, the California legislature has unsuccessfully addressed the inequalities black communities face. Failing to deliver innovative reform to policing and public safety has understandably led to mass protesting and demands for justice. There are a number of ways to immediately address these calls for change. First, we must show solidarity, listening to the voices of black and latinx communities that have been marginalized and ignored for too long. And while acting immediately, we must also recognize the need for a more comprehensive plan that restructures the very fabric of public safety and changes law enforcement culture.

Collectively, we must demand the District Attorney of California and other prosecutors across the country hold law enforcement officers accountable for crimes they commit. That includes inappropriate and unlawful use of force during peaceful protests. No person should be above the law, especially those who have sworn to protect it. We must insist police departments and law enforcement agencies immediately change their policies and ban specific behavior, including dangerous arm and neck holds. 

We must implement reform at a state and federal level, which begins by eliminating qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects government officials from being held liable for actions they make on the job, even if their actions would be illegal for a citizen without a badge to do. Qualified immunity has prevented law enforcement officers from being held accountable for misdeeds in the past, but there is a prevailing culture of excusing police violence that must be uprooted. 

We must also reallocate funds that have been spent on militarizing local law enforcement. Instead,  funds should be directed to address public needs and safety, focusing on social services, stable housing for homeless, mental health resources, underfunded educational institutions, and community organizations. Police departments should not continue to be used as the single solution to complex public safety issues. We must create a new state Oversight Committee board that is an example for the nation, which holds law enforcement agencies accountable for inappropriate action by officers and assists in restructuring training for local police. The culture of policing and public safety can and will change with creative solutions and leadership that refuses to accept the status quo.