How to create the accountable, anti-racist, law-abiding police we need right now

Let’s be very clear: Black communities don’t want the elimination of police in our communities.

We want and need police.  We need police that are accountable to the communities they serve.  We need police that adhere to the law and protect human rights in all cases no matter what.  We need police that grew up in the neighborhoods they patrol, and who understand the lived experience of the people they are sworn to protect and serve.  We need police who care about everyone in our communities.  We need police strong enough to resist the temptation to make use of the excessive force that their weapons and riot gear offer them.  We need police who condemn police brutality, and unwarranted cruelty, and unnecessary killings in all cases and who are ready to stop any such action attempted by their fellow police force members.

However, we do not want nor will we permit racist policing.

We do not want police who treat our neighborhoods as enemy territory.

We do not want police who conduct themselves in our communities like an occupying hostile military army.

We will no longer accept police procedures that are abusive, police officers who are racist and cruel, and police practices that are inhumane and brutal.

In jurisdictions throughout the country where the political power of police in Black communities is excessive, police departments refuse to respect the community’s legitimate power to regulate their behavior toward the Black residents whom they serve according to the fundamental requirements of human rights.  All such Police Depts and their members operating in our communities should be immediately shut down and a new Dept installed according to anti-racist principles, democratic accountability, and rule of law.

Yes, Black communities should have something to say about the budgetary uses of taxpayer dollars allocated to the Police Dept in their communities in which they serve.

Yesterday my beloved sister Sherrilyn A. Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) asked all patriotic citizens, on behalf of the great and historic organization she serves, to demand the following four steps be implemented across the United States to create the accountable, democratic and just police departments we need and deserve:

  1. Open a national registry of police officers. If someone is fired for misconduct, they will no longer be able to just move to other jurisdictions and continue to inflict pain on Black communities.
  2. Change the law of “qualified immunity.” This judge-made doctrine has resulted in near impunity for police officers who engage in this kind of brutality and violate the constitutional rights of African Americans.
  3. Push the Justice Department to use the Law Enforcement Misconduct Act to investigate patterns of discrimination by police departments. This law, passed following the verdicts of the Rodney King case, has allowed for the investigations of police departments in Baltimore, MD, and Ferguson, MO, and it’s a vital tool for police transformation; and
  4. Find your local jurisdiction’s police union contract and ask your local leaders to remove protections that bar police officers from appearing within 72 hours of killing an unarmed person. Some of these contracts are being negotiated right now. Your city’s leaders need to hear from you.

I urge you to join in the national movement to achieve these reasonable and necessary goals.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. told us far too many times, we cannot wait.

 

Dr. Clarence B. Jones

Dr. Clarence B. Jones