Who's doing work right now to try to fix the police?
June 2, 2020 6:30 AM   Subscribe

It seems clear to me that there is systemic rot in our nation’s institution of policing. Even though all individual police aren’t bad, “the system” protects the ones who are and creates an environment of grave injustice. And it’s going to take systems-level change to fix the problem. What systemic solutions are people/groups working on? When it’s time to evaluate political candidates, what kind of policy/activism support should we be looking for?

I know what to look for around education reform and health care systems change, I understand the structure of the root causes and I have some idea of how to evaluate programs designed to fix the problems. I can use my knowledge to think critically and select the ones I want to support. But my knowledge of the law enforcement world is approaching zero, and I don’t know anyone in that community well enough to ask this and get an honest answer.

I get that every sworn officer needs to examine his/her own biases and behaviors, but I’m talking about systems-level changes that will correct for those who won't make that examination and will make an improvement beyond the individual. I understand, too, that partisan politics lies behind a huge piece of this, and I don’t discount that, but that’s not what I’m looking for either. I want to know who’s in the community somewhere doing the work and testing new programs and figuring out what concrete actions and policies/procedures make the law enforcement system safer for black people.

Are we looking for changes/improvements in police education when new officers first sign up? Reductions in power of the unions that represent police? Hiring quotas for black men and women joining the force? Reduction in military-style equipment that ends up in use by local police departments? Are there some other root-cause problems that I’m not even thinking of?

At the next political forum I go to, what programs should I be challenging candidates to support? If I wanted to send somebody $250 TODAY to support change, where should my money go?
posted by mccxxiii to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
How to reform American police

The Floyd murder exemplified how training - one of the recommendations - is completely useless if there are no consequences for violating that training. "...law enforcement agencies have lacked either the authority or the will to discipline and remove bad officers from patrol."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:56 AM on June 2, 2020

Have you seen this Twitter thread on research-based methods for reducing police violence? I believe the poster is part of the Police Use of Force Project, and he links to several other organizations doing research on the problem. Some of the effective solutions listed there include...
- More restrictive state and local policies governing police use of force
- Demilitarization
- Changes to police union contracts
- Predictive policing on the police
- Investment in alternatives to police as crime prevention strategies
- Non-police alternatives to 911 calls involving people with mental illness
- DOJ investigations of police departments
...and others (each with research citations, which are well worth digging into).
posted by ourobouros at 7:04 AM on June 2, 2020 [38 favorites]

Campaign Zero has done great research about evidence-based ways to address police brutality. I'd start there.

Also, I'd very strongly suggest supporting (with money and volunteer time) Run for Something. It's an effort to support young progressive candidates for local offices - where we actually make decisions about policing, sign police contracts, and also where we support a better, younger, and more diverse group of national policiticians.
posted by mercredi at 7:05 AM on June 2, 2020 [7 favorites]

This is just one article but the police union problem is real. I'm a fan of unions, but they way the use their collective bargaining power doesn't just benefit the members, it also disadvantages the people who will come in contact with them. Contrast that with a teacher's union or some other union that doesn't have a hand in public safety.
posted by cabingirl at 7:08 AM on June 2, 2020 [4 favorites]

This op-ed in the NYTimes discusses the fact that we use the police for many situations where other responders would be more appropriate. It also discusses alternatives. By shifting funds away from police and to other groups -- social workers, medical professionals, etc -- we reduce police presence in our communities.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:24 AM on June 2, 2020 [9 favorites]

Change needs to happen on the federal, state, and local level. I always feel that local is the best place to start.

My city has an advocacy organization that works on policing reform. They have very specific policy recommendations, tailored to the needs of our community, that they have been demanding for years. I recommend you find a similar organization in your area and follow their lead.
posted by toastedcheese at 7:49 AM on June 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Samuel Sinyangwe is one of the founders of Campaign Zero. He's now joined the 538 team as well. Here's his first article on 538: Police Are Killing Fewer People In Big Cities, But More In Suburban And Rural America. A really short summary is that cities that enacted more restrictive use of force policies after public protests have seen the rates of deaths attributable to the police decrease in the period between 2013 and 2019, but unfortunately the rate of police killings of civilians in rural and suburban areas has been going up in the same time period. (You'll have to scroll down a bit to get to stats on individual cities.)
posted by nangar at 8:23 AM on June 2, 2020 [6 favorites]

Although they concentrate on different problems with police (they incriminate innocent people, especially people of color, both with malice and ineptitude) you might be interested in the Innocence Project. They fight it from all directions, freeing individual innocent people, and getting police forces to stop using procedures well proven not to work, like eyewitnesses and coerced confessions.
posted by fritley at 8:48 AM on June 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

The Cato institute is also working for abolition of qualified immunity: unlawfulshield.com
posted by xris at 1:48 PM on June 2, 2020

This just happened today, but the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department. I don't think they need your money, but I do think it should be common practice for an agency with higher authority to hold law enforcement accountable. Police killings should be investigated by the FBI and not the county attorney's office.
posted by soelo at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2020 [3 favorites]

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