How to bring systemic change to my sheriff’s department?
June 3, 2020 8:36 PM   Subscribe

I live in an area of the USA with a high amount of officer-involved shootings. My question is about how to address those on a systemic level within the sheriff’s department.

(We should have voted in a new sheriff, but at least he is term-limited. This specific sheriff seems to think his deputies can do no wrong, but I would like to see changes that don’t depend on any one individual.)

At least where I am, the sheriff has a lot of autonomy. The county commission can control his budget, but I think that is all.

As an aside, this isn’t a black-white issue here. Black people here are a very small percentage of both the population and the victims of shootings.
posted by NotLost to Law & Government (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, reducing the budget is a start. Encourage the council to reduce the sheriff’s budget and redirect it into community initiatives / alternatives to police.
posted by mekily at 8:59 PM on June 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


Can the council earmark some of the budget for certain kinds of training?
posted by amtho at 9:25 PM on June 3, 2020


There are a lot of people doing good work on this but one of the clearest kind of cheat sheets I have ever seen was something that came across my Twitter feed today that lies out what types of things to advocate for when it comes to police departments in order to work to lessen their budget and power. Right click and choose "open image in new tab" to get it to open big enough to actually read. You want to be looking at the abolition section in particular.

Campaign Zero is a police watchdog that also gives very clear policy solutions that advocates can focus on in their own communities to effect change. It has scorecards for some states that may help you figure out where to start and where the particular shortfalls are for your area, though I'm not sure how exhaustive it is for any particular state. That site contains an absolute wealth of information.
posted by urbanlenny at 9:33 PM on June 3, 2020 [12 favorites]


Advocating for non armed positions, like social workers and mental health response teams is a way to reduce interactions with armed officers. Police do not need to carry guns all the time and some police forces do not.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:33 PM on June 3, 2020 [3 favorites]


The ACLU recently announced that they have joined more than 400 groups to push for federal statutory reforms in response to police violence, so maybe that is a place to start for systemic changes that could also be made on a state or local level - proposals for federal legislation could serve as models for legislation or regulation proposals that could be adopted by state, city or town legislative authorities.
posted by katra at 9:37 PM on June 3, 2020


Don't do their work for them by using the phrase the "officer-involved shooting". That internal Los Angeles Police Department jargon has become a way for police forces across the US to distance themselves from their actions.
posted by caek at 9:56 PM on June 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


An example of an alternative to police response that could serve as a model and resource is CAHOOTS (KVAL), which as noted by CBS News, is "trained to de-escalate when responding to a mental health crisis. A recent study found 25 to 50% of fatal officer-involved shootings involved someone with a severe mental illness." These types of programs are potentially expanding into other cities (including Denver), and as noted by KLCC, "In New York City, mental health advocates are urging officials to adopt a CAHOOTS-style model," so the increasing popularity and documented success of these programs may help with advocacy.
posted by katra at 9:58 PM on June 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Another perspective on euphemistic phrases is Sarah Jackson's recent piece in the Atlantic: The Headlines That Are Covering Up Police Violence, which notes, "[p]assive and ambiguous language is also common in news reports, stripping responsibility from state actors and softening facts. Consider how often local news media uses the term officer-involved shooting, a euphemism right out of police public-relations guides, instead of shot by police."
posted by katra at 11:18 PM on June 3, 2020 [1 favorite]


Here are some great tips from a reporter that has investigated police actions in the past:
posted by Fister Roboto at 8:11 AM on June 4, 2020


I'm especially looking for ideas that address the fact that this is a county sheriff's department, not the same as a municipal police department. The department is only directly answerable to the sheriff, who is not interested in change. He doesn't even need to be worried about getting voted out, because this is his last term.
posted by NotLost at 8:16 AM on June 4, 2020 [2 favorites]


My general thought for policy advocacy is to determine which level of governing authority you want to lobby, whether it is a state legislature, county commissioner, city or town council, etc, and then create proposed draft legislation or regulations, and then present it to allies within the governing authority to help promote it. I don't have a lot of experience with this, but it seems easier to present a nearly-finished product instead of a broad idea that requires the governing body to do more work. The sheriff answers to someone, and is governed by laws created somewhere, and focusing on those authorities may be effective in requiring this particular sheriff as well as future sheriffs to change.

I like the Campaign Zero link because it includes links to examples of laws that could be models of proposed changes, and CAHOOTS helps other groups set up similar programs in other areas and likely has similar materials - you could try to contact CAHOOTS and ask them about your situation, and you could try to conduct outreach to mental health advocates in your area to see if they have been working on this issue. Also, the ACLU website can be searched to find your local ACLU organization, and they may also have ideas - there are potential civil rights violations that arise from a disproportionate use of force by the police, and a lawsuit can be another avenue to create changes to policies and procedures.
posted by katra at 9:22 AM on June 4, 2020


Check out the 8cantwait initiative, by the same folks who started campaign zero.

These 8 things reduce police brutality while also reducing funding for police (and yes, applicable to sheriff also) departments.
posted by bilabial at 11:13 AM on June 4, 2020 [1 favorite]


Here’s a link to announcement tweet from Brittany Packnett Cunningham

https://mobile.twitter.com/MsPackyetti/status/1268264058836398081
posted by bilabial at 11:24 AM on June 4, 2020


Sheriffs are a plague on the land and should all be done away with because they have zero accountability Unfortunately they are given powers in the state constitution. So you have two options for real change 1. run for local office and after you get elected advocate for the area to join police forces with a nearby city under that police chief or 2. join the many organizations trying to reform the sheriff system in the US with bills like CA Assemblybill 1185. Right now in CA that movement is stronger because of dipshits like Villaneuva and Essick .
posted by fshgrl at 5:30 PM on June 4, 2020


Are there individuals or groups who have been doing this work specifically in your county? How can you connect with them?

If it's not Black people being targeted, is it poor/young/Latinx/indigenous or some other demographics? Maybe there are groups focused on supporting people in those demographics who could inform you about what kind of help is needed to protect their community from the sheriff.

The county commission can control his budget, but I think that is all.

That is a lot. Some might say that is everything. I'm newly learning about #DefundthePolice efforts, in which police budgets are cut, and those funds are redirected to supports that marginalized communities actually find helpful. (That doesn't mean cutting the police funds to zero, as in abolishing police.)
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 7:34 PM on June 4, 2020


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