The lack of police reform remains problematic when it comes to health and finances.
One report noted that U.S. cities collectively spend $100 billion a year on policing, eating at budgets for education, health care and housing – particularly in poor communities and those of color.
The American Friends Service Committee [AFSC], a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, said New York City spends more on policing than on the Department of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development and Youth and Community Development combined.
AFSC researchers noted that, since 1990, the federal government has transferred $6 billion of excess military equipment to local law enforcement agencies under a special program.
For years, police have also undergone “warrior training” that teaches them to see every encounter as potentially life-threatening, especially when they involve people of color, according to researchers at AFSC.
“The police are not a neutral body and the institution is inherently biased,” Mary Zerkel, coordinator of AFSC’s Communities Against Islamophobia Project, wrote in a <a href=”https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/6-reasons-why-its-time-to-defund-police” \t “_blank”>blog post</a> for the organization.
“In the U.S., slave patrols and night watches were the beginning of a racially-directed system of law enforcement designed to secure capital for white settlers,” she wrote. “Over the past 40 years, the expansion of racially-targeted policing and policies such as stop-and-frisk and the ‘war on drugs’ have helped fuel mass incarceration in the U.S., with African Americans incarcerated at more than five times the rate of white people.”
“Black and brown people are disproportionately targeted from a young age, with hundreds of thousands of children ages six to 14 arrested, often by police officers stationed in schools as ‘school resource officers,’” Zerkel wrote.
In September, the city of Louisville announced a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor who was slain by police after officers entered her home to serve a warrant.
As part of the deal, Louisville officials agreed to enact police reforms, including using social workers to provide support on specific police runs and requiring commanders to review and approve search warrants before seeking judicial approval.
The populated Kentucky city isn’t the first to promise reforms – and, if officials don’t follow through, they won’t count as the first to renege.
Cities like New York and Minnesota have failed to deliver on previous promises of police reform. While New York officials said it would offer reform in the wake of the police chokehold killing of Eric Garner on Staten Island, Minnesota had promised changes long before the fatal shooting of George Floyd sparked global outrage.
In June, Congressional Democrats introduced the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 – a bold bill to end police brutality, hold police accountable, improve transparency in policing and create meaningful, structural change that safeguards every American’s right to safety and equal justice.
The Justice in Policing Act proposes crucial reforms to combat racial bias and excessive force by law enforcement including banning the use of chokeholds, no-knock warrants, racial profiling and more.
“Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. She deserves justice. Her family deserves justice,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded. “Unjust laws produce unjust outcomes. This must end. The Senate must pass the Justice in Policing Act.”
Breonna Taylor was killed in her sleep by the police, and that’s “not even close to justice,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) stated. “This is an ugly reminder that our justice system does not hold police officers accountable for their actions.”
Congressional Black Caucus leaders have said that the Justice in Policing Act serves as a step towards addressing years of failed efforts to root out injustice and racial bias in our law enforcement. The bill proposes changes that include prohibiting federal, state and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling and mandating training on racial, religious and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement.
It also bans chokeholds, carotid holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits military-grade equipment transfer to state and local law enforcement.
The bill, which remains in the graveyard of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), also mandates the use of dashboard and body cameras for federal offices. Further, it would require state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body cameras.
The legislation would also create law enforcement development and training programs to develop best practices and require creating standard accreditation recommendations based on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
And it aims to improve the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and creating a grant program for state attorneys general to develop authority to conduct independent investigations into problematic police departments.
“These changes have never been implemented at the federal level and moving forward on this legislation would require state and local governments to adopt these practices for police departments to receive federal funds,” Schumer noted in a statement. “Americans who took to the streets are demanding action. With this legislation, Democrats are heeding their call.”