Building mutual trust between law enforcement and the public is crucial for both public safety and effective policing. Recent incidents alleging excessive use of force by police and other relevant issues have sparked doubts about the legitimacy of law enforcement among the communities they serve. As a result, a climate of distrust has emerged, causing a divide between the general public and the police.
To address this pressing issue, community leaders and local police departments must take decisive action. By prioritizing transparency, sharing information, and implementing programs that foster police-community engagement, we can repair and restore the vital relationship between law enforcement and the people they serve. Together, we can create a safer, more cohesive community where everyone feels heard and protected. Join us in our efforts to bridge the gap and build a stronger, united front for a better future.
Our primary goal is to give a voice to the community, ensuring they feel respected and empowered. We're committed to fostering open dialogues about policing tactics, dispelling fear, and creating a secure environment. Through education on social accountability and civil rights, we empower individuals with knowledge and understanding.
When individuals need legal support, we'll be there to guide them to the appropriate resources. We actively collaborate with local municipalities to devise effective solutions to police-community issues, working towards a safer and more harmonious society. Our efforts extend beyond dialogue; we actively raise awareness among law enforcement about community concerns and cultural norms. By increasing sensitivity to our communities' practices, we aim for a more inclusive and understanding approach to policing.
The National Urban League produced its 21 Pillars for Redefining Public Safety and Restoring Community Trust (“21 Pillars”) to offer a framework for advocacy that redefines public safety and restores community trust – paving a way beyond the status quo. Our forward-thinking plan is emphasized by five key themes designed to promote the protection and preservation of life, dignity, and trust, while also building safer communities.
For too long communities around the nation, particularly Black communities, have had their lives, safety, and freedom threatened by discriminatory and violent policing. Our communities deserve to feel safe in their homes, in their cars, and on their streets, including being safe from police violence. The 21 Pillars presents a look at what is possible – a plan forward. Public safety must be re-envisioned.
Communities are empowered when public safety institutions engage in public dialogue and commit to structural change. Implementing truth and reconciliation commissions and committing to a study of internal policies are preliminary steps toward culture change in police departments. Community empowerment is also achieved through reinvestment in social services and by offering public grants to nonprofit organizations dedicated to public safety services.
Ending broken windows police requires rethinking quality of life enforcement. Changing the way our public safety system treats low-level offenses (such as public intoxication and loitering) and developing diversionary programs will help. Under a community policing model, evaluation metrics for officers emphasize crime-prevention and problem solving, community engagement and community feedback, rather than tickets and arrests. To achieve a community policing model, departments should require community engagement on policing policies, practices, and priorities.
States and local governments must invest in crisis response programs that address public health and safety to adequately meet community needs by establishing mental health advisory boards. Boards must be staffed with inter-disciplinary providers, and all officers and public-facing responders and staff must receive crisis intervention training.
We must remove the shield of qualified immunity to hold police accountable in court. We need Congressional action to amend the federal criminal statute to lower the “mens rea” (state of mind) threshold for an officer to be prosecuted from “willfulness” to “recklessness.” This will rebalance the scales of justice in our public safety system. Additionally, it should be illegal for law enforcement officers to engage in sexual acts with people in their custody regardless of alleged consent.
Police union contracts should not shield officers from fair discipline by removing all disciplinary matters from the union contract negotiations. We must give community members a seat at the table at union contract negotiations by requiring community representation in union contract negotiations. States and cities should prevent police unions from blocking accountability by repealing Law Enforcement Police Bill of Rights and eliminating police union influence over politics by limiting union political contributions.
Use of force policies must respect the dignity of life by permitting the use of deadly force only as a last resort and meeting the use of force test for proportionality. All agencies should adopt a de-escalation policy requiring verbal and non-verbal techniques. The force used by an officer should be evaluated and justified based on whether it was “necessary” rather than “reasonable.”
Police department manuals and practices must be examined to uproot divisive policies that put lives at risk. We must ban chokeholds and strangleholds, no knock-warrants, and shooting at moving vehicles.
We must improve transparency by developing a national police misconduct registry, that includes, amongst other things, excessive force, racial profiling, sexual assault, perjury and falsifying a police report, and creating a national citizen database of complaints against police. Improving transparency also calls for collecting data on actions and detentions by law enforcement agencies and requiring states and local agencies to report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, and age.
We need national standards on the adoption, use and activation of body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras. Body-worn cameras have been critical in shedding a light on police brutality, and they are useful tools for justice. All police departments should be outfitted with a body-worn camera usage and storage program. All officers must be required to wear functioning body-worn cameras, and all police cars should have functioning dash cameras. Prosecutorial and oversight bodies should have direct access to the relevant footage. Policies should also strictly prohibit the tampering of footage or unauthorized access to footage.
The National Decertification Index, which tracks all decertified police officers, must be expanded to track data on officers who have been fired or resigned due to police misconduct. Agencies should be required to contribute to the Index and use it as a metric for all hiring decisions. This is an important step to prevent problematic officers from moving from one department to the next.