Time and again, we see the unnecessary killing of unarmed people, usually black men, by police, from George Floyd to Patrick Lyoya. Unfortunately, we rarely see justice and many times the police officers receive little to no punishment for killing unarmed people. This is state sanctioned murder and it must end.
The purpose of our police is to keep us safe and serve the community, but that often does not seem to reflect reality. There are clear, concrete steps we can take to begin to address this tragedy. In Congress, here are some of the things I would support:
Demilitarize the police: There’s no reason why police should have military grade weapons of war. The 1033 program allows the government to transfer excess military equipment to state and local police forces. I would support legislation that ends the transfer of such equipment to police.
End qualified immunity: Qualified immunity essentially acts as a “get out of jail free” card for many police officers. Officers that commit acts of police brutality should be held personally responsible and liable for their actions and should not be able to hide behind this outdated policy.
Change the standard of force: Police officers should prioritize and focus on de-escalation, especially when the suspect is unarmed or nonviolent. Lethal force should only be a “last standard” and any police officer that unnecessarily causes death or physical injury should face charges. I would support legislation banning chokeholds, no knock warrants, and other unnecessary tactics that could lead to more civilian deaths.
Better training and technology: Any police department that receives any federal assistance should have mandatory implicit/explicit bias training and racial sensitivity training. I would also provide funding to expand the use of body cameras and make it mandatory that it must be on at all times, and require termination if an officer turns off their camera while interacting with civilians. I would also provide funding to increase mental health services for police, and make sure police are fit to serve our communities.
Increase oversight of police departments: We need more civilian oversight of police departments. I would also work to ensure the civil rights division of the DOJ is proactively working with police departments to ensure training is compassionate, focuses on de-escalation, and is not in violation of anyone’s civil rights.
As a State Representative, I introduced a ‘Justice For All’ Bill Package in Michigan. This package of bills aims to hold officers accountable for their mistakes or for an excessive use of force. It would require proper training for our officers to ensure they treat everyone equally, recognize mental health crises, and to ensure they recognize and reject any implicit prejudices or biases. In Congress, I would support legislation like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which addresses many of the issues above. It is not an exhaustive list, and I’m sure there’s much more that can be done. I would work with experts, activists, and organizations to ensure we do everything possible to make sure our communities are safe and our police departments are doing the right thing.