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Police Reform Ideas

"..... and justice for all"

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Michael Brown (1996 - 2014)

Transparency and accountability are major issues in policing and have been for decades. For example, many cities instituted civilian oversight boards, but not always with success. Politics, how laws and policies are drafted, how willing police and police unions are to accept oversight, etc. all play a role in determining if such efforts are successful or not. 

  • End qualified immunity for police officers (see the policy section for further explanation)
  • Require police officers to purchase malpractice insurance with their own funds as doctors do. If police officers are sued in civil court, the police officers (or their insurers) would be responsible for paying any judgments against them, not the city.
  • Require police officers to wear body cameras and require the cameras to be turned on whenever the officer is on-duty
  • Require supervisory approval before someone can be arrested for "failure to comply," "resisting arrest," "disorderly conduct," or "disturbing the peace"
  • Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force by other officers and to report such incidents immediately to a supervisor
  • Require police officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians
  • Require officers to report whenever they point a firearm at someone
  • Create a national and/or state database that records disciplinary actions against individual officers and departments and make these records publicly available
    • Freely available
    • Available via freedom of information requests
    • Available to all police departments for hiring purposes
  • Create a federal and/or state database that tracks the number of people killed by law enforcement, the use of force, stop & frisk practices, and other adverse interactions with civilians. This data could be released to the public annually. The Center for Policing Equity provides one example of how this could work in practice.
  • Civilian oversight boards supported by clearly written laws / policies that include appropriate consequences for non-compliance with oversight efforts
  • Limit ability of police unions to resist oversight via clearly written laws / policies
  • Break the power of police unions as they make it difficult to fire bad cops and incentivize protecting them to protect the power of the union
  • Create an investigative unit to examine police misconduct allegations so local police are not investigating their fellow officers
  • Increase the use of special prosecutors in police misconduct investigations. Local prosecutors and police work closely together on a regular basis which can lead to conflicts of interest or bias in investigating police misconduct allegations.
    • All allegations of police misconduct would be referred to a state appointed prosecutor
    • Any allegations of police misconduct would be referred to another jurisdiction within the state
    • Automatic referral to an outside jurisdiction in fatal cases involving police, either to special prosecutors or to the state Attorney General
  • Increase federal oversight of police conduct
    • Take a proactive role to create and promote best practices regarding use of force, police training, officer accountability, etc. The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing developed during the Obama administration represents one such effort.
    • The federal government provides billions of dollars in criminal justice grants each year to police departments for equipment, training, hiring of officers, etc. The Brennan Center for Justice released a Success-Oriented Funding report that suggests the federal government tie federal funding to the achievement of clearly-established goals.
    • Investigate allegations of police violating the civil rights of individuals. If a sufficient number of such complaints arise to indicate a "pattern or practice" of police violating civil rights, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would investigate the police department. If allegations are substantiated during the investigation, the DOJ could undertake litigation to force the department to make changes.