Police brutality has come back into the national spotlight. It does so every few years yet we never seem to do anything about it. According to the Washington Post Fatal Police Shooting tracker, this might be the second worst year for lethal police shootings since the tracker started in 2015. Here are 8 reforms to end America’s culture of police violence.
1. End police unions. They protect corrupt and abusive officers and lead to increased violent misconduct.
2. End qualified immunity for police. Qualified immunity shields officers who violate constitutional and civil rights from civil lawsuits unless there is a past case with sufficiently similar facts– a determination which is left up to the courts– in the same circuit (or by the Supreme Court) that the officer should have known he was violating a “clearly established” right. As a Reuters report noted: qualified immunity “has become a nearly failsafe tool to let police brutality go unpunished and deny victims their constitutional rights”
4. Reform the bail process. Not being able to pay bail leads to a 13% increase in the likelihood of a conviction for a suspect. This is because suspects who can’t secure bail but need to get out of prison to get to their job or take care of their kids will end up pleading guilty even if the case against them is weak.
5. Increase funding for public defenders offices. Public defenders consistently get less funding and staff than district attorney offices. The New Orleans public defenders office has 20% the budget the distinct attorney has. Some defenders have hundreds of cases. The inadequate resources of public defenders leads them to recommend plea deals even when the prosecution has a weak case.
6. Don’t give people criminal records for nonviolent drug offenses. Simply using or selling drugs to people of legal age should not be a crime.
7. Police training should emphasize violence as a last resort and deescalation should be pursued whenever possible. Department use of force policies should reinforce that training.
8. Police departments should reflect their community.