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Gibson writes: "The decision to not indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown was a catalyst for a mass movement all over the country for police accountability. Citizens in over 170 U.S. cities took to the streets last week to protest violent and out of control police forces in the wake of the grand jury decision. The solution won’t come from one specific policy, but from a wide array of reforms that will address the systemic issues that result in police acting with impunity."

People protest against the verdict announced in the shooting death of Michael Brown, in New York, November 25, 2014. (photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)
People protest against the verdict announced in the shooting death of Michael Brown, in New York, November 25, 2014. (photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)


ALSO SEE: Charges Dropped for Detroit Cop Who Fatally Shot 7-Year-Old Girl

7 Positive Solutions to Rein in Our Out-of-Control Police State

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

01 December 14

 

he decision to not indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown was a catalyst for a mass movement all over the country for police accountability. Citizens in over 170 U.S. cities took to the streets last week to protest violent and out of control police forces in the wake of the grand jury decision. The solution won’t come from one specific policy, but from a wide array of reforms that will address the systemic issues that result in police acting with impunity.

1. Repeal the Pentagon’s 1033 Program

Since the War on Drugs began during the Reagan administration, police departments have become increasingly militarized. The Department of Defense's Excess Property Program (DoD 1033) allows surplus military equipment to go to local and county police forces. This program is chiefly responsible for streets looking like war zones during national political conventions, global trade meetings, G8 summits, the Occupy movement and, more recently, the streets of Ferguson. NPR examined Pentagon records for the 1033 program and found that an alarming amount of armored vehicles, grenade launchers, assault rifles, helicopters, airplanes, and other high-tech military equipment is landing in the hands of improperly-trained local cops in towns with low crime rates. Repealing this program will result in local cops looking like local cops rather than soldiers patrolling Fallujah.

2. Mandate Body Cameras for All Police Officers That Can’t Be Turned Off While on Duty

Over 154,000 people have signed on to a campaign to equip all police officers with body cameras. If a police officers have to wear a body camera and have their actions recorded on video for all to see, it will result in those officers acting with more professionalism, knowing that their actions can’t be hidden from civilian eyes. This will result in less racial profiling, fewer instances of killing unarmed civilians, and more professional community policing as a result. These cameras must not be turned off while police are on duty, and strict penalties must be in place for officers who turn off body cameras while on the clock. Chief Tony Farrar of the Rialto Police Department, in California, conducted a study of police departments that used body cameras, and learned that there were 50 percent fewer uses of force with body cameras in place, and complaints against officers were down to 10 percent of what they were before the cameras were used.

3. Require Strict Training for Use of Lethal Force

When a Cleveland cop shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice to death in a park for playing with a toy gun, he did it within two seconds of arriving. There was no conversation asking him to put the gun down, no attempt to call for backup, and no attempt to subdue him with pepper spray or a taser. There’s no reason to give anyone a badge and a gun to keep the peace if they aren’t trained to know when it’s appropriate to use deadly force. Whether there’s an active shooter who’s threatening to hurt people, or a kid playing with a gun that may or may not be fake, it’s the officer’s job to know when to start shooting and when to de-escalate. Cities and states need to mandate that police go through additional training that teaches when lethal force is necessary and when it's not.

4. Make Police Officers Run for Office

Among the 75 U.S. cities with the largest police forces, 60 percent of those officers commute to work from another town and don’t even live in the community they serve. For example, the 53-member police force of Ferguson, Missouri, has only three Black members. This is in a community that’s 70 percent Black. And in 2013, those officers issued 32,975 arrest warrants in a town of only 21,135 people. When a police officers don’t live in the community they serve, they have no motivation to invest in the community and help it grow, only in meeting their own arrest quota. This fuels racial profiling, brutality, and unnecessary killings like the shooting of Mike Brown.

However, if police officers had to win the support of the people at the ballot box, they would naturally be more invested in the citizens they served and take a more community-based approach to policing. Imagine having someone knock on your door, tell you they’re running for one of the several police officer positions in your city ward, and try to convince you to vote for them. Police officers running for re-election would get to have their records examined in the public eye, and be forced to defend their actions to keep their jobs. It would truly make the position of police officer more devoted to public service, and help bridge the huge gap of distrust between citizens and police officers.

5. Form Civilian Review Boards with Power to Fire and Indict Police Officers

The mayor of Ferguson just established a civilian review board to monitor police in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, but that should be just the beginning. This mass movement for police accountability should go to city councils and boards of aldermen everywhere, demanding local governments form a civilian review board to hold police officers accountable. These boards should include both male and female representatives of all ethnicities, and be proportional to the racial makeup of that city. And if you’re a current or former police officer, or have immediate family members who serve as police officers, then you aren’t allowed to serve on the board. Citizens with particular grievances present their case to the board, and the board looks at all available evidence to see if that grievance has merit. To have any power, these boards have to be able to suspend, fire, and/or indict police officers once a decision has been reached. Police in cities with effective civilian review boards will definitely think before pulling the trigger.

6. Do Away With Felonies for Nonviolent Crimes

California just passed a statewide ballot initiative to do away with felony charges for nonviolent offenses, which immediately qualifies nearly 10,000 incarcerated Californians for early release. California’s Proposition 47 reclassified low-level offenses like shoplifting, drug possession, and check fraud of $950 or less. Now, the state will hand out approximately 40,000 fewer felony convictions each year.

When fewer people are in jail, more people get a chance to live their lives without a jail sentence on their record. This logically means fewer people in desperate situations, who are locked into a cycle of having to commit economic crimes in perpetuity because of having to do time from one mistake that blemished a career for good. And as an added bonus, private prison companies will build fewer facilities, as many of them are only built with the promise of a 90 percent constant occupancy rate.

7. Impose Strict Penalties for Racial Profiling

In 2011, a friend and I were visiting a friend in Brooklyn when, out of nowhere, a police car pulled out in front of us and three officers pressed us up against the car and searched us at random. My friend, who is Black, was frisked for several minutes longer than I was. Neither one of us had any drugs or weapons on us, and the police left unceremoniously. As a White man, I can say I’ve never been stop-and-frisked by the NYPD since, despite visiting the city numerous times over the last three years.

The statistics back me up – out of every 10 stop-and-frisks conducted by the NYPD, 9 of those yielded no results. And data from the New York Civil Liberties Union shows that year after year, 80 to 85 percent of those unsuccessful stop-and-frisks are perpetrated against Blacks and Latinos. If cities everywhere were to penalize officers with unpaid leave who conduct 3 or more traffic stops, stop-and-frisks, or sudden detainments against non-White citizens that didn’t result in any charges filed per month, police would be much more careful who they target while on patrol. Call it the three-strikes rule, but for cops.

Too many police act as unaccountable paramilitary forces, and citizens who have taken to the streets to protest this are rightly upset. But these solutions will go a long way in turning police officers into community servants again. Let’s make our rage productive and meaningful and turn our protests into action.



Carl Gibson, 27, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nonviolent grassroots movement that mobilized thousands to protest corporate tax dodging and budget cuts in the months leading up to Occupy Wall Street. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary We're Not Broke, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Carl is also the author of How to Oust a Congressman, an instructional manual on getting rid of corrupt members of Congress and state legislatures based on his experience in the 2012 elections in New Hampshire. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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+49 # Radscal 2014-12-01 13:24
I'm onboard with all of these suggestions except I have concerns about electing cops. Unless we fix the corrupting influence of money on elections, that could actually undo many of the good ideas here.

Even without the systemic bribery of our electoral process, do we want cops to be politicians, saying and doing what they think will get them the most votes?

The community review boards with authority to indict and/or fire cops should probably be elected, though.
 
 
+9 # citizen2009 2014-12-01 15:13
Quoting Radscal:
I'm onboard with all of these suggestions except I have concerns about electing cops. Unless we fix the corrupting influence of money on elections, that could actually undo many of the good ideas here.

Even without the systemic bribery of our electoral process, do we want cops to be politicians, saying and doing what they think will get them the most votes?

The community review boards with authority to indict and/or fire cops should probably be elected, though.

You are part of the world's most feared and trusted
force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon
US Marines

What about a new code for the American Police? Yes that's all of them including the state and federal ones.

Double their salaries and insure them royally!

But if they fire the first shot or kill unarmed people or violate the rights of a human being, they will be removed from law enforcement service once for all will never be allowed to work in that field again.

Why the fuss, police has to protect the people and not themselves.

A police job is dangerous and sometimes life-threatenin g. Nobody argues about that, but we would have less people killed and less violations if the Officers would be accountable for their doing and be threatened to lose their respective jobs.

Nobody forced anyone to become a policeman or woman.
 
 
+2 # diacad 2014-12-01 15:36
Radscal- I agree with you - in addition to the points you make, electoral selection of all police officers sounds unworkable due to ballot bloat. A truly responsive and empowered community review board would serve the same purpose.

I also disagree with suggestion 6 - "Do Away With Felonies for Nonviolent Crimes". Many of the worst crimes are nonviolent. Embezzlement, fraud, malfeasance in office, many kinds of theft and burglary do not involve violence. Why let check fraud for less than a fixed amount go? $950 is two weeks pay for some people. We all pay for even petty shoplifting in higher costs. People who are inclined towards nonviolent crimes (more insidious because often no immediate victim or injury) should be incapacitated and kept off the streets. Where possible, they should be released when reeducation and rehabilitation make recidivism unlikely.

Although I argue drug possession at the user level indicates a victim and not a criminal, if there is proven intention to distribute I would be inclined to call it a violent crime - similar to selling poisoned candy to children.

Violent crimes damage specific persons or properties. Nonviolent crime harms the community in more subtle ways. We should have another term for misdemeanors or violations of statutes that do not pose serious threats to the community.

I should add, suggestion #6 has nothing to do with reforming police. Why is it here?
 
 
+5 # Radscal 2014-12-01 17:19
I know what you mean and agree about some non-violent crimes that should be felonies. The Proposition we just passed in CA didn't just make all non-violetnt crimes into misdemeanors.

Carl didn't make that as clear as he perhaps could have.
 
 
+5 # JJS 2014-12-01 17:44
I agree with electing cops being off target. A better way would be to require police officers to create or participate in community organizing or volunteering in some way, similar to community service hours for high school kids, in the communities they serve. I had written the communities they patrol and then realized the better phrase is the communities they SERVE!
Community review board members can be randomly selected by voluntary lottery and have term limits. They should have enough time on the board to gain proficiency but not too long to become corrupt.
 
 
+11 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-01 14:54
I have a wife in China. We are working on her Visa. I notice that when we drive around Wuhan City or any other major city, one can not help but think "where are the cops?" (Not that I need one.) My wife will say, "the Chinese live their lives on the honor system." When we see a policeman, I notice no pistol, mace, billy club, taser, hand cuffs. Sometimes a radio. The Chinese police look a lot like a U.S. school crossing guard. On the other hand, if a serious incident breaks out, I have heard, the "guys with the blank trench coats" arrive on the scene. Also known as the military. I have not ever seen a Chinese military policeman dressed this way. I'm sure they are out there. Not a good way to get introduced to the latest fashion in police outwear. I do believe the U.S., like China is increasingly evolving into a military police state. Although in China I have not observed military vehicles being occupied by the police. Of course, in the U.S., while not a common sight, we observe more and more military vehicles being used by the police. Well, I'm 73 years old. December 10, I'll be 74. According to the Medicare Mortality Table, sometime in the future, a U.S. military/police state will not be on my mind.I hope I'll be busy washing, drying my white robe in the (hmm?) Heaven? "Fairy Dust" laundromat. No, I'm not gay, figure of speech.
 
 
+1 # Radscal 2014-12-01 17:22
I think part of the reason we're seeing militarized police so frequently is to acclimate USians to their presence.

Perhaps the Chinese people already know that if they break certain laws they will be met with severe and violent repercussions, so they don't need to be reminded at a traffic stop.
 
 
+7 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-01 23:34
Keep in mind, in the U.S., it does happen to be shot to death by police for "wearing a hoodie" among other issues. And the cop goes free. Or being shot to death with raised hands. And the cop goes free. Or a child has a toy pistol, gets shot to death. Will the cop go free? As of late, numerous school children have been shot to death by trigger happy gunmen. And a gun and rifle association ramps up more fear-scares citizens to buy more guns. Germany, 2012. Police in the whole country discharged 49 rounds-40 were warning shots. The U.S. has very serious police/citizen problems.
 
 
+1 # tommy949 2014-12-01 19:04
Well, that's not the case in all major Chinese cities. Chinese police have been mandated to carry small pistols with a maximum utility of 6 bullets since a national incident involving the shooting of local policeman. As for SWAT and the People's Armed police, I saw them on almost every block when I was in Guangzhou, China. There were either in green police vans or black ones. The only difference is that the police aren't trained to shoot first except in special situations like drug deals, and other crimes when the criminals know that the punishment is the death penalty.
 
 
+4 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-01 23:12
Wen Li, my wife, has a niece who lives in Guangzhou and I visited that city three years ago. I do not recall seeing a policemen during my visit. We walked for perhaps a mile (I know I should say kilometers) to a quaint little Chinese restaurant. I do not recall seeing a policeman during that long walk to the restaurant. Speaking of punishment, the U.S, has the largest inmate population of any nation, people in jail, prison, not only as a percentage of population but also in absolute numbers. We have more people in jail, prisons, than China and China has a population in excess of one billion. You may know more about crimes in China that result in the death penalty. I'm doing my research on this matter. China does not have violent racial issues. I have made several trips to China in the last five years. How many African Chinese have I seen? I could count them on my left index finger. Yet, I'm sure there are more. The Chinese do not have a racial issue as does the U.S. While I related my lack of observing police in China to a CHP officer in a local Ca. sandwich shop where two other officers were having lunch next to me, six more CHP officers entered the shop. Two police officers going in opposite directions passed me on the way to the sandwich shop. Probably an unusual event that day. Seeing so many police officers. Not once in my post did I say China is a more desirable place to live. Sorry that your observations about Guangzhou were and are different than mine.
 
 
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-01 23:43
Keep in mind, in the U.S., it does happen to be shot to death by police for "wearing a hoodie" among other issues. And the cop goes free. Or being shot to death with raised hands. And the cop goes free. Or a child has a toy pistol, gets shot to death. Will the cop go free? As of the last few years, numerous school children have been shot to death by trigger happy gunmen. And a gun and rifle association, NRA, ramps up more fear-scares citizens to buy more guns. Germany, 2012. Police in the whole country discharged 49 rounds-40 were warning shots. The U.S. has very serious police/citizen problems. The mandate you refer to originated in China, April, 2014. Why? One police officer was killed. Since the mandate, very serious questions are being considered such as , why the sudden outburst of Chinese police killings of its citizens. Some Chinese policemen are getting trigger happy.
 
 
+28 # Larry 2014-12-01 15:05
In Louisville, police have been killing unarmed people for decades, including an arrested man whose hands were handcuffed behind his back. When the shackled man refused to cooperate, the best response, according to the five or six armed officers who were present, was to shoot him dead, claiming that "the subject tried to grab the officer's gun." Really?

Yet, due to the "halo effect" of the badge and uniform, no police officer has ever been indicted for any of these outrageous abuses of power.

It is past time to re-evaluate who the police are, and why society is willing to look the other way when they officially engage in criminal behavior.
 
 
+16 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2014-12-01 15:58
@Larry
Why does society look the other way? The current state of affairs is due to the pendulum effect. 60 years ago, one would read in the newspapers about some horrific crime wherein the perpetrator was caught red-handed. Then followed a long trial and that person would be found guilty. Sometimes it seemed like a huge waste of time and effort. The person was clearly guilty. It was easy to think, “Why have a trial? Just sentence him.”

Then came a relatively short period where there were a few police shootings of “clearly guilty” people and the public reaction was almost positive.

Now we are at the other end of the pendulum where police apprehend, judge and execute those who are “clearly guilty.” Unfortunately for the people executed, the police are only trained to apprehend. They are not lawyers or judges. They are conversant with the laws that apply to their doing their job but not with those governing prosecutions or sentencing.

It is We the People who have allowed this situation to evolve. We ignored the early signs of trouble and are now up to our necks in it.

You are right. It's past time to address the new police state of mind. Drawing a gun on a jaywalker or a shopper or a demented person is NOT reasonable and it is OUR job, the People’s job, to change the laws governing police responses to unsocial activities, some of which are crimes and some of which are not.

Five of the above are excellent places to start.
 
 
+16 # 2wmcg2 2014-12-01 15:10
These suggestions make sense. If we could do at least some of them, it would go a long way toward controlling the police state.
 
 
-36 # MidwestTom 2014-12-01 15:15
Justine Winebrenner former officer in Akron killed last week by black man
 
 
-35 # MidwestTom 2014-12-01 15:15
Justine Winebrenner former officer in Akron killed last week by black man
 
 
-36 # MidwestTom 2014-12-01 15:16
Justine Winebrenner former officer in Akron killed last week by black man
 
 
+19 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-01 15:23
Is it necessary to post 3 times-same subect matter?
 
 
-2 # Texan 4 Peace 2014-12-02 00:44
That's 3 murders of a white person by a black person! MWT doesn't seem to be making any discernible point, aside from that.
 
 
0 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-12-03 23:16
Actually, one person mentioned three times.
 
 
+4 # propsguy 2014-12-01 15:31
actually, it's Justin
 
 
+6 # Radscal 2014-12-01 17:27
I want every honest, law-abiding police officer to get home safely.

It needs to be noted that policing is not an exceptionally dangerous job. It doesn't make it to the top ten most dangerous occupations:

http://www.bls.gov/news.releas...

Nationwide, in 2013, 27 police officers were killed by criminals. Police were almost twice as likely to die in auto accidents (48).

http://www.fbi.gov/news/pressr...

Again, I want all good cops to get home safely. Statistics show the area that needs the most attention to meet that goal is driving skills, especially as relates to high speed chases, which kill more innocent bystanders than police or suspects.
 
 
+18 # fredboy 2014-12-01 15:31
Today as I approached my car in a parking lot I noticed a police SUV parked behind me. And the cop was putting groceries in the passenger door. The SUV had a really neat bumper, so I smiled and said "That's a neat bumper!" and the cop just coldly stared at me. Really sad. Zip personality. Was I intimidated? Nope--I used to teach cops and others how to fight. I could tell this guy was a minch, and a bit paranoid.
 
 
+30 # kando@ltidewater.net 2014-12-01 15:38
Right on, Carl Gibson!

I am old enough to remember police as "peace officers" in my European home town (early 1940s). They were unarmed, patrolled their assigned neighborhhod on foot and most local people knew them by name. They often gave a hand to ladies and older people carrying parcels or grocery bags. They were role models for us, children, as we were groving up.

(Then came oppressive dictatorships and many levels of paramilitry "security services", whose true mission was to oppress in the name of one ideology or another.)

Willy-nilly, militarized "security officers" are role models today as well. No wonder we have such a violent society --and such a lawless one, where power is routinely being substituted for "equity" and "justice".

Is there any doubt that a non-violent peace officer corps would attract a totally different, service-minded cadre of candidates from the current one, many of whose members are attracted to the power vested in their uniform?
 
 
+6 # JJS 2014-12-01 17:55
Thanks, kando, for reminding me that there is a better way to live and that we are not so far removed we can't work to bring about change to bring back some of the good ol' days ways and let some of the bad ol' days ways that we have left behind stay there.
 
 
+6 # fredboy 2014-12-01 18:54
Yes, real "peace officers" mastered the art of "talking down" most situations, calming people by acknowledging and listening to them.

Sadly, today it's every sentence ending in the vicious "SIR!", as they think that gives them command. But it really pisses people off.

Sad it went paranoid military. You are right--it no longer attracts positive helpers, instead drawing wrecked souls and bullies.
 
 
+2 # crispy 2014-12-03 10:12
"kando@ltidewater.net" I agree with you on peace officers would attract different people. IN FACT, let me suggest something i have suggested before: some officers join police forces because they are violent, because they LIKE to kill. I suggest having a test to prevent psychopath from being hired as policeman - or politician.
Also someone who worked as mercenary (for blackwater and alike) should not be allowed on the force because, again, it shows an interest in(If not a love for) KILLING. In war you learn to shoot before you ask. In police you learn to shoot ONLY when necesary.
 
 
+18 # Blackjack 2014-12-01 15:44
We have been a sick country, living in abject fear, ever since 9/11. In order to feel "safer," and in order to line the pockets of those whose livelihoods revolve around armaments, we are told that we will be safe when everyone is armed. That policy only intensifies the "shoot first" mentality of law enforcement. Congregating peacefully is seen as a threat to law enforcement because they never know what nut is packing heat, ready to erupt into violence. If carrying weapons were so successful at keeping the peace, we would be the most peaceful country on the planet, but it has had the absolute opposite effect. But are we learning how to be more peaceful by putting down our weapons? Not as long as we allow the NRA to keep us in fear mode.

Add to this the racial bias that persists by many whites in law enforcement, perpetuated by blacks who look menacing and dangerous simply because of their color, and you have an unholy mix of morbid panic itching the trigger finger.
 
 
+6 # Radscal 2014-12-01 17:33
The NRA certainly stokes fear of crime to drive up firearm sales. But I don't see what that has to do with police state violence and abuses of power.

Cops are made to believe they live in mortal danger every minute. They are also made to believe that "officer safety" is their primary goal.

Reality is quite the opposite for both the NRA and the police. Violent crime has been declining for decades. Police being murdered on duty has been declining for decades.

Selling us all fear is a useful strategy to impose ever-stricter police state power over us.
 
 
+4 # fredboy 2014-12-01 18:56
Yes, 9/11 defense failures followed by the Katrina Message (you can't rely on your government to help in an emergency) left most in the U.S. with a huge case of PTSD. So we are all now hair-triggered, defensive, and terribly confused and disappointed. It is as if everyone in America is now a threat to everyone else.
 
 
+13 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2014-12-01 16:50
According to The Economist, last year there were 409 deaths in this country from police shootings. In Germany, during that same time, there were only 3. And in Britain and Japan, there were 0.

We have indeed become a police state.
 
 
+6 # Billy Bob 2014-12-01 19:00
We really have uncovered the TRUE difference between conservatives and liberals.

Whenever you hear some of the conservatives who frequent RSN threads spouting off about "welfare mothers", and "personal responsibility" , or "pulling bootstraps", and "the welfare state", etc. REMEMBER WHAT THEY ACTED LIKE AFTER THE FERGUSON REVELATION.

This is revealing about the TRUE intentions, motivations, and agenda of the extreme right in America. Something about this incident has forced some of these con artists to accidentally reflexively reveal their true colors - WITHOUT ALL THE RACIST CODE WORDS.
 
 
+1 # crispy 2014-12-03 10:18
Billy Bob, i'd call them progressives/le ftists and fascists/rigth- wingers rather than liberal - conservatives because true conservatives don't stand for what they stand for.
Personal opinion
 
 
+6 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-12-01 19:57
"Fear is the easiest way to control the masses" --- President Richard Nixon. Today we have the NRA telling everyone to be armed. What would you guess the results to be?
 
 
+1 # intheEPZ 2014-12-02 12:56
One other suggestion: Support BORDC, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, which sponsored resolutions at the local/municipal level requiring police to honor the Bill of Rights and NOT enforce Bush era Patriot Act violations of same. These resolutions passed in many towns in the country that had active, alert citizens working with BORDC. This is one way to counter the national trends brought about by corrupt politicians and their corporate/milit ary masters.
 
 
0 # John Puma 2014-12-04 02:21
Great list but implementing it would be analogous to getting congress to vote to allow itself campaign donations only from an exclusively public (tax payer funded) system.
 
 
0 # Chop chop 2014-12-26 06:46
http://reason.com/archives/2014/12/24/how-liberals-put-black-america
 

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