We Need Community-Based Policing, and the State Must Still Regulate

The calls to appropriate funds from police departments toward community-based policing must not let the federal government off of the hook for ensuring just law enforcement.

July 20, 2020

Just last week, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley [D-MA-7] and Rashida Tlaib [D-MI-13] co-sponsored the BREATHE Act, a comprehensive bill drafted by the Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives and intended to follow through on the organization’s goal of divesting from police and reinvesting in community-based alternatives to policing. The exciting roll-out of the bill is a bellwether for the trajectory of the recent protest movements. It points to an important and necessary willingness to engage the government in order to achieve strategic goals.

At the same time as the BREATHE Act makes its way to Capitol Hill, a slate of bills sit in Congress which would address the inadequacies of America’s criminal justice system and the lack of accountability for police violence. Senator Brian Schatz [D-HI] introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, a measure which, if passed, would prohibit the use of military-grade equipment against protestors and also create an incentive program for police departments to return such equipment. Congresswomen Deb Haaland’s’ PROTECT Act would create further incentives for demilitarization of police departments. The Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House and awaits debate in the Senate, would accomplish a number of needed reforms to policing in this country, including improvements to police trainings, prohibition of racial profiling, and the elimination of roadblocks to prosecuting criminal police officers.

MPAC is working with our civic and governmental partners to ensure that the dynamic between law enforcement and community reflects the values of human security. In line with our Human Security campaign, MPAC supports the creation of a federal standard for all law enforcement agencies that promotes and codifies community engagement and includes passage of a nationwide ban on police violence and accountability for perpetrators (through the creation of a national database for tracking police misconduct, streamlined processes for terminating and prosecuting criminal police officers, and more rigorous standards for assessing police misconduct), mandated community engagement, a national use of force policy, and the requirement of regular training on de-escalation tactics and implicit bias.

No matter what comes of this window wherein Congress focuses on police reforms, something will change. Even if community-based policing alternatives completely replace current law enforcement structures, communities will need measures to guarantee that these new policing regimes are not derelict in their duties. Therefore, federal standards for policing are one measure which we must bring with us into the new world that the social protests against the police’s murder of George Floyd have built over these last few months. In order to bring a new model of transformative justice to bear, we will continue to work as an ally to those protest movements and a partner in government.



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