Reimagine Policing

The brutal death of George Floyd has rightly trained our eyes on systemic racism and bias in our criminal justice system and the long history of law enforcement’s excessive use of force, which is most often aimed at black Americans. It is clear that nothing short of a complete transformation of policing is necessary to ensure safety for the people of our country. Whether it is implicit or explicit, racial bias is real, influences perceptions and behaviors and can be deadly. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national conversation around police brutality, we must push the debate beyond ending police violence. Policing practices should be modified to build mutual trust and respect between law enforcement agencies and communities through “community-centered policing.” Congressional Democrats have introduced the Justice in Policing Act, a bold and comprehensive approach to hold police accountable, end racial profiling, change the culture of law enforcement, empower our communities, and build trust between law enforcement and our communities by addressing systemic racism and bias to help save lives. The Justice in Policing Act would: 1) establish a national standard for the operation of police departments; 2) mandate data collection on police encounters; 3) reprogram existing funds to invest in transformative community-based policing programs; and 4) streamline federal law to prosecute excessive force and establish independent prosecutors for police investigations. Police departments should also adopt personnel practices that result in the hiring and retention of diverse law enforcement professionals who are culturally sensitive, speak the communities’ languages and are residents of their patrolled communities. To deconstruct stereotypes and bias, police departments should partner with their communities, actively engaging with youth, so trust can be established and crimes can be more quickly solved or prevented. Reforms should also include peer intervention strategies, based on a New Orleans Police Department peer intervention program called Ethical Policing is Courageous (EPIC) introduced in 2015. Designed to empower officers to intervene if they witness a fellow officer behaving in misconduct, the program helps protect the careers of police officers as well as stop a wrongful action before it occurs. EPIC strives to redefine police culture so that intervention to prevent or stop harmful action is not an exception to good team-work; it is the very definition of good teamwork.