People First Policing Plan
On the day Julián announced his candidacy for President of the United States, he talked about health care and education, economic prosperity and immigration. And he also talked about the frightening rate at which unarmed black and brown folks have been killed by law enforcement officers all over America.
“If police in Charleston, South Carolina can arrest Dylann Roof after he murdered nine people worshipping at Bible study, without hurting him,” he said in January, “then don’t tell me that Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice, and Aiyana Jones, and Eric Garner, and Jason Pero, and Stephon Clark, and Sandra Bland shouldn’t still be alive today, too.”
In March 2018, in Sacramento, California, police shot and killed a young black man named Stephon Clark. Stephon, you might say, was in the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact, he was in his grandmother’s backyard. Police were looking for a vandal in the neighborhood that night in the dark. A police helicopter spotted 22-year-old Stephon and two officers ran to attempt an apprehension. They reeled around a blind corner and one yelled, “Gun, gun, gun, gun!” The officers immediately fired their weapons 20 times. Stephon Clark fell and died there in his grandmother’s backyard, a cellphone on the ground next to him. There was no gun. He had done nothing wrong.
Stephon Clark’s story is not unique. In the United States, according to a Washington Post analysis, nearly one thousand people are shot and killed by police each year. When you break down that number, you see clearly that black men make up a disproportionate number of the victims of excessive police force. This is not a case of a few bad apples. The system is broken.
We have on our hands a national crisis in public safety. If elected president, Julián Castro would treat this as the crisis it is, demanding of a federal response. This is Julián’s plan to fix this broken system:
- End over-aggressive policing and combat racially discriminatory policing.
- Hold police accountable.
- Start the healing process between communities and law enforcement.
1. End Over-Aggressive Policing and Combat Racially Discriminatory Policing
In establishing national standards for the conduct of police officers and local departments that receive federal funding, we ensure that every police department in the United States establishes minimum standards for how their officers interact with community members. Those standards include combatting racially discriminatory policing that leads to the disproportionately high number of black men who are killed by police.
- Restrict the use of deadly force unless there is an imminent threat to the life of another person, and all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. Require the use of de-escalation procedures and alternatives to deadly force whenever possible.
- Adopt technological and organizational approaches, such as the use of body cameras, to support responsible policing practices and ensure accountability of officer conduct. Employ best practices for the use of technological advances to guarantee the privacy of civilians.
- End the school-to-prison pipeline and reform student discipline practices. Combat unfair, harsh, and unequal disciplinary methods by ensuring that schools receiving federal funding commit to reforms including eliminating the use of police officers as disciplinary agents, implementing positive, evidenced-based disciplinary practices, and requiring unconscious bias training for school personnel. Provide federal grants to promote positive and supporting school climates and reforming disciplinary practices. Provide expanded support and counseling for students and training for teachers and staff.
- Establish responsibility and accountability of officers to intervene if they witness a colleague utilizing excessive force or inappropriate conduct.
- Require police officers to identify themselves, issue a verbal warning, and give the suspect a reasonable amount of time to comply before the use of force.
- Restrict policing actions that cause collateral damage such as shooting at moving vehicles.
- Require training of and acknowledgment by all police personnel on the public’s right to record interactions between the public and law enforcement.
- Require law enforcement agencies to obtain written consent for consensual vehicle searches.
- End racial profiling and stop-and-frisk policies. Work with Congress to enact legislation that would prohibit any law enforcement agent or agency to engage in racial profiling or to conduct stops and searches of people with only vague explanations of suspicion.
- Require police departments to demonstrate accountability for all instances of biased policing, including requiring internal reviews and appropriate disciplinary actions, during the time period when federal funds are used.
- Require pre-employment screenings to identify prejudices. Ensure local departments are eliminating candidates who display bias, intolerance, or other behaviors or prejudices that may threaten public safety.
- Build a more representative police force by using federal grants to incentivize police departments to enact residency requirements and other efforts to ensure not only that law enforcement officers live in the communities they protect, but also that police departments look like the communities they serve.
- Require accredited implicit bias and other racial equity training for all police personnel.
2. Increase Accountability and Transparency
The federal government, including the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, will hold accountable law enforcement agencies for use of excessive force. That process starts with transparency and data.
- Establish a public national database that tracks all police officers decertified in any state or locality, to ensure full transparency of officers when seeking employment in other states. This effort would build on the success of the National Decertification Index established by the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training. Incentivize state and local governments to use this national database when hiring officers.
- Collect disaggregated data on all detentions, stops, frisks, searches, summons, and arrests, ensuring local, state, and federal lawmakers are equipped with the data needed to inform sustained policing reform. Require that this information be made publicly available in a way that is useful both to governmental and nongovernmental entities. This would build on the successes of the Use of Force Data Collection program.
- Make it easier to hold offending officers accountable under criminal and civil law. Work with Congress to put forward legislation to lower the unfairly high burden to prosecute police officers for misconduct – ensuring those who violate constitutional or legal protections of civilians under Section 242 are held accountable. Reform and restrict the “qualified immunity” defense under section 1983 for law enforcement officers.
- Support and invest in the establishment of civilian oversight boards to improve community oversight of police departments.
- Eliminate “consequence-free” weapon discharges and arrests by requiring strict reporting requirements. This will include a requirement to report information that covers any injury sustained as a result of a weapon discharge or arrest, collateral consequences, re-entry, cost-analysis, an explanation of community impact, how any collateral consequences will be mitigated, and the cost of the arrest or weapon discharge, relative to its benefits, for the community.
- Proactively investigate police departments that consistently fail to meet standards.
- Investigate all fatal police shootings in the nation in a transparent manner that ensures accountability and oversee consent decrees that are a result of police misconduct.
- Establish guidelines for next-generation surveillance technologies, like facial recognition technology, that accounts for disparate impact and bias in their application.
3. Mend the Relationship Between Community Members and Law Enforcement
With new policing guidelines and increased accountability, law enforcement and community members are better able to build a culture of trust.
- Demilitarize the police. Issue an executive order to end the transfer of tracked and wheeled armored vehicles, high-caliber rifles, aircraft equipped with weapons, grenade launchers, and other military weapons, vehicles, and equipment under the federal government’s 1033 program. Prevent any federal funds granted to state or local governments from being used to buy this equipment, and recover previously-provided equipment such as armored vehicles that have no place on American streets.
- Work with state and local law enforcement to deprioritize enforcement of minor offenses that do not impact public safety to limit over-policing in communities, effectively ending the “broken windows policing” model that has contributed to mass incarceration, especially of people of color.
- Ensure law enforcement officers receive high-quality mental health and trauma support services following any use of a weapon, in combination with a transparent investigation into those incidents.
- Invest in programs that address root causes and find alternatives to criminal justice interventions by providing increased funding for drug treatment, mental health support, educational completion programs, youth programs, both in-court and out-of-court diversion programs for non-violent offenses, and supportive interventions for families in crisis, including through universal health care coverage that extends Medicare to all Americans, covering mental health and drug treatment support.
- Mandate community-led trainings for police departments that emphasize nonviolent de-escalation, crisis intervention practices and racial equity concepts, as well as community-based solutions outside law enforcement and criminal justice systems that improve community safety and reduce harm.
- End Section 287(g) agreements under the Immigration and Nationality Act and other such agreements between federal immigration enforcement agencies and state and local entities that erode trust between communities and local police.
- Promote alternative responses to 911 calls by establishing partnerships between mental health units and first responders. Support crisis intervention services equipped with medics, counselors, social workers, and, crisis workers, as first responders rather than armed police officers.
- Incentivize local governments to identify alternatives to arrests for offenses that do not threaten public safety by increasing grant eligibility based on pre-arrest diversion to the appropriate professional service (drug, mental health, housing, education, etc.).
- Take administrative action to restrict the Equitable Sharing Program and pass legislation to end abusive civil asset forfeiture practices nationwide by requiring a criminal conviction before private property is seized, with any proceeds going to the Treasury’s General Fund or their State-equivalent to eliminate profit motives for law enforcement.