Showing posts with label police reform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label police reform. Show all posts

Saturday, May 22, 2021


words by Charles Brooks 

Police reform in America is difficult because police unions, elected officials – Democrat and Republican – along with their largely white constituents seeks to maintain a racial order disguised as “law and order”. Opposition to police reform is seen in the public and political support for blue lives matter, and proposed anti-protest legislation across the nation that will clearly pit police officers on the front line against protesters deemed rioters.  We saw this during the seventies when the activist demand for community control over the police was met with the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights or LEOBOR – such as the one passed by Maryland in 1974. Passed into law at a time when politicians and the police, together basked in the spectacle of “law and order” – which meant, get tough on Black folk.

Jonathan Hutto and Rodney Green outlines the activism against police brutality in Social Movements Against Racist Police Brutality and Department of Justice Intervention in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  They point to 2001 Washington Post data revealing between 1990 and 2000, Prince George’s police shot and killed more citizens per officer than any of the 50 largest city and county law enforcement agencies in the country - 84 % Black. Hutto and Green describes activism against police brutality in Prince Georges County, and the critical emergence of The People’s Coalition for Police Accountability (PCPA).  In 2001, PCPA pressured Maryland state legislators to introduce legislation to repeal LEOBOR in the General Assembly. But opposition from the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) eventually killed the proposed repeal measure in committee. The struggle for police reform in Maryland continued relentlessly in the twenty years afterward.

Throughout the Maryland General Assembly’s recent three-month state legislative session, the opposition became clear as several state legislators – Democrats and Republicans, along with the FOP had their own ideas about what police reform should look like. Throughout the combative session, opposing state legislators prioritized protecting police interests over the interests of the community.

Maryland became the latest state to enact extensive police reform measures only after state legislators successfully overrode Governor Hogan’s veto.  In fact, the most contentious measures during the legislative session were in fact, vetoed by the Republican Governor; repeal of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), the new use of force standard and body cameras. He also vetoed measures to expand public access to records in police disciplinary cases and limit the use of no-knock warrants. 

The new police reform legislation creates a new unit in the attorney general's office to investigate police-involved deaths, prevents law enforcement agencies from buying surplus military equipment, and allows Baltimore City voters to self-determine whether Baltimore City or Maryland should have full control of the Baltimore City Police Department.

The new legislation also requires body cameras to be in use by July 2025; limits no-knock warrants to just between 8 am and 7 pm; a new statewide standard will now be in place outlining when officers can use force with criminal penalties of up to 10 years in prison. The use of force must now be “necessary and proportional to prevent an imminent threat of physical injury" or achieve “a legitimate law enforcement objective.”  Police officers will now be required to intervene thus criminalizing those officers who don’t.

There’s also Anton’s Law - that provides the public to finally gain access to records previously fought to keep confidential under the guise of protecting the police. The public will be able to request disciplinary records and internal affairs complaints made against the police. And despite heavy opposition from Maryland’s FOP, complaints determined to be unsubstantiated, will now be available for public review as well.

The new police reform legislation ensures different policing but also brings into view the road ahead for police reform.  For one, legislation to remove police officers from schools and reallocate funding for needed school resources such as social workers failed. Furthermore, LEOBOR fell short on the question of community control.  It’s the Trial boards who are empowered with the final determination on disciplining acts of police misconduct while the boards’ lone public representative is relegated to a spectator – no say in determining an officer’s guilt.   “While the General Assembly repealed the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR), it failed to implement the most important element of police accountability – community oversight. Community oversight means that there is a community-controlled and operated entity that is external to the police department or state-imposed processes that has power to investigate, adjudicate, and impose discipline,” reads in part, a statement from the Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA). 

To truly transform policing in America, policing must include community control – where the community has a significant role in police matters, particularly around discipline.  Community control has been the demand made by Black activists since the sixties in response to the same police misconduct and brutality that often led to rebellious uprisings. The notion that the police can effectively investigate and discipline police defeats the very purpose of community control.  As the amplified voices of the community become more engaged with the entities of their communities – be it the police, education or healthcare - the path to self-determination, community control and a more inclusive participatory democracy becomes more visible and within reach.


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Related Reading:


Are mandatory minimums the answer in Baltimore City

What really happened to Freddy Gray?

Additional Reading:

List of articles on Black Community Control from The Black Agenda Report

Thursday, October 22, 2020

RETREATING FROM POLICE REFORM IN NYC: NYC City Council pressured to weaken new anti-chokehold law

Words by Charles Brooks 

Photo credit: NYC Mayor's Office
Just three months ago, New York City finally  passed a law criminalizing the chokehold practice  ensuring a level of police accountability unseen before the recent wave of public uprising. New York City Council Member Rory Lancman, introduced the measure after Eric Garner’s chokehold death in 2014. The fact that it took six years to pass the anti-chokehold law should give you some indication of the level of opposition to the new law waged by the mayor, New York Police Department (NYPD) and their union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Union (PBA). Right now, legislative efforts are underway to weaken, undermine and outright repeal the new law. 

For one, there’s a lawsuit filed by 18 police unions arguing the new law is “invalid and unenforceable” and violates the New York’s State Constitution. Just to give you an idea of the scope of police opposition – the lawsuit includes unions representing officers from NYPD, Port Authority, Tunnels and Bridges, along with the officers from the court system. In addition to the lawsuit, New York City Council Public Safety Committee chairman, Donavan Richards has already introduced amendments to revise key language in the law while there’s another proposal to outright repeal the newly signed law. 

These latest attempts to revoke this measure of police accountability have been framed around a work slowdown by NYPD officers who contend the new law compromises their safety. Unable to withstand the pressure from the New York Police Department, City Council Public Safety Committee chairman Donavan Richards relented by introducing an amendment

The bill would amend Local Law 66 of 2020 to provide that restraining an individual in a manner that restricts the flow of air or blood by sitting, kneeling, or standing on the chest or back in a manner that compresses the diaphragm is a misdemeanor under such law if the restraint is performed recklessly and causes injury due to asphyxiation . 

With this new language, the new law becomes remarkedly weaker where proving “recklessly” becomes immensely more subjective to prove as the officers’ intent comes into play. Bear in mind “recklessly” is the same language that created the loophole allowing the Department of Justice to not file federal civil rights charges against former NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for using the chokehold resulting in Garner’s death. Although, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the bill into law in July, he not only supports the proposed changes but along with the NYPD has always maintained a position that the chokehold ban was sufficient

However, chokehold complaint data shows quite a different story. The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) investigates public complaints on police misconduct in New York City. According to the CCRB, there were over 3,000 complaints over a 20-year period from 2001 to 2000 – nearly 1,000 since Garner’s death in 2014. And yet despite the data to substantiate the chokehold ban’s ineffectiveness, opposition by the mayor and the New York Police Department not only persisted but hardened. We witnessed their opposition when, not even in the wake of Garner’s chokehold death, could a law be passed to criminalize the chokehold practice. 

Photo credit: December 12th Movement
For years, community relations with NYPD has been characterized by protest demonstrations and public demands for police accountability. Accordingly, attempts to undermine the new anti-chokehold law has been met with a number of protest demonstrations led by the December 12th Movement. They’ve initiated a public campaign to not only mobilize black communities in and around New York City but to inform them as well. So far, several street demonstrations targeted the offices of the Council Public Safety Committee members; I. Daneek Miller, and Adrienne Adams, who also happen to serve as co-chairs of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus along with the committee Chairman Donavan Richards. In addition, they held a nearly two-hour ZOOM webinar where invited panelists discussed the chokehold issue from a number of different perspectives. 

Viola Plummer, the December 12th chair moderated this important virtual discussion with panelists: NYC Council Member Inez Barron, Attorney King Downing, former NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Dr. Susan Williams of the Freedom Socialist Party, Father Frank Morales of the All Souls Episcopal Church, New York State Senator Elect Jabari Brisport, Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter of Greater NY, and New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron. They spoke of the historical context and background, the amendment – the proposed change in language and its significance, the immense political pressure to change the law, the scale of police intimidation and subsequent trauma experienced by those living in the community. 

By now, we’ve seen one chokehold incident after another and not just in New York City. We’ve seen the data on chokehold complaints revealing the inadequacy and failure of the 1993 chokehold ban. We’ve seen the evidence of trauma again and again in communities and neighborhoods when black folk fall victim to the chokehold or any other form of police brutality. We’ve also seen police officers acquitted. We should also see that opposition and resistance to the anti-chokehold law is essentially an endorsement for maintaining a police culture rooted in their impunity to wage a campaign of unabated intimidation.

Additional Reading and resources:

See the contact list for all New York City Council members here.

Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's website, our INTEL pageOPEN MIND page, and LIKE and FOLLOW our Facebook page.