From George Floyd to Breonna Taylor to Daunte Wright, the link between police brutality and racial injustice seems to grow more prominent each day. But this issue is by no means a new one nor is it unique to these “high-profile” cases. Consider:
- 7 in 10 Black Americans say they are treated less fairly than whites are in their dealings with police. (ACLU)
- Black people in America are nearly 3 times as likely to be shot and killed by the police than white Americans. (Everytown)
Police brutality, particularly directed to Black and BIPOC individuals, is a deeply seeded, systemic issue. While the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd is an enormous step in the right direction, it is not the end of this issue. Police brutality is still a pervasive problem in America. We must use the momentum of this win to push forward productive conversation and action that continues to drive effective and peaceful policing and racial justice.
We know that taking action against police brutality and racial injustice can be a daunting task. There’s no one-size-fits-all response. Every community has a different relationship with its police force and every single encounter has its own unique set of circumstances.
That’s why we developed a list of actions to help you determine the best way to confront police brutality and racial injustice in your community. Actions are divided into three tiers of escalation, depending on your neighborhood’s relationship with local authorities. The first is the lowest level of escalation, with the third being the most extreme. For more information, we’ve also featured guides and resources from some of the nation’s largest organizations leading the fight against police brutality and racial injustice.
How To Support Your Community in Ending Police Brutality
Tier 1: Identify and Educate
- Identify the problem. Not all communities experience the same issues when it comes to problems with the police. Are people in your community experiencing excessive force? Verbal abuse? The list continues. It’s vital to identify the key issue(s) in your community to determine how and where to focus your efforts. This can be done through casual conversation or more formal surveys.
- Learn how other communities have dealt with the problem. Once you’ve identified the key issue(s) in your community that are causing problems with the police, doing research on how other communities have tackled similar issues can help provide insight on effective - or not effective - solutions. This can be an exploratory exercise to learn more about solutions as extreme as the Camden Model, or to take inspiration from cities like Philadelphia who recently created a Police Oversight Commission.
- Familiarize yourself with the history of the BLM Movement and the BLM Demands. As police brutality is heavily tied to racism, it’s important to understand the larger BLM movement and the actions that BLM - along with many other organizations - are demanding. It’s ok if you don’t necessarily align with each and every demand - but it’s vital to see, understand and appreciate the full picture of the movement to which police brutality is so closely linked.
- Join or form a partnership with your local police department. Whether in the form of a sports league or a volunteer day, forming personal relationships with officers can help counteract implicit bias and support more ethical, thoughtful interaction during times of crisis.
Tier 2: Speak Up
- Know your rights - and help others’ know their rights. According to the ACLU, “education empowers even the most disenfranchised people and helps deter the police from treating them abusively.”ACLU’s Pocket Card on Police Encounters are a great on-the-go resource for knowing your rights. Explain the importance of knowing your rights to your loved ones, and print out cards that they can carry with them to feel prepared if they should be confronted by the police.
- Demand that your local police department conduct officer trainings on de-escalation. Police recruits typically spend about eight hours on de-escalation training, contrasted by approximately 58 hours on firearm training and 49 hours on defensive tactics. Call or visit your local police department and demand that they re-prioritize training hours. You can also call or email your mayor. Help lead your local police department to make significant changes in how officers respond to potentially threatening situations.
- Join a community board. Civilian Complaints Boards or Community Advisory Boards can be a way to speak directly to influential community leaders. Involvement in these meetings can help ensure that individuals who are at risk for police violence have representation to ensure that they get the resources they need to fight against prejudiced policing and arrest quotas.
- Demand Transparency. Currently, there is no federal database that tracks the number of people killed by law enforcement, excessive use of force or stop-and-frisks, nor is there a requirement for local police departments to record these incidents. Demand that your police department to publicize this data and release it to the National Justice Database.
Tier 3: Divest Power
- Prepare go-to alternatives to calling the police. Calling the police can often escalate situations, putting people at risk. So how can we decrease, or even eliminate, an over reliance on police? First, know your neighbors. It is easier and safer to support our communities when we know each other. Keep a contact list of community resources like suicide hotlines and reliable social services. Hold and attend de-escalation, conflict resolution, first-aid, volunteer medic, and self-defense workshops in your neighborhood, school, workplace, or community organization. Take a look at Don’t Call the Police for resources near you.
- ‘Cop Watch’ - Observing and documenting police misconduct can help hold officers increasingly accountable for their actions. Many local organizations host Cop Watch training sessions and ‘How To’ guides, such as the Justice Committee in NYC. You can Cop Watch independently or search for networks near your community who may have these programs already set up.
- Create new programs for drug and mental-health related crises: Police officers are often first responders to emergency calls stemming from mental health or drug-related crises, though they are not necessarily the right individuals to handle these delicate situations; their presence may further trigger the person in crisis. Create a team of volunteer-based, qualified social workers and crisis counselors by putting out the word in your community. Request integration with the local police chief - and the likelihood is, they’ll appreciate you taking on these cases. Take a look at CAHOOTS as an example.
- Consider learning more about “Defund the Police” or “Abolish the Police movements.” If you feel as if the actions above are not helping to mitigate police brutality or racial injustice by police in your community, there are more extreme options out there. Learn more about what the “ Defund the Police” and “Abolish the Police” movements are demanding.
Guides and Manuals
National Organizations For Police Reform
Local (New York) Organizations For Police Reform
Organizations for Other Forms of Systemic Justice
Organizations To Learn More About Defund + Abolish The Police