Black people, Indigenous people, and Latinx people are angry, heartbroken, frustrated, and tired. As uprisings against institutional violence sweep the nation, we cannot be silent. We cannot stand by the old refrain around police reforms. As a candidate for California State Senate, I am proposing a ten-point platform to address police violence and the terrorizing of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color by law enforcement. This is how the State of California shows that it truly believes #BlackLivesMatter.
1. Redirect police funding to community and social services.
Law enforcement has taken on an increasingly outsized role in society and been tasked with duties they are ill-equipped to perform. Over-reliance on law enforcement is at once ineffective, expensive, and dangerous. As millions across the state and country take to the streets demanding meaningful action to combat the police violence crisis, elected leaders must take meaningful, transformative action. Half measures and ineffectual reforms are not enough. It’s time to re-evaluate our relationship with law enforcement.
As most police budgets are funded locally, this requires local action with support from the state. But the State Senate must do its part as well, by:
- Demanding stronger use of force policies from local police departments, aggressively re-directing at least 25% from law enforcement and incarceration to strengthen our state's community-based social services as primary first responders and rehabilitative services
- Enforcing public right to know laws around police misconduct and police violence
2. Demilitarize law enforcement agencies. Ban the use of military-grade weapons by law enforcement agencies and ban the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, flash bang grenades, and LRADs on protestors.
Police departments across California are outfitted as if they are going to war against their own constituencies. That we can equip police officers with military-grade gear for protests, but not nurses and healthcare frontline workers with adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for a pandemic highlights the State of California’s misaligned priorities. As well, police departments from Oakland to Los Angeles have shown they cannot resist abusing weapons such as rubber bullets, tear gas, flash bang grenades, and LRADs against protestors. This is an outrageous repression of civilians’ first amendment rights.
Limitations, guidelines, and transparency are not enough. It’s time to ban the acquisition and use of military-grade weapons by law enforcement and ban the use of rubber bullets, tear gas, flash bang grenades, and LRADs on protestors.
3. Remove law enforcement personnel from schools.
No child should have to grow up being treated like a criminal at their safe space of school. Social workers and clinical psychologists with enough cultural responsiveness training are much more able and less traumatizing to deal with children in distress than police officers with handcuffs. It’s time to stem the school-to-prison pipeline and end the presence of law enforcement in all California schools.
4. Decarcerate our prisons and jails.
Between 1980 and 2020 the California prison population exploded from 0.1% to 0.5% despite rates for both violent and property crime plummeting. Outdated “Tough on Crime” policies motivated by the “Broken Windows Theory” have proven both ineffective and immoral. Following successful decarceration efforts in San Francisco, we have a viable roadmap for dramatically reducing the jail population across the state. To reduce the prison population, we must revisit sentencing for individuals prosecuted under outdated value systems including the Three Strikes law, unnecessary gang enhancements, non-violent drug offenses, and minors unjustly prosecuted as adults.
5. End the criminalization of homelessness.
Law enforcement and criminal justice are inappropriate responses to poverty and homelessness, and criminalization represents a failure of both rationality and morality. As well, criminalization costs taxpayers more than simply providing the necessary services and support to help individuals stabilize their own lives.
Housing is a human right, and we can only solve epidemic homelessness by investing in the acquisition and development of adequate affordable housing.
6. Raise the standard for both lethal AND non-lethal use of force by police.
California Assembly Bill 392, also known as Stephon Clark’s Law, raised the standard for use of lethal force from “when reasonable” to “when necessary” and prohibits firing upon suspects who are fleeing and do not pose an immediate threat. While the legislation is credited as the strictest use of force policy in the country, it does not address what most call “less lethal” forms of force such as tasers. These “less lethal” forms of force are also used by police and kill people such as tasers, tear gas, and chokeholds. We must have requirements for adequate “space and time” as well as exhausting other de-escalation methods for non-lethal uses of force.
8. Amend the Public Safety Officer’s Bill of Rights Act in order to hold police officers and correctional officers accountable for misconduct and increase transparency.
Despite ongoing reforms around misconduct, use of force, oversight, and investigation, the Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights creates unnecessary obstacles to accountability far beyond the scope of protecting workers rights. Investigations into law enforcement misconduct are limited to an impossible one year timeline, more than double and triple the time it took for San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon to conclude investigations of SFPD’s killing of Mario Woods and Luis Gongora Pat, respectively. Officers facing interrogation are given advanced knowledge of investigations far beyond what any other public worker or civilian would be entitled to, and unique opportunities to frustrate investigations.
POBRA must be substantially amended to close the matrix of loopholes designed to grant law enforcement the ability to murder people with impunity. We must immediately repeal the one year ticking clock to ensure thorough investigations, and preserve the integrity of investigations to allow for limiting advanced knowledge of the nature of cases wherever necessary. Ultimately, rights guaranteed by POBRA should not be dramatically different from those afforded to any other public worker or civilian.
9. Ban gang injunctions and gang enhancements.
Gang injunctions have been found to be both ineffective and a violation of individual rights. Gang enhancements are an unnecessary prosecutorial tool and contribute to epidemic over-charging and mass incarceration. Both rely on subjective interpretations of behavior and culture to determine who is or is not “gang affiliated,” often predicated on the stigmatization of Black and Latinx culture, resulting in deep racial disparities. Absurdly thin evidence has been presented to indicate individual gang affiliation including: being sighted in one’s own neighborhood, being hit by a stray bullet, being searched for possession of firearms with none recovered, “illegally” riding a bike, possession of “suspected” cocaine “residue,” and knowing or being related to another person suspected of gang affiliation.
Neither gang injunctions nor gang enhancements are necessary to ensure public safety and both have been wielded against primarily Black and Latinx people. These strategies must be retired as misguided experiments of the Tough on Crime era of “Broken Windows” criminal justice.
10. Designate racist false 911 phone calls as hate crimes.
In 2018, New York State Assemblymember Felix Ortiz proposed legislation designating falsely reporting criminal activity as a hate crime. New York State Senator Brian Benjamin introduced the bill in May of 2020. California must follow this model and meaningfully address widespread false criminalization of Black and other marginalized people. We must also recognize that our criminal justice system has been over-reliant on draconian, punitive, and expensive structures that fail to serve victims and communities. Wherever possible and appropriate, victim-centered alternatives that reduce or eliminate the likelihood of re-offense are necessary for a justice system that truly reflects the goals, needs, and values of racial equity.
Both offenders and victims must be given the opportunity to engage in a Restorative Justice process designed to address the particulars of each individual case. If victims decline to participate, as is their right, offenders may continue a process as led by advocates representing the victim’s community. Charges may be dropped upon completion of the process. Many offenders in viral cases attest that they are not racist, despite having committed categorically racist acts. Restorative Justice gives offenders the opportunity and tools to address and overcome the biases that motivated their behavior and prevent them from perpetuating further bias, and can popularize anti-racism methodologies. Overall, victims who engage in Restorative Justice also report higher levels of satisfaction.