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Green Party presidential candidates Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker are calling for the decriminalization of all medication as a part of their proposed police reforms.

The main candidates for the Green Party’s presidential ticket Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker are calling for “radical changes” to policing, together with decriminalization of all medication. The plan additionally consists of group management of police and utilizing federal funds in police budgets particularly to “pay for the services and economic development that working-class communities of color need.”

by Howie Hawkins and Angela Walker

The new motion in opposition to police brutality and racism, spurred video-captured police homicide of George Floyd, is now in its fourth week on the streets. Hundreds of hundreds of individuals in each state and greater than 2000 cities and towns have participated on this motion. The multiracial composition of the motion is unprecedented and a hopeful harbinger.

Public opinion polls present that almost all of Americans, notably youthful folks, have come to the conclusion that racism and police brutality are main issues. While folks of coloration have lengthy held these views, the shift in white public opinion in current weeks is dramatic. It stays an open query whether or not this shift will probably be sustained as a way to present the political help for making basic adjustments to finish police brutality and systemic racism.

People can now see that the policing system we’ve now undermines public security, notably for Black folks. We should basically rethink how we make communities protected. In order to cease the long-recurring cycle of police brutality towards Black folks instigating group uprisings, we should create options to policing for a lot of issues. We should restructure the ability relationship between communities and their police. We should look at questions like whether or not a skilled counselor or a battle decision specialist could be more practical than a police officer in lots of conditions, whether or not a psychological well being employee could be more practical at dealing with a psychological well being disaster. And, we should ask if our economic system supplied for the fabric wants of individuals for employment, earnings, meals, housing, healthcare, and training, might we radically cut back the scope and scale of issues police want to answer.


An extended menu of policing reforms has been thrust into public debate and legislative consideration by the nationwide rebellion in opposition to police brutality and racism. Many of the proposed reforms of policing practices on the state, native, and federal ranges are good insurance policies.
House Democrats have launched The Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which incorporates the next measures:

  • revise the “qualified immunity,” which has protected police from legal responsibility for extreme use of drive
  • require police to hold private legal responsibility insurance coverage
  • curb the switch of army gear to state and native legislation enforcement companies,
  • mandate knowledge assortment of police misconduct
  • set up a federal registry of offenders
  • mandate racial bias coaching
  • outlaw choke holds
  • outlaw no-knock warrants
  • make lynching a federal crime, laws that has been pending in Congress since 1882.

The motion is making these calls for and others on native and state governments, with a few of these measures already adopted in a number of cities and New York state. Additional calls for embrace:

  • launch police disciplinary data
  • mandate de-escalation ways
  • strengthen use-of-force insurance policies
  • require a warning earlier than taking pictures
  • create an obligation to intervene in opposition to extreme drive by different officers
  • ban taking pictures at transferring autos
  • emphasize group policing over reactive policing
  • set up residency necessities for police
  • set up police assessment boards, or strengthen their investigative and disciplinary powers
  • re-negotiate police union contracts to take away provisions that give officers particular safety from investigation and self-discipline of misconduct

Even President Trump and Republican Senators now really feel compelled by the motion to suggest modest reforms to policing practices.

Beyond reforming police practices and accountability, the motion is demanding to “Defund the Police.” Defunding means scaling again what police do and transferring the financial savings into social providers, colleges, housing, and group financial improvement. Defunding means eradicating police from coping with many social issues reminiscent of homelessness, drug use, intercourse work, psychological well being crises, home disputes, and college self-discipline which can be higher addressed by different skilled first responders, together with social staff, EMT’s, medical doctors, little one protecting providers, therapists, and authorized support legal professionals.


Reforming police practices and reallocating parts of police budgets to the availability of social providers aren’t sufficient. These reforms don’t shift the ability to manage policing to the folks the police are supposed to guard and serve. These reforms don’t present sufficient assets to resolve the social issues that police are actually despatched in to include as a result of the system has criminalized issues like poverty, homelessness, psychological well being points, and drug use. These reforms don’t decriminalize private drug use and possession, the most important single class of arrests and imprisonment within the US prison justice system.

If we’re going to actually create a public security system that serves and protects the folks, we should add three crucial calls for to our program:

1. Community Control of the Police

Police brutality is not going to cease so long as the police can proceed to police themselves and brutalize folks with impunity. We want Community Control of the Police to make the police work for the folks and be held accountable for misconduct. Community management means police commissions which can be publicly elected or randomly chosen like juries with the ability to rent and hearth the police chief, to independently examine and self-discipline police misconduct, to formulate and oversee police practices and budgets, and to barter police union contracts. Community management shifts the ability over policing to the folks and away from the police and the ability construction that created the abusive policing system we now have.

2. Federal Social Investments to End Poverty and Economic Despair

Police budgets would not have sufficient cash with defunding reallocations to pay for the providers and financial improvement that working-class communities of coloration want. Sending in cops as an alternative of social providers and financial assets has been on the heart of the general public austerity program of the ability construction. As a part of reimagining public security, it’s time to battle crime by combating poverty as an alternative of sending within the police for each social downside. That would require a multi-year, multi-trillion federal funding in community-controlled housing, colleges, social providers, and companies within the communities of coloration which were impoverished by generations of discrimination by racists who exploit these communities.

3. Decriminalize Drugs

Ending the warfare on medication will take the only greatest chew out of police budgets. Drug legislation offenses account for 16% of all arrests and are the only greatest class of arrests. Drug offenses account for about 1 in 5 incarcerated people, together with 46% of federal prisoners. Drug abuse is a well being and social downside, not a prison downside. Instead of a prison offense, we should make drug use and possession a violation that refers drug customers to medical and social providers

We can’t let our motion be pacified by reforms that solely tinker with policing practices and supply solely token social investments. We want an entire redesign of the nation’s whole strategy to policing. Now is the time to overtake the entire system of public security by shifting who has the ability over it, allocating ample assets to handle social issues, and decriminalizing drug use and different behaviors for which individuals need assistance as an alternative of jail.


Police have killed about 1000 folks annually for the final 5 years based on the Washington Post, disproportionately Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folks. There have been few prosecutions and even fewer convictions of police, resulting in an absence of accountability and a tradition of impunity.

Quite a few these deaths have been captured on video and have led to native and nationwide protests. The response to protests in opposition to police violence was more violence by militarized police from the beginning of the protests. The Military Times reported greater than 17,000 National Guard troops had been activated in 23 states and Washington, DC by the top of the primary week of protests. The police violence continued in opposition to protesters when, every week into the protests, Trump informed governors to “dominate” the streets to finish the demonstrations and cleared protesters out of Lafayette Square close to the White House for his personal law-n-order photograph op. These photos of police violence and repression are seared into the minds of many Americans, forcing folks to face the truth that policing have to be reworked. This adversarial militarized battle between authorities and the folks is unacceptable.

Police violence just isn’t new. Police have been used all through US historical past to implement inequalities and injustices from their roots in militias for Indian elimination and runaway slave patrols, to imposing Jim Crow segregation, breaking strikes, and suppressing nonviolent demonstrations for peace, justice, and the setting.

For many years, working class city neighborhoods, particularly communities of coloration, have suffered from a coverage of chopping public providers and investments, which in flip discouraged personal funding. The Kerner Commission, created after the 1960s city uprisings precipitated by racial discrimination and segregation, normally triggered by a incident of police brutality, warned in 1968 that “What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” Central amongst these establishments are police departments, which have turn into much more militarized and tasked with imposing the warfare on medication that exploded the US jail system into the most important within the historical past of the world within the 54 years because the Kerner Commission Report.

Donald Trump has lengthy been transparently racist, from discriminating in opposition to Black tenants within the 1970s to his birther conspiracy mongering towards Barack Obama and his vicious demonization of Mexicans, Latinos usually, Arabs, Muslims, and immigrants in his 2016 marketing campaign announcement. He has sought to rule by dividing folks in opposition to one another. His response to nonviolent protests was to threaten to make use of the army to suppress folks exercising their constitutional rights. Thankfully, Trump’s transfer was rightfully rejected by present and former army leaders and the governors of the states. His law-and-order sloganeering harkens again to racist “southern strategy” of segregationists like George Wallace and Barry Goldwater who for political achieve sought to mobilize a white backlash in opposition to Black civil rights and financial development. Trump’s political playbook is at all times mobilizing white concern and he’s trying to try this once more to defeat the multi-racial nationwide motion in opposition to police violence and racism.


Trump alone can’t be blamed for the disaster in US policing and protracted racism. Joe Biden and the neoliberal hawks which have run the Democratic Party for the final 50 years have performed a central position in creating the mass-incarceration state. Biden and the mainstream of the Democratic Party had been cheerleaders when Nixon declared the “war on drugs” as racist dog-whistle politics. The most fast enlargement of the carceral state occurred beneath the Clinton administration after the passage of the 1994 Crime Control Act authored by then-Senator Joe Biden. The legislation added 100,000 law enforcement officials with $30 billion in funding from the federal authorities. It created a bunch of recent crimes, longer obligatory sentencing, $9.7 billion to construct extra prisons, and new demise penalty offenses. States certified for jail grants in the event that they enforced obligatory sentencing of 85% of an individual’s jail sentence, resulting in 27 states qualifying for jail grants.

As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden labored intently with Tom Scotto, the president of the National Association of Police Organizations. The Washington Post reports Biden saying concerning the police affiliation, “You guys sat at that conference table of mine for a six-month period, and you wrote the bill.” In a column Biden wrote in 1992 the place he described his shut alliance with police since 1972, he mentioned that the reply to crime is: “It’s simple—more police on the streets.” Just earlier than George Floyd was killed, Biden was unrepentant about his 1994 crime invoice, telling Charlamagne tha God that he nonetheless helps it.

Since the 1994 crime invoice the federal authorities has supplied $14 billion beneath its provisions for native police. Attorney General Barr just lately announced the awarding of $400 million extra in fiscal 12 months 2020. Additional funds are supplied by the Justice Department, Homeland Security, and the Department of Agriculture for small cities. The Pentagon has supplied $7 billion value of army gear to native police because the late 1990s beneath the 1033 program.

Local governments dedicate giant parts of their funds to police. Criminologist Alex Vitale highlights some examples, writing, “New York City spends more on policing than it does on the Departments of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined . . .Oakland PD receives nearly half of the city’s discretionary spending ($264 million out of $592 million), dwarfing every other expenditure, including human services, parks and recreation, and transportation combined. A whopping 39 percent of Chicago’s 2017 budget went to police, and still the department got even more money, peaking in 2020 with a 7 percent increase to nearly $1.8 billion.” Minneapolis spends a huge amount of its budget on policing and, when mixed with spending on jails, it’s over half of the municipal price range.

But does this make communities safer? Only a small portion of police time and assets are spent on violent and property crimes. A Vera Institute for Justice analysis of FBI crime statistics and nationwide surveys discovered that violent crimes make up solely 4.eight p.c of arrests and property offenses solely 13 p.c of arrests. The FBI stories that 82.7 p.c of arrests are for nonviolent offenses like loitering, fare evasion, theft, and drug possession. Nearly 80 p.c of violent and property crimes go unsolved. Only 21.7 p.c of those crimes are cleared with an arrest. 60 p.c of violent and property crime victims don’t even report them to the police, which signifies a excessive degree of mistrust and contempt for the competence of police departments in fixing critical crimes.

These arrest statistics mirror how police have turn into the ability construction’s software to take care of social ills that they don’t seem to be geared up to deal with. This consists of issues like dependancy, psychological sickness, and homelessness. This police state strategy is how the ability construction responds to the social distress that 50 years of public austerity have created. The political management of each main events, each sponsored by the moneyed elites, refuses to handle these social ills with public items and providers. Instead they depend on police repression, widespread arrests, and mass incarceration to include the issues of racial discrimination, financial exploitation, insufficient public well being, and inadequate social providers.


Many issues for which police are used may very well be higher addressed by spending on social providers and reconsidering what needs to be thought-about crimes. Portugal has found drug decriminalization has not elevated drug use and led to discount of police spending and crime. Switzerland discovered super reductions in crimes and social issues with supervised use of legal heroin. We must determine police spending that may very well be shifted to different applications that would make communities safer with out police violence and racism, or the price of incarceration and the killing of individuals by police.

Programs we should always fund extra closely embrace focused group interventions like 24-hour disaster intervention groups, community-based psychological well being providers, and rebuilding the social security internet and lowering inequality. People want to have the ability to name a community-controlled national health service to take care of disaster conditions. Federal funding must shift to help these sorts of applications somewhat than militarized police—and a bloated army price range.

It is time for a significant multi-trillion greenback funding in city communities so communities of working class and particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities are empowered. Investing in constructing these communities and offering community-based healthcare, dependancy, and psychological well being providers will enable us to cut back what police are known as upon to answer. Our marketing campaign’s Ecosocialist Green New Deal features a major investment in rebuilding urban communities that can create thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs.

Reparations must also be a part of repairing the injury of that racism has achieved to African Americans from slavery and Jim Crow to redlining and the company theft of half of Black America’s wealth because of predatory lending and foreclosures in aftermath the 2008 Great Recession.

We should cease doing what has failed. Voting for Democrats has supported mass incarceration. This is very true with Joe Biden, a fundamental architect of mass incarceration. We should concentrate on radically altering the basis causes of police violence and racism. Biden calls for no real change. Minneapolis reveals that extra of the identical is not going to work. A current Op-Ed article in The New York Times,“ No More Money for the Police,” underscored this actuality:

More coaching or variety amongst law enforcement officials received’t finish police brutality, nor will firing and charging particular person officers. Look on the Minneapolis Police Department, which is held up as a mannequin of progressive police reform. The division provides procedural justice in addition to trainings for implicit bias, mindfulness and de-escalation. It embraces group policing and officer variety, bans “warrior style” policing, makes use of physique cameras, applied an early intervention system to determine problematic officers, receives coaching round psychological well being disaster intervention, and practices “reconciliation” efforts in communities of coloration.

George Floyd was nonetheless murdered. The concentrate on coaching, variety and know-how like physique cameras shifts focus away from the basis explanation for police violence and as an alternative offers the police extra energy and assets. The downside is that the whole prison justice system offers law enforcement officials the ability and alternative to systematically harass and kill with impunity.

The bipartisan consensus round policing has proven the adjustments we want is not going to come from the 2 main events. We must reimagine justice within the United States. A rustic with 25 p.c of the world’s prisoners whereas solely having Four p.c of the world’s inhabitants is a failed nation. Michelle Alexander asks “Can’t we design alternative approaches to poverty, drug abuse, mental illness, trauma and violence that would do less harm than police, prisons, jails and lifelong criminal records?”

Two years in the past the American Public Health Association voted that police violence is a public-health downside. It discovered that 8 percent of all [male] homicides within the United States are dedicated by police. They urged governments to scale back reliance on policing and “allocate funding from law enforcement agencies to community-based programs that address violence and harm without criminalizing communities.”

We are seeing some progress. The mayor of Los Angeles announced that metropolis officers could reduce as much as $150 million from the rise within the metropolis’s police price range “so we can invest in jobs, in health, in education and in healing.” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says town will reduce some funding for the NYPD and redirect it to youth and social providers. The Minneapolis City Council president introduced that the council was getting ready to “dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety.” New York state enacted a dozen policing reforms, together with public launch of police misconduct data. The House Democrats are about to undertake a bundle of reforms within the Justice in Policing Act, to which Senate Republicans are responding with their very own bundle.

One hazard of merely defunding the police with out offering social investments in our communities is that policing will devolve to personal safety companies, which is able to proceed the position that public police departments now play in maintaining downscale folks down and out of upscale communities.

Our motion in opposition to police brutality and racism shouldn’t be pacified by tinkering and token reforms. We should increase our expectations and calls for. Now we should push for extra far-reaching adjustments: community control of the police, a large federal funding in rebuilding communities impoverished by systemic racism and financial exploitation, and decriminalizing medication.

Reimagining Public Safety: Community Control, Social Investment, and Decriminalizing Drugs

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