This current system of police accountability is laughable. Police investigate their buddies. Ha! Laws give police (and only police) special protections after they are accused of wrongdoing. Haha! Prosecutors (who normally are on the same side with the cops) are expected to all of a sudden treat them like strangers (who dis?) and zealously prosecute them? HAHAHA!! This is hilarious. Except — Aint. S**t. Funny.
Pardon my French, but ya’ll got us eff’d up (Oui, Oui!) if you think century after century you’re gonna continue to piss on our boots, tell us it’s rain, and not get clocked. We are not the descendants of Karens, who call on other people to handle our problems. We were birthed by the Fannie Lous and Ida Bs of yesterday. Our fathers were the Malcolms, Martins, and Medgars of the world. We fight back. Warrior DNA — that Nat, Denmark, and Harriet s**t — runs through our veins. This is a train that you cannot stop. So get on board, or get rolled over. Our ancestors dismantled slavery, Jim Crow, and now this generation is coming for your authoritarian-like police state too.
Police cannot police themselves. Period. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (Or is that just true when white people are the victims). The ‘monitors’ of justice are monitoring themselves. They have too much power. And if you think they don’t, you’ve simply never had them use their power against you.
The current state of police accountability is the definition of bullshit to the 10th degree. I’m not here to talk about what I think, but what I know. (*Proceeds to pull out receipts*).
The Many Times Police Have Been The Actual Criminals
Even if you put racism aside for a second (since ya’ll don’t like to face reality), police precincts across the country literally employed thousands of police who’ve behaved criminally. There have been at least 85,000 complaints against officers in the last 10 years (and that’s just from what journalists have pieced together since many precincts are not forthcoming about actual figures). Everything from rape and excessive force to homicide. (Sit tight, there’s more). Domestic violence, perjury, child molestation, and countless other crimes have been committed by police.
In 2019, police killed at least one person every day for 338 of 365 days. Thousands of people have been killed at the hands of police. And Black people are nearly three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, according to VOX. (Oh, look who’s back — Racism.) Historically, Black people have been tortured by police, lied on by police, and killed by them, and still we continue with this laughable system of police accountability.
It’s so funny that it’s not.
“But we have the justice system to hold cops accountable, right?” (Don’t make me laugh again). Thousands of police killings in the last ten years, yet only three officers have been convicted of murder and had their convictions stand. (I have more speeding tickets than that!) Cops almost never get convicted. Hell, they rarely even lose their jobs due to protections unions have negotiated for them. (Don’t worry, I’ll come back to this later). Officers themselves recognize that accountability is a problem. A Pew Research Center survey shows that only 27% of cops believe that other officers who consistently do a poor job are held accountable.
I’m not telling you what I think. I’m telling you what I know. This is a problem!
If You’re Not Talking Real Reform, I Don’t Want to Hear It
No one does anything real about the shortcomings of this system. Politicians throw half-baked ideas that sound good to appease us. They don’t want to do the grunt work of overhauling this system (or lose big donors) so they propose feel-good solutions like community policing, body cameras, and civilian review boards.
Community policing is a sham. It’s PR and looks good. But it’s ineffective. Body cams also have little impact. Even civilian review boards, the most promising concept, are ineffective because legislators purposely give them no teeth.
Almost all civilian review boards have no power to actually punish an officer. Often they simply make recommendations that police chiefs can choose to completely ignore. (Why even waste someone’s time like this?)
I propose we give these boards more teeth by making them independent agencies with real policing power over cops.
Why Do Police Need Both the Power to Police Themselves and Us?
I’ll answer that. They don’t. They want (not need) this power so they can maintain absolute control over every part of their policing process. That way they don’t have to worry about people looking over their shoulder making their job more difficult. I get it. (Sort of.) But this is a difficult job. End of story. Some jobs require you to come correct or not at all. This is one of those jobs.
Could pay for officers be increased? Absolutely. Could professionalism standards be raised? For sure. Better benefits? Yes! Better training? Yes! Yes! But just because a job is difficult doesn’t mean you get to collectively bargain your way to impunity as a trade off. That is not only unfair, it’s immoral. And mayors, governors, and legislators who approve these trade-offs because it’s “cheaper” to give impunity-like protections rather than pay raises are just as much to blame as the unions for these lopsided collective bargaining agreements. All of this s**t needs to be torn up and redone.
Every state should have its own independent agency, authorized by state statute to monitor, investigate, prosecute, and penalize bad cops. These independent policing forces should have eight key components (many taken from the best ideas for civilian review boards).
First, they should be independent from law enforcement, mayors, governors, and unions. This means separate building, separate training, separate people. A culture of police accountability has to be established. Every employee has to know that their sole mission is to protect the public (and other police) by extracting bad cops.
Hiring mandates should be implemented to ensure broad representation of the community. Requirements that no more than 30% of the staff be former police are a start. (If it’s gonna be stacked with the cronies and they homies again, what’s the point?)
Second, it must have its own agents whose jurisdiction is solely over police, not civilians. These agents should have their own number–like 811–for people to call when they witness police misconduct. They should be heavily trained in conflict resolution, be unarmed, have clearly identifiable acronyms (similar to FBI) on bullet proof vests, and have required body cams. Their role should be to investigate police misconduct from the moment a complaint or allegation is made. All police misconduct complaints should go to this office, and it should hold routine town halls to ensure that it’s dialed in to the concerns of the community.
Third, it must have subpoena power to access all police records related to the officer and the incident in question. State statutes should criminalize the refusal to provide these files in their complete form.
Fourth, it should have a civilian review board with the sole authority to use the agents’ investigation to determine any personnel disciplinary action — up to termination. The police chief can provide his own statement to the board, but that’s it. The officer should also receive notice and an opportunity to address the board before a final decision. (There’s your due process.)
Fifth, it should have its own prosecutors who only prosecute police misconduct. Bob McCullouch, the Ferguson prosecutor who failed to get a simple indictment in the Mike Brown case, is a prime example of how a prosecutor’s lack of enthusiasm can doom a case from the start.
Sixth, it must be fully funded. Less money going toward militarization and more to accountability.
Seventh, it must have policymakers and statisticians tracking data related to the demographics of victims of police misconduct to weed out patterns and create better policies.
And last, but not least, it must publish its findings from board decisions to maintain transparency and public trust.
We (Or Some of Us) Are the Only Thing in Our Way
This idea and others (like defunding police) are politically unpopular solutions. I am not ignorant to that fact. But as an attorney, I recognize that literally all of this — every law, every policy, every regulation — is manmade. And as such, man can make it again. The only impediment is us. When there’s political will to do something, we do it. When there’s not, we don’t. So it’s our job to push the conversation forward to generate political will.
We have to lay out our boldest ideas, and not settle for anything less than actual change. I don’t care if the idea of policing the police makes people uncomfortable. We are not here to make people feel comfortable. Their comfort has led to our pain. Their comfort has changed nothing. So this time it’s only about the bottom line. The time for making people feel comfortable ended 8 minutes and 46 seconds into this conversation.