Practical Legal Reforms To Avoid Another George Floyd Death From Happening
There have been heinous deaths caused by police brutality before followed by righteous protests but any big structural change rarely seems to happen and the ugly pattern happens again and again without progress.
Nobody really talks about a major factor in play here and that’s MONEY. A legal doctrine created by the Supreme Court called ‘qualified immunity’ makes it extremely difficult for victims of police brutality to win civil rights excessive force civil cases and get monetary damages.
So when cops consistently win, municipalities save money and have no financial motive to reform police practices. Moral and societal motives should prevail, but that doesn’t always happen. Hitting the police departments in the pocketbook when they resist reform often does work to accelerate reform. Changing that “qualified immunity” barrier in a civil rights case (by the Supreme Court or Congress) is a good place to start.
*The following is an initial list of proposed legal reforms regarding police brutality:
- Redefine qualified immunity.
- Require every alleged police brutality case be investigated and prosecuted by a special independent prosecutor or State Attorney General, not local prosecutors, because local prosecutors work hand in hand with local police in prosecuting all other criminal cases leading to an appearance of impropriety when investigating/prosecuting their “colleagues.”
- Establish a uniform, national definition of excessive force for purposes of police training.
- Allow release of prior disciplinary records of police officers to establish if there is a pattern of abuse.
- Outlaw chokeholds and knees on the necks of suspects.
- Bar police departments from obtaining tank-like vehicles and other military style equipment.
- Change the federal standard in police misconduct cases from “intent” to “recklessness” to make prosecutions against offending police officers more reasonable.
- Congress can pass a law requiring police to do uniformly standardized data collection regarding records of alleged police brutality/false arrest complaints and their dispositions.
- Congress can aggressively fund local police training regarding arrests, use of force and internal investigations.
- States can pass new laws regarding use of force standards, training and regulations for hiring and retaining police officers with checkered histories in the area of police misconduct.
- States can rethink arrests versus social service intervention.
- Local police departments must confront subcultures of officers who are prime for perpetrating misconduct, require transparency about instances of alleged misconduct and enforce constant training and retraining of reasonable standards to protect the public.
- Constant supervision, vigilance and review on the federal, state and local level evaluating both the procedures enacted and their results.
- VOTE. VOTE. VOTE. The public has the ultimate power to vote out any politician who does not favor and help enact the above reforms.
*Most of these proposals have been discussed in excellent commentaries by Governor Andrew Cuomo; Seth W. Stoughton, Jeffrey J. Noble and Geoffrey P. Alpert in The Atlantic (6/3/20); Various U.S. Senators as reported by Kristina Peterson and Andrew Duehren in the Wall Street Journal (6/3/20); President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing; Color of Change and Campaign Zero.
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