By David Turnoy
We in the San Juan County Democrats are as concerned as anyone about police violence against people of color. One of our members, Bob O’Connell, had a visceral reaction when he witnessed the video of George Floyd’s murder, and he decided he had to write a resolution for us to pass in our group and then send on to others. His rough draft elicited many comments in a discussion lasting over several weeks. Bob took the best of the comments, incorporating them into his final draft, and here it is. You should know that Bob drew on many sources, including a significant amount from documents by people of color.
WHEREAS this country has never healed after the wound it caused itself by the institution of human slavery, and
WHEREAS, down through the decades and the centuries, this failure to heal has led to continued human suffering, in the form of outward violence and insidious discrimination against Black people, and
WHEREAS, this continued circumstance leads to the degradation of us all, whether we are victims, perpetrators, or allegedly innocent bystanders, and
WHEREAS, the most visible sign of this racial hatred and discrimination descended from slavery is found embedded in our law enforcement agencies and is manifested by the brutal and frequently deadly treatment of Black people;
THEREFORE, in support
The killing and mistreatment of Black people, including harassment, arbitrary arrests, injury, and physical abuse at the hands of law enforcement, must stop now,
People of good intent everywhere should stand in implacable opposition to the mistreatment and killing of Black people at the hands of law enforcement,
To bring an end to this heart-breaking violence, we must at a minimum do the following, without hesitation:
(1) Establish a separate unit of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice which, in the absence of swift and just action by state or local authorities, will be tasked solely with the investigation and criminal prosecution of any law enforcement personnel found to have deprived a Black person of their civil rights through violence, including violence resulting in death. This division would also be charged with the investigation and prosecution of any person found to have deprived any law enforcement agent of their civil rights through violence, including violence resulting in death,
(2) Establish in every community in this country which has a police department or other law enforcement agency a Citizens’ Advisory Council on Law Enforcement and the Community. In addition to its broad responsibility to advise government and law enforcement agencies, this Council would conduct an ongoing, periodic Public Forum on Law Enforcement and the Community. Any of the Council’s recommendations not adopted by the law enforcement agency would be sent to the community’s executive and to its legislative body for their action,
(3) Appropriate federal funds to sponsor the retraining of all law enforcement agents on Non-Violence in Interactions with the Public,
(4) Conduct psychological testing of all prospective employees of law enforcement agencies, aimed at identifying and rejecting as candidates any active racist, white nationalist, or other persons who could pose an unnecessary threat of violence, particularly to Black people
(5) End “qualified immunity” for law enforcement,
(6) Re-imagine law enforcement, with rearranged budgeting, which would include: a) a significant reduction of the number of armed, sworn, uniformed officers to reflect the fact that they would only be assigned to calls where armed persons were presenting a threat to other members of the community, b) hiring of other unarmed Community Safety Officers who are experts educated in resolution of problems regarding mental health, substance abuse, family altercations, homelessness, and the apparent commission of non-violent felonies and misdemeanors. Some of law enforcement’s former budget would be redirected to addressing many of those issues which cause members of the community to commit crimes in the first place, and
(7) Condition Federal funding of law enforcement agencies upon the adoption and enforcement of the following policies a) the termination of officers found to be guilty of serious, unnecessary violence, b) banning of chokeholds and other moves resulting in the blocking of airways, c) banning of “no-knock” searches, with or without warrants, and d) cooperation, through the supplying of information, with a new Federal registry of police misconduct and use of force. This would include the refusal to hire anyone who appears on that registry for misconduct or is otherwise found to have such a record.
BE IT RESOLVED that the principles set forth here and the actions demanded are principles basic to the Democratic Party. As such, they ought to be formally adopted by this body, and by the national Democratic party and by the Democratic Parties of every state and county in the United States.
Adopted by the San Juan County, Washington Democratic Party, this 20th Day of June, 2020.
Note: Many of the ideas contained in this Resolution are taken from the letter to Congressional Leadership from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and its hundreds of organizational and individual signatories, dated June 1, 2020. You can find the full 416-page report at civilrights.org/wp-content/uploads/Policing_Full_Report.pdf .