Race and Policing
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The recent protests and civil unrest that marked the death of George Floyd and other African Americans in police custody gave voice to real and significant racial disparities in our criminal justice system. In California, like the rest of the nation, these disparities—especially those between African Americans and whites—are large and widespread. Encouragingly, some recent reforms appear to be making headway in reducing racial and ethnic differences in arrest, booking, and incarceration rates.
Oversight, accountability, and transparency are central to proposals for police reform - and those goals depend on releasing complete, accurate, and unbiased data about criminal justice. This Briefing Paper assesses the data we have and identifies the data we need to achieve real reform. Beyond police reform, CODE believes that historical and current data can be a critical tool to advance the cause of racial equity by mapping the status of different issues, providing use cases for data analysis, and identifying challenges to be addressed.
Many of the worst features of mass incarceration — such as racial disparities in prisons — can be traced back to policing. Our research on the policies that impact justice-involved and incarcerated people therefore often intersects with policing issues. Now, at a time when police practices, budgets, and roles in society are at the center of the national conversation about criminal justice, we have compiled our key work related to policing (and our discussions of other researchers' work) in one briefing.
On January 1st, New York's new bail reform law went into effect. This law, fought for by communities across the state, was designed to reduce the number of people and families harmed by pretrial incarceration, protect the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence, and address the criminalization of poverty and of Black and brown communities.Before the passage of bail reform, New York's fifty-seven counties outside of New York City spent $705.5 million jailing legally innocent people each year.This system of mass pretrial incarceration coerced plea deals and destabilized individuals who were often in dire needof support, not pretrial punishment. By some estimates as many as 84% of people in New York jails had a substance use disorder or mental illness. National surveys show that 20% of people incarcerated in local jails have a "serious mental illness" like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Without bail reform, New York's local jails would have continued to function as warehouses for people failed by social services and social policy, including people struggling with mental health needs, substance use, and homelessness.Bail reform is already working. Each day, there are 6,000 fewer people incarcerated pretrial in New York's local jails.Thousands of people can thus return to their families and receive the treatment and care they need as they await their date in court. With the state budget deadline fast approaching, this is a critical moment for New York's legislature to protect the new law from regressive changes, and instead commit to shifting resources to the services - education, healthcare, mental healthcare, and housing - that keep communities safe and thriving. To do so, we must re-examine the staggering sums counties have historically spent on jailing compared to community-based resources.
Ahead of new statewide bail reform legislation taking effect on January 1, 2020, this publication from our collaborative prosecutorial accountability project, Court Watch NYC, highlights the importance of the reforms and the work left to be done, provides examples from court illustrating how prosecutors are already attempting to subvert the law, and why we'll be watching to hold them accountable in the new year.
The Student Safety Act (SSA) requires that the New York City Police Department publically issue quarterly reports on arrests, summonses, and other police-involved incidents in New York City public schools.i The 2017 calendar year is the second year in which the NYPD reported on activity in schools by officers outside of the School Safety Division, giving a more complete picture of the impact police have on the educational environment. iiSince 2012, the number of arrests and summonses issued by School Safety Officers (SSOs) has consistently declined. In 2017, SS0s were responsible for less than 15% of arrests and 2% of summonses. However, the vast majority of police interactions with students in school are not with the school safety officers specially trained to work with youth in schools, but with other law enforcement officials, including armed patrol officers. In addition, 366 arrests (29% of total arrests in schools) were for incidents that occured off school grounds and had no relationship to the school, indicating that police may be using schools as a place to locate and arrest young people for non-school related offenses. This practice sends the harmful message that kids in trouble should stay away from school.The School Safety Division has made a significant effort to reduce the use of summonses for non-criminal offenses. In 2017 they issued just 18 summonses, down from 1,275 in 2012. Summonses for disorderly conduct, including unreasonable noise, fighting and obscene language, are not an appropriate response to student misbehavior. However, precinct officers are not required to follow the same procedures as the School Safety Division, and officers issued nearly 900 summonses, sending children into the criminal justice system for misbehavior.Black and Latino students continue to bear the burden of arrests, summonses, and police interactions in school, and the city has failed its responsibility to reduce the racial disparities in its school safety program. Black and Latino students represent 66.9 % of the student body, but 90.2% of arrests and 89.3% of summonses in school. They also accounted for 88.4% of child-in-crisis incidents, 87.9% of juvenile reports, and 89.5% of mitigated incidents. Students of color were also more likely than white students to be handcuffed for school misbehavior, even where there is no criminal activity. Black and Latino students accounted for 92.5% of juvenile reports and 94.4% of mitigated incidents where handcuffs were used, as well as 93.4% of child-in-crisis incidents where handcuffs were used.
Bias against youth of color has deep historical roots in this country with overrepresentation of black youth and disparities in treatment originating with the first juvenile court's inception. The view of youth of color as different and deserving of harsher treatment was intensified in the 1980s with the perpetuation of the "superpredator" myth—that a new breed of brutal youth, commonly viewed as youth of color, were going to terrorize the country. Disparate treatment of youth of color is no doubt impacted by the racism that continues to infect our society—most recently and glaringly represented by the August 2017 demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. While explicit and structural racism contribute to the widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice systems across the country, a more insidious contributor to this problem is that of implicit bias. This snapshot will provide a brief overview of this issue as well as resources to find more information.
This report details findings from four months of investigation of commercial bail bond industry practices and operations in New York City, highlighting the lack of the industry's compliance with state laws and regulations.
Recognizing that systemic change can only be achieved through comprehensive action, Campaign Zero proposes ten categories of policy solutions to end police violence in America. Among these, the policies that govern how and when officers are allowed to use force against civilians requires immediate attention and intervention. The police killed over 600 people in America in the first seven months of 2016, enabled and protected by laws and policies that allow police to use force, both deadly and otherwise, with little to no accountability.Police violence is distributed disproportionally, with black people being 3x more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts. This violence, in practice, is justified by legal and administrative policies that govern how and when police can use force against civilians. In theory, police departments establish rules regarding the use of force,which include the expectation and power to discipline officers who fail to uphold the department's standards.Instead, many police departments fail to establish common sense restrictions on police use of force – including deadly force – that would actually benefit the communities they are supposed to protect and serve. According to our findings, fundamentally changing use of force polices can dramatically reduce the number of people killed by police in America.
Although the acrimony between communities of color and law enforcement is currently grabbing news headlines, it is an old story with the seeds of discord planted long ago. The intersection of race and policing and the resulting rancor has roots that can be traced back to the origins of the United States. Therefore, understanding this complicated history and its lingering vestiges is key to finding solutions to the very serious problems that continue to fester today.
Police union contracts and statewide Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights laws have created a system ofprotections for police officers that amount to an alternate justice system, creating significant legal and structural barriers to accountability, transparency, and fairness. Of at least 4,024 people killed by police since 2013, only 85 of these cases have led to an officer being charged with a crime. Only 6 cases have led to convictions – fewer than 0.2% of known police killings. Data from some of America's largest police departments show that officers who commit misconduct rarely face administrative consequences, either. It is not surprising that police officers are rarely, if ever, held responsible for their behavior, as the combination of provisions in police union contracts and Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights constitute de facto immunity from liability.Collective bargaining agreements (i.e. contracts) are simply meant to allow due process: employees negotiate with an employer over matters of working conditions, compensation, benefits, and performance management as a group, thus increasing the employee's collective bargaining power. These agreements are meant to ensure that workers are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. They are not meant to denyother citizens fairness, dignity and respect.But that is exactly what police union contracts have done.Police unions across the country have used the collective bargaining process to circumvent basic tenets ofaccountability, transparency, and fairness. In short, as a result of these contracts police officers operate bya completely different set of rules. In many cases, the problematic clauses contained within these contractsappear harmless on the surface but, as our analysis shows, they impose severe restrictions on the ability of police departments and civilian oversight structures to hold officers accountable for police violence.
Law enforcement and security personnel stationed in schools across the United States – often referred to as "school resource officers" (SROs) — are primarily trained to interact with adults, so children — particularly children with disabilities — risk experiencing lasting and severe consequences if SROs are expected to respond to their behavior. SRO involvement tends to criminalize normal adolescent behavior and disproportionately impacts youth of color, contributing to racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. Security personnel and law enforcement should not be involved in any student disciplinary matter – only when there is a genuine threat to school safety.