Race and Policing
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As the nation marks five years since the police killing of teenager Mike Brown and the series of protests known as the Ferguson Uprisings, a group of residents in Ferguson, MO, have been working locally since 2014 to take back their power. They refer to themselves as the Ferguson Collaborative and we are proud to shine a spotlight on our grassroots partner in our new report, "The Genius of Ordinary People: How the Ferguson Collaborative Became the Voice of the Community."The report, the first from our Justice Project program, examines how a group of Ferguson community members became activists, changing the City's unconstitutional policing and criminal legal system practices. This group of residents and allies have spent the last five years putting the pressure on local and federal policymakers and courts, ousting a court-appointed official, rallying for the dismissal of thousands of municipal court cases and positioning themselves in powerful seats – including the Ferguson City Council.
We are reissuing Police in Schools are Not the Answer to the Newtown Shootings, an issue brief that our organizations released in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. At the time, many of the responses to the shooting focused on placing more police officers and more guns in schools. Research and the experiences ofcountless students, teachers, and parents have taught us that while these proposals may create the appearance of safety, the actual effects wreak havoc on school culture and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline. After Newtown, we urged lawmakers at the local, state, and national level to resist policies that would turn even more schools into hostile environments where students, especially Black and Brown students, are more likely to be arrested, harassed, and assaulted by police. Five years later, in the wake of the tragic Parkland shooting, we have yet again seen calls tomilitarize and weaponize our schools, despite no evidence that these policies will protect our students. Our position remains the same: proposals that increase the presence of police, guns, and other law enforcement approachesto school safety should not be the response to school shootings.
Far too many students in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) are being pushed out of school. This is a problemthat is now commonly known as the "school-to-prison pipeline," which occurs when schools rely on punitivediscipline policies to suspend, expel, or refer students to law enforcement. These overly-punitive policies have seriousconsequences. They increase the likelihood of students dropping-out, not graduating, and becoming involvedin the juvenile or criminal justice system. These policies disproportionately impact students of color, students withdisabilities, and LGBTQ and gender non-conforming students. In an effort to begin creating change in Alexandria,we have researched the data and policies in ACPS and written this report, to encourage positive changes thatsupport our youth, rather than criminalize them.This report contains a timeline of our work to implement restorative justice, an analysis of the suspension andreferral to law enforcement data from the 2014-15 school year, and a list of recommendations to end harsh schooldiscipline in ACPS. Out of a sense of urgency for the youth in our community, we call on ACPS to consider the information in this report and fully and immediately commit to proper implementation of restorative justice and an endto the school-to-prison pipeline. We cannot risk the future of our young people while ACPS continues to stall on theimplementation of restorative justice.
Georgia's far-reaching, anti-immigrant "felony driving law" was designed to push mothers, fathers and immigrant families to leave the state. Tragically, the law's effects branch out well beyond its dangerous original intent.A new report by Advancement Project and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) finds that the law not only created troubling consequences for immigrant families – it has also caused disproportionate harm in communities of color at large, especially among the Latino and Black populations.The State of Georgia can and should regulate driving privileges. But creating a harsh criminal penalty is a bad public policy that ends up disproportionately hurting families of color.
A company of police officers in riot gear with raised automatic weapons advance upon a solitary Black man with his hands up—one of the most chilling and memorable images to come out of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last fall. The world was shocked to see local police officers in full body armor, rolling down the streets of a small suburban town in armored trucks, throwing tear gas canisters and stun grenades into crowds of peaceful protestors.When did our police begin to resemble an invading military force? When did protests in the United States start warranting a military-like response?Ferguson was a wake-up call that hastened numerous civil liberties organizations to speak out against police militarization—state and local police departments across the country amassing huge arsenals of military weapons, aided by federal programs that transfer weapons used in Iraq and Afghanistan, or issue grants to purchase them.The widespread militarization of policing—hostile, authoritarian, and too often, violent— represents the antithesis of community-centered policing and a marked transformation in the very nature of policing: Are police working to protect or control communities? Does a military response to non-violent protest increase community safety? Who are the police protecting when they use military equipment and tactics against communities?The first two briefs in our Beyond Confrontation series advanced local programs and practices that exemplify police-community partnerships and agreements. Militarization, however, is a unique issue, fueled by an underregulated and overlooked federal policy that has flooded local communities with military weapons and equipment. Turning Back the Tide: Promising Efforts to Demilitarize Police Departments, the third brief in our series, explores the stark landscape of pervasive police militarization, and lifts up early examples of communities fighting to reverse the tide of militarization at the local level and restore a focus on community to local and state police departments.
Developing meaningful police-community partnerships may seem implausible, especially in the current climate of raw pain and impassioned protest. But there are examples from across the country where communities and police have begun demonstrating how to collaborate and build working relationships that increase safety, decrease arrests and police violence, and improve the well-being of community members. Engaging Communities as Partners, the second brief in our series, lifts up many of these promising practices.
This brief is offered as a tool to communities to help them better understand what standards guide the use of police force, how that force is applied across the country, and what strategies exist to minimize such acts of aggression. It is one of a series that will explore steps that can be taken to improve how police officers relate to the communities they serve.
Fair, equitable, and community-centered policing is fundamental to a democratic society. Yet, for too many, this remains a promise unrealized. While the nation has enjoyed plummeting crime rates, America's assault on crime over the past decade has exacted a high price—more often than not, a price paid by communities of color.Guided by our core missions to advance economic and social equity through policies and strategies informed by the voices and experiences of local communities, PolicyLink and the Advancement Project conducted research aimedat bridging the gap between the promise of fair and responsive policing and the reality experienced by many neighborhoods. In this report, we highlight some of the promising, community-centered police practices being implemented throughout the country—practices that are opening police departments to traditionally underrepresented communities; engaging communities as partners in solving neighborhood problems; and making police departments more accountable to the communities they serve and protect.