Community Ideas for Criminal Legal System Reform
On May 31st we put out a request for policy ideas from the Central Florida community via multiple social media outlets focused on reforming the criminal legal system. This is a compilation of those ideas to be shared with both the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office. This list is NOT all-encompassing, and is a product of collaborative governance. I continue to stress to law enforcement that directly impacted people must have a seat at the table for any any all reform efforts.
Have more to add? Feel free to comment below.
Use of Force:
More restrictive state and local policies governing police use of force are associated with significantly lower rates of police shootings/killings by police. This is backed by 30+ years of research. The Use of Force Project reviewed the use of force policies of America’s 100 largest city police departments to determine whether they include meaningful protections against police violence. The following use of force policies have been employed in police departments across the country and work to keep people safe. The 2016 report includes example policies.
- Ban using force for talking back or as a punishment for walking away
- Ban chokeholds, strangle holds, hog-tying, and similar tactics
- Require de-escalation
- Employs and requires use of force continuum
- Require warning before shooting
- Restrict shooting at moving vehicles
- Require exhaustion of all other means before shooting
- Require office duty to intervene when these practices are not employed
- Requires comprehensive reporting
Police departments that get more military weapons from the federal government kill more people. You can stop that from happening through local and state policy. Montana is a model state in this effort. Your state and local government can and should follow by establishing local restrictions to prevent police departments from purchasing or using military weaponry. Specifically, restrict police departments from:
- Using federal grant money to purchase military equipment (Ex: Montana law)
- Deploying armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, drones, Stingray surveillance equipment, camouflage uniforms, and grenade launchers
- Using SWAT teams unless there is an emergency situation or imminent threat to life and high-ranking officers have given approval (Ex: Cincinnati PD Policy)
- Conducting no-knock raids (Ex: Oregon law bans all no-knock raids)
- Accessing federal grant money or purchasing military equipment if the department has been recently found to demonstrate a “pattern or practice” of discriminatory policing
- In addition to these restrictions, wherever possible agencies should seek to return to the federal government the military equipment that has already been received (Ex: San Jose)
Campaign Zero provides deeper detail and statistics on this effort.
Police Unions & Contract Negotiations:
Every 4–6 years a police department’s accountability system is likely re-negotiated. Purging misconduct records, reinstating fired officers, department funding- it’s in the contract. Cities with the worst contracts have higher police violence rates. Check the police digs deeper into these policies that lead to more harm than good. They include:
- Disqualifying misconduct complaints that are submitted too many days after an incident occurs or if an investigation takes too long to complete
- Preventing police officers from being interrogated immediately after being involved in an incident or otherwise restricting how, when, or where they can be interrogated
- Giving officers access to information that civilians do not get prior to being interrogated
- Requiring cities to pay costs related to police misconduct including by giving officers paid leave while under investigation, paying legal fees, and/or the cost of settlements. By placing the cost on cities and taxpayers rather than their own budgets or salaries, there is zero incentive for law enforcement to hold themselves or each other accountable.
- Preventing information on past misconduct investigations from being recorded or retained in an officer’s personnel file
- Limiting disciplinary consequences for officers or limiting the capacity of civilian oversight structures and/or the media to hold police accountable.
Police Unions should also add anti-racist language into their charters, addressing white supremacists in their ranks. Here is an example: “No individual shall be eligible to serve as an Officer, member of the Executive Board or Committee, or other governing body, or any committee of, or as a delegate from, or as a representative, agent, or employee of this body who is a member of any Fascist or White Supremacist organization. Or who consistently pursues policies and/or activities directed towards the purposes of any Facist or otherwise White Supremacist ideology.”
Deescalation & Racial Bias Training:
The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life. A 2017 study from APM Reports shows that, despite growing support for de-escalation training, only 8 states have officially mandated it for all of their officers. 34 other states have no de-escalation requirement. While APM Reports reveals that 24 of those states could have mandated de-escalation administratively, it found that most conduct no─or very little─de-escalation training at all. According to PERF’s 2015 survey, among more than 280 law enforcement agencies, new recruits received an average of 58 hours of firearms training, and only eight hours of de-escalation training. An intensive training regime is needed to help police officers learn the behaviors and skills to interact appropriately with communities. We also know white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement agencies, puting communities at further risk.
Require officers to undergo training — including scenario-based training — on the following topics on at least a quarterly basis and involve the community — including youth of color — in their design and implementation:
- Implicit bias
- Procedural justice
- Relationship-based policing
- Community interaction
- Crisis intervention, mediation, conflict resolution, and rumor control
- Appropriate engagement with youth
- Appropriate engagement with LGBTQ, transgender and gender nonconforming individuals
- Appropriate engagement with individuals who are english language learner
- Appropriate engagement with individuals from different religious affiliations
- Appropriate engagement with individuals who are differently abled
- De-escalation and minimizing the use of force
Require current and prospective police officers to undergo mandatory implicit racial bias testing, including testing for bias in shoot/don’t shoot decision-making, and develop a clear policy for considering an officer’s level of racial bias in:
- law enforcement certification
- the hiring process
- performance evaluations
- decisions about whether an officer should be deployed to communities of color
More information available via Campaign Zero.
Predictive Policing on the Police:
Rather than using technology to police communities, data can be used to police the police. Data on use of force, complaints & lawsuits can be used to identify officers who most likely to shoot someone next and prevent it from happening. Use the methodology to save lives. A 2019 study examined this concept.
Divest in Law Enforcement, Invest in Community Programs:
Investing in alternatives to police as crime prevention strategies works. Local resources should be moved away from programs that threaten communities to instead community-based alternative systems that support our people, that feed our people, that ensure we have jobs, and housing — the things we need to take care of ourselves and our communities. A 2017 study revealed that for every 10 additional community organizations in a city:
- Reduces the murder rate by 9%
- Reduces violent crime rate by 6%
- Reduces property crime rate by 4%
Police Oversight Boards:
Oversight boards or civilian–police oversight agencies operating in the United States are primarily associated with large municipal police agencies. Although these institutions differ in size, responsibilities, and other ways, they follow three primary models:
- Investigator-focused models enlist non-police civilian investigators to look into complaints against officers. These agencies tend to have individuals with specialized training.
- Review-focused models oversee internal affairs investigations and make recommendations about operations to police. These review boards tend to be staffed by volunteers and community members — an approach that can make the board seem more responsive to the community.
- Auditing model agencies fall in between the first two models and focus attention on broad patterns of officer misconduct rather than individual incidents.
Civilian oversight boards are not a catch-all solution to excessive police force, but they can help to hold police accountable and reduce instances of the unnecessary use of force. Effective oversight boards also hold the promise of enhancing public safety and renewing public trust in police, especially within black communities. But not all boards work equally well. A number of factors further or undercut the effectiveness of civilian oversight boards. Effective boards must:
- Have independence from law enforcement — which is necessary to ensure unbiased reviews of cases.
- The authority to either discipline officers or recommend discipline of officers that department leaders will then enforce.
- Have sufficient resources of funding and manpower to effectively oversee departmental activities.
- Resources and authority to maintain accurate data, and foster robust relationships with city officials and community members.
- Representation from over-policed neighborhoods and marginalized communities, and a clear application and nominating process
- Publicly noticed and scheduled meetings where community can attend, observe, and testify
- Although it is the most expensive type of oversight body, the investigator-focused model is best equipped to enforce police accountability, because this type has the expertise, authority, and independence necessary to conduct credible and thorough investigations.
Establish non-police alternatives to 911 calls involving people with mental illness:
For example, 1 in 5 of the 911 calls in Eugene, OR are diverted to mental health first responders instead of police to respond. A success being scaled in Portland. A 2018 Wall Street Journal story provides more information.
End Opposition to Criminal Justice Reform Efforts in Florida’s State Legislature:
There is bipartisan support for criminal justice reform policies in the legislature among lawmakers. This includes sentencing reform, second-look provisions for judges, mandatory minimum repeals, retroactivity, gain time reform, direct file, drug free zones, ending the arrest of children, filming of police interrogations, among many other reforms. Click here for a list of those proposals during the 2020 legislative session. However, these policies consistently fail due to opposition by the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA), Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association (FPAA), and Florida Police Chiefs Association. Sheriffs and Police Chiefs need to end their opposition to such policies and support overdue reforms to Florida’s draconian criminal legal system.
End the Criminalization of Poverty:
Local law enforcement agencies must prohibit the arrest of people for sit-sleep-lie laws, public urination violations, and other quality-of-life conduct that is a byproduct of homelessness & poverty. End the practices of pretextual stops and pro-active patrols. They must also prohibit evictions during state of emergencies, decriminalize cannabis possession, sex work, and addiction. End the use of drug free zones in under-cover drug buys which intentionally maximize prison sentences and incarceration for non-violent crimes.
Let Kids Be Kids:
Stop arresting kids. The injustice committed to children like Kaia Rolle should be enough evidence to justify such a policy. Local law enforcement should commit to not arresting children 12 years of age or younger. Institute a policy of de-escalation when it comes to children and our schools and not arresting, booking, or using excessive force on children who pose no threat to their peers.
Protect Immigrant Communities:
Limit (& work to end) immigrant detention & collaboration with ICE. This includes:
- Not voluntarily enrolling your office or its deputies in ICE programs that authorize local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration enforcement, such as 287(g), Warrant Service Officer (WSO), or Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA).
- Ending any 287g contract you may have with federal imigration authorities, and instead adopting programs that eliminate any deputization of local law enforcement as ICE agents.
- Not voluntarily honoring or enforcing ICE detainers or warrants that seek to have your office hold individuals in custody beyond when they would otherwise be released pursuant to a court order.
- Implement or support your county commision in a policy of deprioritizing or decriminalizing driving without a license, to prevent immigrant families for being torn apart due to minor traffic infractions
- Honor Community or Municipal IDs issued by your local government as a form of valid identification in your county.
- Publically support statewide legislation providing drivers license for all, including undocumented immigrants, to ensure our roads are safe and undocumented Floridians can legally drive free from fear.
- Prohibit both jail personnel and deputies from sharing information with ICE beyond what is required by federal or state law.
- Ensure all personnel should be regularly trained on the policy and policy violations should result in significant consequences.
- Ensure that undocumented immigrants have access to in-person visitation.
Mandatory Body Cams:
While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable. Nearly every case where a police officer was charged with a crime for killing a civilian in 2015 relied on video evidence showing the officer’s actions. Require the use of body cameras — in addition to dashboard cameras — and establish policies governing their use to:
- record all interactions with subjects who have not requested to be kept anonymous
- notify subjects that they have the option to remain anonymous and stop recording/storing footage if they choose this option
- allow civilians to review footage of themselves or their relatives and request this be released to the public and stored for at least two years
- require body and dash cam footage to be stored externally and ensure district attorneys and civilian oversight structures have access to the footage
- require police departments, whenever they want to deny a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for body or dash cam footage, to prove in court that the footage constitutes a legitimate FOIA exemption (Ex: Illinois House Bill 4355)
- permanently delete footage after 6 months if this footage hasn’t been specifically requested to be stored
- include a disciplinary matrix clearly defining consequences for officers who fail to adhere to the agency’s body camera policy.
- consider whether cameras or mandated footage are tampered with or unavailable as a negative evidentiary factor in administrative and criminal proceedings
- prevent officers from reviewing footage of an incident before completing initial reports, statements or interviews about an incident
- prohibit footage from being used in tandem with facial recognition software, as fillers in photo arrays, or to create a database or pool of mugshots. (Ex: Baltimore PD Body Cam Policy)
- update privacy laws to protect civilians from having video or audio recordings released publicly that do not contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, discharge of a weapon or death.
(Ex: ACLU Model Policy)
The Right to Record Police:
Ban police officers from taking cell phones or other recording devices without a person’s consent or warrant and give people the right to sue police departments if they take or destroy these devices. (Ex: Colorado Law)
Please note; many citations from Campaign Zero.