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Pass the Preventing Tragedies between Police and Communities Act

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The petition to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan reads:

“Congress must play its part in holding law enforcement accountable for endangering Black lives. Call a vote on the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016.”

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    Pass the Preventing Tragedies between Police and Communities Act

    This week, we saw – in horrific detail – Terence Crutcher’s murder at the hands of police.

    His death, the recent deaths of Tyre King and Keith Lamont Scott and the police killings of 194 Black people since just the start of 2016 serve as stark reminders of the ways white supremacy and systemic racism stack the deck of the criminal justice system against Black people.

    Eliminating the daily threat to Black lives posed by law enforcement will require systemic change and demands action from all of us. We will each have to commit to doing our part, but there is also more that our leaders, including our representatives in Congress, can – and must – do.

    Last spring, Rep. Gwen Moore introduced the Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016. It would create a national standard for when police can use deadly force and mandate training for all law enforcement officers on de-escalation tactics. One bill could never undo the racism that has lived for centuries side by side with our country’s higher values, but it’s important for Congress to lead where it can to transform our broken system of policing.

    Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan lead a Republican party that’s trying to elect a racist as president. When they are trying to distance themselves from Donald Trump’s racism but at the same time refusing to disavow Trump, it’s important to keep the pressure on them to stand up for racial justice. The more of us who raise our voices, the greater our power in demanding they act.

    Tell Republican leaders McConnell and Ryan: Help lead the fight against police violence toward Black people. Call a vote on the Preventing Tragedies between Police and Communities Act before Congress goes into pre-election recess.

    Police training in the U.S. is often militaristic in style, with a focus on developing a battle or warrior mentality in trainees.1 Police work is equated with warfare, and members of the community are characterized as “predators” or “adversaries.”2 Combined with the increased militarization of police equipment as well as implicit bias and racism, this training leads officers to assume the worst of suspects of color, especially Black men, and to react with disproportionate and deadly force.3 It’s how someone in a police helicopter flying hundreds of feet overhead could see Terence Crutcher as “a bad dude.” Or shoot 13-year-old Tyre King in the back while he was running away. Or 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds for holding a toy gun on a playground.

    Changing this dynamic requires new kinds of training and accountability. The Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act of 2016 would require:

    • states and municipalities to create laws or update police policy manuals to clarify that police officers have an “affirmative duty” to use de-escalation techniques “whenever possible”
    • police departments to train officers to “use the lowest level of force that is a possible and safe response to an identified threat”
    • police departments to provide mandatory training on using non-lethal force, including “verbal and physical tactics to minimize the need for the use of force, with an emphasis on communication, negotiation [and] de-escalation techniques”
    • police departments to provide mandatory training in crisis intervention tactics, especially when officers come into contact with people with mental health problems
    • the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withhold funds from police departments that fail to comply4

    The culture of warrior policing perpetuates a racist criminal-justice system that puts Black people in constant danger and allows those who perpetuate the violence – both individual police officers and the departments and unions who defend them – to justify and excuse their actions, avoid consequences and block systemic change. Congress can act to change that culture and start transforming our broken, racist system of policing into a system that provides real security for all communities, especially communities of color. But McConnell and Ryan will never act if we don’t make our voices more powerful than the ones that consistently try to maintain the status quo and block real change.

    Tell Republican leaders McConnell and Ryan: Help lead the fight against police violence toward Black people. Call a vote on the Preventing Tragedies between Police and Communities Act.

    Just this week, activists were arrested at Ryan’s D.C. office for engaging in direct action to protest “the normalization of racism that the Republican Party has brought to the United States.”5

    And they were not just talking about Trump. The Republican party has a long history of using race-based rhetoric and dog-whistle politics to get votes and pander to the nativist and racist elements of its base.6 In the last few years, Republicans in Congress have refused to fix the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act and have blocked all attempts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Last fall, after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Republicans in Congress and Republican governors took xenophobic stands against Muslim refugees fleeing horrific violence in the Middle East.

    McConnell and Ryan have a choice. They can continue to ignore the systemic inequalities that devalue and endanger the lives of people of color in America and legitimize Trump’s politics of hate, or they can show their party is actually better than that and promote legislation that helps bring about systemic change.

    Tell Republican leaders McConnell and Ryan: Help lead the fight against police violence toward Black people. Call a vote on the Preventing Tragedies between Police and Communities Act.

    Thanks for standing up for Black lives

    References:

    1. Kimberly Kindy, "Creating guardians, calming warriors," Washington Post, Dec 10, 2015.
    2. Mitch Smith and Timothy Williams, "Minnesota Police Officer’s ‘Bulletproof Warrior’ Training Is Questioned," New York Times, July 14, 2016.
    3. Chris Mooney, "The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men," Mother Jones, Dec 1, 2014. War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing, American Civil Liberties Union, June, 2014.
    4. John Swain, "Police could lose public funds if officers aren't trained to best avoid shootings," Guardian, May 12, 2016.
    5. Deirdre Fulton, "Millennials Arrested at Paul Ryan's Office Denouncing GOP's Politics of Hate," Common Dreams, September 20, 2016.
    6. Jonathan Weiler, “Lee Atwater and the GOP’s race problem,” Huffington Post, January 13, 2014.