A jury found Derek Chauvin guilty. He is going to jail.
Whether or not convicting one man can effect change in the way Black and brown communities are policed is yet to be seen. However, using the momentum of this tragedy to transform the culture of policing does not depend on police chiefs and powerful white men in dark suits. There are ways we can ensure the country doesn’t let this moment pass without meaningful law enforcement reform.
The Congressional Black Caucus and other lawmakers have identified May 25 as the target date by which they are hoping to pass and deliver the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to President Joe Biden’s desk for the president’s signature. The date coincides with the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and would be a fitting tribute to his memory and provide access to justice and closure for the families and survivors of police brutality.
To explain how regular citizens can force cities, states and the country to hold police accountable and increase transparency, we put together this handy explainer that answers one of the most frequently asked questions:
“What the hell can I do?”
Seriously, that’s it. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In fact, everyone doing the same exact thing to affect police reform is less likely to work. If every single American contacted their senator or representative, police chiefs and state legislators wouldn’t feel any pressure to change. If everyone peacefully marched in the streets, Congress wouldn’t feel a direct impact. The only way to make this work is through a diverse effort that affects local, state and federal officials as well as individual decision-makers.
What about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that I keep hearing so much about. Isn’t that the answer?
It would definitely have an impact but it’s only a start.
I knew it! It’s probably some watered-down, performative legislation that won’t make a difference, right?
Actually, it is a pretty good piece of legislation. All legislation requires compromise and this bill is no different. However, the provisions in the proposals would definitely introduce some drastic changes to law enforcement.
The problem is that Congress is limited in what it can do. Most of the regulations that govern police departments are written on the state and local levels. Congress can issue directives to federal law enforcement agencies. They can also tie the funds they allocate to agencies to compliance with a set of standards they set.
There are currently two different bills. One has already passed the House of Representatives and the other is currently working its way through the Senate. The House version was written primarily by Democrats while the Senate version is a work in progress. Staffers from each side previously walked The Root through the intricacies of the two bills, which you can read here.
Here are some of the bills’ main provisions (and some of the victims of police brutality they may have helped):
- Raising the standard required to prosecute police officers from “willful” to “reckless” conduct (as in the case of Rekia Boyd).
- Banning no-knock warrants (like the one that killed Breonna Taylor) during certain hours.
- Banning chokehold (Eric Garner) by tying agency regulations to federal funds.
- Make it a federal crime to lie on police reports (As in the case of Laquan McDonald)
- Eliminate racial and discriminatory profiling (like...everywhere).
- Reforming the principle of “qualified immunity,” which protects law enforcement officers from being sued in civil courts.
- Require local and state police agencies to use body cameras and dashcams (Like the ones that caught corrupt cops in Baltimore).
- Create a national police misconduct database (which may have prevented the death of Tamir Rice).
- Reduce the militarization of police departments (such as the armed Gestapo that attacked protesters during the George Floyd protests)
- Deescalation training (which may have saved Daunte Wright’s life).
For a number of complex reasons, Congress can’t dismantle police unions or force them to use their funds to pay civil settlements. Federal investigators also can’t just decide to investigate cases of police brutality if an officer hasn’t broken a federal law or civil rights statute.
Most of all, the bill doesn’t, nor can it, regulate individual police departments. Those agencies are governed by local and state laws. The proposed legislation mostly uses the power of the purse to force compliance.
I know you’re tired of hearing this, but you can call or write officials to demand action. However, don’t just contact your federal legislator. Talk to your state and local leaders as well. You can find their contact info here. Even if your elected official doesn’t respond to your pleas, city councils and state representatives actually have more say in policing than federal legislators.
Also, holla at Sen. Tim Scott (R - SC) here. Even if he doesn’t represent you, he’s heading the Senate GOP’s effort to pass this law.
I know. I know. While some may have their differences with Scott, to his credit, he’s spoken out about police reform more than any other Senator (except maybe Matt Gaetz’s recent anti-police efforts).
It’s worth a shot.
Not at all. You can also use the “Four Ps” approach
What does my cellular company’s pre-paid payment plan have to do with this? I’ve never heard the song “Please Pop that Pu**y for a Playa.” I don’t go to strip clubs. Are you talking about people who poop in public places? I never do that. That’s nasty.
Nah, the four Ps are:
- Protest: You can also protest in the streets. Protests work. “Breonna’s Law” banned no-knock warrants after protests in Louisville. The NYPD ended qualified immunity after protests. Derek Chauvin might not have been arrested if not for the widespread demonstrations that took place after he murdered George Floyd.
- Politics: If your elected official doesn’t respond to your requests, vote their ass out! Support candidates who will vote for reform.
- Pressure: Don’t give unelected officials a pass. Hold your local police and local sheriff’s departments accountable by always reporting misconduct. Film every interaction even if you aren’t involved. Ask your local media outlets why they don’t report on police corruption.
- Participate: Vote. Show up to your city council meetings. If you can’t donate money to candidates who support police reform, or organizations doing the work on the ground, donate your time. Help register voters and organize on the ground. Pass out flyers and volunteer with campaigns.
Also, send me a link to that song.
I’m not. But we can all see that the current system doesn’t work. How can it hurt?
On May 25, when Joe Biden signs the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, you’ll be able to–
I was thinking more along the lines of saying: “We did that!” But whatever works for you.
Wait... I thought you’ve never heard the song?