Open letter to leaders of US cities and states.
What we want is Transformative Justice on the streets
Dear Mayor / Leader / Governor […]
The recent murder of George Floyd by a member of the Minnesota Police Department, as well as the ongoing violence against black communities by the MPD, call for a structural rethinking of the role of policing in our society. Like you, we care deeply about safety and protection of rights, health. Our shared goals are a reduction in crime and a healthy, happy, thriving, and vibrant city.
As many studies have shown, securing our communities and preventing harm require action on multiple levels: mental health, housing, access to care, alternative justices, mediation, and more. These services clearly reduce harm and aid in recovery from harm that does occur, but our police forces were never meant to provide these services and are, unsurprisingly, ill-equipped to deliver.
True justice is harm prevention, not militarized punitive measures that tend to target the marginalized — impoverished, BIPOC communities, the mentally unwell, trans communities, and the disabled. More than half of police killings involve those with mental health problems or disabilities. This is unacceptable and a disservice to justice. In order to grow healthy communities we request you both defund the police departments, but crucially that this energy, attention, and funds be reinvested in harm prevention and alternative, experienced, compassionate harm responses. We ask that your solutions to harm prevention are done with the advice of the black and brown communities that have building alternatives for so long.
This has been done before, this can be done. We demand this be done now.
1) Reduce the police dept. general fund by at least 50%
- Reject any proposed expansion to police budgets.
- Reduce the power of police unions.
- Until the police are fully defunded, make police union contract negotiations public.
- Pressure the AFL-CIO to denounce police unions.
- Prohibit city candidates taking money from police unions and stop accepting union funds.
- Withhold pensions and don’t rehire cops involved in use of excessive force.
- We demand the highest budget cuts per year, until police budgets are at zero.
- Slash police salaries across the board until they are zeroed out.
- Immediately fire police officers who have any excessive force complaints.
- No hiring of new officers or replacement of fired or resigned officers.
- Fully cut funding for public relations.
- Suspend the use of paid administrative leave for cops under investigation.
- Require police, not cities, to be liable for misconduct and violence settlements.
- Deplatform white supremacist public officials.
- Abolish asset forfeiture programs and laws.
2) Demilitarize our communities.
- Prohibit private-public innovation schemes that profit from temporary technological fixes to systemic problems of police abuse and violence. These contracts and data-sharing arrangements, however profitable for technologists and reformists, are lethal.
- Disarm law enforcement officers, including the police and private security.
- End the militarization of Black and brown neighborhoods by ending broken windows policing, “precision policing,” community policing, and all iterations of quality of life policing programs (neighborhood policing, “gang” policing, “repeat-offender” policing, etc).
- Remove cops from hospitals.
- Prohibit law enforcement access to private patient information.
- Acknowledge that surveillance technologies (CCTV, face printing, DNA and biometric databases, acoustic gunshot detection, drones, AI and risk profiling algorithms, and other forms of predictive policing) are weapons in the hands of law enforcement. End police contracts with any private companies that provide these services and prohibit the experimental design and rollout of in-house systems.
- Withdraw participation in police militarization programs and refuse federal grants that entangle municipal police entities with the Department of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and FBI.
- Prohibit training exchanges between U.S. law enforcement and global military & policing entities. These relationships circulate deadly techniques & technologies, exporting the American model of racist policing worldwide.
- Repeal all laws that hide, excuse, or enable police misconduct.
- Existing community run endeavors prove this can work: Camden, New Jersey, disbanded the entire police department, replacing it with a new, community-oriented one in 2012. Following this, violent crimes dropped 42% in seven years & crime rates dropped from 79 to 44 per 1,000.
3) Redirect funding to existing non-violent/transformative justice alternatives and preventative measures, as well as programs to support just access to health, housing, and education.
- Allocate city funding towards healthcare infrastructure (including non-coercive mental healthcare), wellness resources, neighborhood based trauma centers, non-coercive drug and alcohol treatment programming, peer support networks, and training for healthcare professionals. Make these services available for free to low-income residents. Adopt a care not cops model.
- Invest in teachers and counselors, universal childcare, and support for all family structures.
- Free and accessible public transit.
- End the use of property taxes to determine school funding.
- Install safe and sanitary gender-inclusive public restrooms.
- Ensure investment in community-based food banks, grocery cooperatives, gardens, and farms.
- Ensure free and more extensive public transport, especially servicing marginalized and lower-income communities.
- Invest in youth programs that promote learning, safety, and community care.
4) End Mass Incarceration
- Free all people from involuntary confinement, including but not limited to jails, prisons, immigrant detention centers, psychiatric wards, and nursing homes, starting with those who are aging, disabled, immunocompromised, held on bail, held for parole violations, and survivors.
- Permanently close local jails.
- Grant clemency to criminalized survivors.
- Pressure state legislatures to end mandatory arrest and failure to protect laws that lead to the criminalization of survivors of gendered violence.
- Reject “alternatives to incarceration” that are carceral in nature, including problem-solving courts and electronic monitoring and coercive restorative justice programs.
- Reduce jail churn by reducing arrests.
- Cut funding to prosecutor offices.
- End pre-trial detention.
- End civil commitment.
- Release all people held pre-trial and on parole violations.
- Make all communication to and from prisoners free.
- End immigration detention, end family separation, and let our undocumented community members come home.
These demands are not my work, here I am elevating the work of dedicated movements that are much more knowledgeable than I. I have taken their work and demands and turned it into letter form.
Credits go to work done by and conversations with Critical Resistance, 8 to abolition and the Anti Terror Project. And of course, as with everything in this field of work, Angela Davis & Ruth Wilson Gilmore.
Please use as much of this as is useful to write your own letter. Contact email addresses for majors of US cities are here.