Introduction

The killing of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, John Crawford III, and Ezell Ford over just four weeks last summer, and the subsequent failure to hold any officers involved responsible, spurred a national conversation about police violence and systemic racism.

Community members, often led by tenacious young leaders, planned direct actions, die-ins, walk-outs, and acts of civil dis- obedience to demand accountability and recognition that black lives matter. From New York to Seattle, outraged elected officials walked out of city council meetings and state buildings with their hands up to express solidarity with, and commitment to, the movement for police and criminal justice reform.

Communities across the country that have lived for too long under the weight of discriminatory policing and mass incarceration are calling for a transformation of our policing and criminal justice systems. They are making it clear that it is time for policies to first and foremost reflect the concerns and solutions of communities most affected by flawed policing practices. Communities are demanding meaningful oversight of law enforcement, accountability, an end to the criminal- ization of communities of color, and an investments well beyond federally-sponsored tanks and additional police.

While media attention waxes and wanes, the groundswell of anger and grief unearthed by the public killings of sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and transgender sisters and brothers has started to translate into meaningful policy reform at the local, state and national level. From Los Angeles to Cleveland, organizers, community leaders, advocates, elected officials, and law enforcement are sitting down to think through how to address the endemic problem of police brutality and mass criminalization.

To support the efforts of community organizations and elected officials, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) and PolicyLink have created Building Momentum from the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing. The Toolkit is a direct response to organizers, elected officials, and community members from across the country seeking support and resources for campaigns aimed at transforming the policies and practices of local law enforcement. The Toolkit reflects the aspirations of many and is the product of conversations with base building organizations and local elected officials.

Hands Up Don't Shoot

Ferguson protest in Memphis November 24, 2013. Photo by Chris Wieland.

The Toolkit elevates fifteen policy reforms. Not all of the reforms included are ideal for all communities. Some, such as body cameras, are controversial. The aim of the Toolkit is not to suggest that these are the fifteen best or most important reforms. Instead, the Toolkit provides resources, information and sometimes precautions, about reforms that have been enacted, as well as more visionary proposals.

The policy reforms are organized into five categories:

  • Ending Mass Criminalization
  • Safe and Just Police Interactions
  • Community Control
  • Independent Oversight
  • Improving Police Department Practices

Each recommendation includes information about the policy, examples of successful implementation, best practices, sample legislation, and additional resources from think tanks, base building organizations, and government agencies.

The second Section of the Toolkit, “Organizing 101,” provides resources and guiding questions for those attempting to develop campaigns around specific policy reforms. The Toolkit closes with some suggestions for how to frame these reforms as part of a larger vision of change that goes beyond specific policy fixes and addresses the need for a government and society that invests in Black and Brown health, education, and wealth—not just criminalization and incarceration.

We hope that by providing resources and model policies, and by elevating the inspirational and transformational work underway, we can support organizers and elected officials in their continuing struggle for a fundamental reorientation of both the purpose and practice of policing in this country.

If you have any questions about this toolkit or want assistance or support for your policy campaign, please contact us at Mstahly-butts@populardemocracy.org.