#ReclaimMLK: from direct action to policy change

We were proud to march alongside 2,000 community members to #ReclaimMLK Monday, calling for an end to police killings of unarmed black people. Since 2008, there have been 60 fatal police shootings in Minnesota, including 11 in St. Paul and 4 in Minneapolis.

Video from MPR News.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has raised national consciousness about the crisis of police killings of black people through mass disruption in Ferguson, New York, and elsewhere. We’re proud to be on the front lines of our generation’s civil rights movement. As our executive director Anthony Newby said in an interview with AM 950 yesterday, “We’ve always pushed the envelope on what’s possible in Minnesota. I think we can do it with race and racial equity gaps, and now is the moment to do that.”

As Martin Luther King, Jr. noted in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, direct action is a crucial part of organizing for social change. Through a series of standing-room-only community meetings, we've developed a list of changes we want to see in policing in our communities:

  • Civilian review board—with teeth. Civilian review boards must be able to review complaints against police officers with actual disciplinary power. Right now, where they exist, their power is merely advisory.
  • Training. Police officers must have regular de-escalation and anti-bias training. They should also receive credit for solving problems without arrests. Under the LEAD program in Seattle, police officers divert drug offenders to community-based services instead of arresting them. Our police departments should explore creative solutions like this.
  • Third-party prosecutor for indictments. Last year Wisconsin became the first state to require the appointment of outside prosecutors when someone has been killed by the police. This is a crucial step toward impartiality in the investigation process. In the short term, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman must immediately appoint an outside prosecutor for the investigation of the death of Marcus Golden.
  • Divest of military equipment. Our police departments should not be armed with military gear. Local police departments should also immediately end the use of SWAT teams for low-level drug offenses.

  • Body cameras. We are cautiously optimistic about Mayor Hodges’ body camera program and want to make sure the program is implemented in a way that will best benefit the public. We need a process for community input on privacy and data storage and management.
  • Quarterly reporting. The Minneapolis City Council passed a motion in December to collect data on race and police stops for the last four years. This is an important step in the right direction. Now we need quarterly reporting stop-and-frisk “consent search” pat-downs, low-level arrests, and lawsuits.
  • Local hires. Right now 94% of Minneapolis police officers live outside the city, an astronomical amount. Currently, a state law called the “Stanek Residency Freedom Law” prohibits municipalities from requiring living in the city where they work. The legislature needs to repeal this law. Meanwhile, municipalities should develop methods to incentivize local hires.
  • Modified use of force. Force based on verbal confrontations should be prohibited. The time window of review for incidents of force should also be broadened to create greater context.

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