June 2020

Sen. Sherrod Brown: Police reinforce ‘institutionalized racism’ in America

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
June 10, 2020

The push to reform policing needs to follow the same path that delivered change for other historic changes in the United States, starting with federal action, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Wednesday.

“The major social movements of our country, whether it’s Medicare or civil rights and voting rights, whether it’s Social Security or whether it’s worker protection, have all taken place from the national level,” Brown said. “This absolutely demands it and is as big a deal as any of those.”

Protesters demonstrating across the country following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have helped gain traction for a “Defund the Police” movement that is becoming the latest political wedge in Washington, D.C.

Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, say Democrats want to close police departments. But Brown said during a conference call with reporters that isn’t true.

″‘Defund the police’ doesn’t mean we disband police departments. It doesn’t mean we don’t spend for law enforcement. It means we start thinking more about training police, about discipline, about making sure that mental health services are available in communities,” he said.

Brown is backing the Justice in Policing Act, a plan Democrats introduced this week to overhaul law enforcement practices.

The bill would create a federal ban on chokeholds and carotid holds, which cut off blood flow to the brain, and bar no-knock warrants.

It also would create a national registry for police misconduct that Democrats say would make it easier to identify officers who are fired or leave one agency as they try to move to departments in other jurisdictions.

Federal officers would be required to use dashboard cameras and body cameras, while state and local jurisdictions would be directed to use federal money to equip their officers with body cameras.

The national Fraternal Order of Police said of the bill: “We were heartened to see that there were provisions in the bill that we believe, after good faith discussions, will create a law that will have a positive impact on law enforcement and policing in our country. … We look forward to engaging with the administration, with members of the House and Senate, and stakeholder groups, in the coming days to find consensus on issues of vital national concern and produce a bill that can pass, not just the House, but also the Senate with broad and bipartisan support.”

Brown said that federal funding for state and local police forces needs to be conditional on police reforms being made and that the federal government needs to end the “militarization” of police forces.

Police have been asked to do too much, Brown said, saying law enforcement is called on to be “social workers and crisis responders and family mediators.”

“Policing didn’t create our nation’s institutionalized racism. It’s a product of it, and it reinforces it,” he said.

Columbus Urban League President Stephanie Hightower said on the call with Brown that she could see some of the money Columbus spends on its police department being used instead for a civilian review board, revising police crowd dispersal techniques and other changes.

The city’s $965 million general fund budget includes about $360 million for the Columbus Division of Police, the single largest line item in the budget. Hightower was part of a coalition of local black leaders that offered their own plans for reforms last week.

Hightower praised the legislation that Brown and other Democrats on Capitol Hill are proposing.

“At this point i’m not a big fan of trying to reform failed systems, but this has a lot of teeth to it,” she said.

By Rick Rouan

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