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The police state continues to threaten American democracy

 The police state continues to threaten American democracy
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We enter 2021 here in the United States on the coattails of a year of advocacy. Social justice groups across this nation brought attention to the many plagues that infect our communities. But none of these systemic cancers became more visibly harmful to American Democracy as the police state.

As the country looks to a new administration in the White House, one that has promised to be staffed by the most diverse group of Americans, many wonder if that translates into equitable change? For too long the lives of Black Americans and people of color (POC) have been at risk in the presence of the police. The amnesia of our leaders in Washington and state legislatures is lethal making them complicit in the consistent failures of police, yet they fail to act. 

After the tragic trifecta of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breanna Taylor and George Floyd a majority of the American’s decided that reforming our approach to policing was vital to an evolving country. An understanding that we have allowed ourselves to ignore the systematic racism in policing. We admitted that the advancement of rights for Black people does not equal change or a safer drive home. It is a mirage that allows our country to ignore state sponsored violence by police against Black people.

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Is it the same for our white countrymen? No. We saw this clearly on Jan. 6, 2021 as the United States Congress held a joint session to certify the 2020 election results. White supremacists, neo-nazis, right wing conspiracy theorists and additional Trump supporters attempted a coup. The Capitol Police and federal agents were outnumbered and the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., were not initially on site.

Trump supporters, who were mostly white men, were allowed to breach the Capitol building. Were they met with the might of the militarized police force that Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters were? No. Were they met with the same violence our Native American brothers and sisters are when defending their lands? No. Were they stripped of their dignity the same way our Latinx brothers and sisters are when they are put into cages at the border? No. They were met with a force so small, unaggressive and unprepared that they breached the United States Capitol. Why? Because they are white and the police state isn’t in place to keep public safety it is in place  to control, through violence, people of color.

These facts pushed the American people to the streets last summer to demand change. The American people demanded accountability of the officers that took life. They demanded that the true legacy of the Confederacy was brought to light and that lawmakers ingrain our demands into policy to make drastic reform to policing. But, as summer turned to fall it was clear that on both the state and federal level, Americans would see little to no effort from lawmakers, state and federal.

Even after the attempted coup, with a failed response by all levels of police, there has been no vow from the incoming administration to push for police accountability legislation (only another task force) in its first 100 days or a bill that would incentivize state’s to act. The lack of policy proposals is unacceptable to meet the urgency of now; it does not meet the urgency of this moment. American Democracy is threatened, and it certainly does not answer for the 994 people that were lynched by police in 2020. 

Efforts to end qualified immunity, taking firearms away from those performing traffic stops and reallocating police budgets aren’t anywhere near enough, but should be the first step. If we believe that it is time for a change in policing, it is time to pressure the 117th Congress to make the following a top priority:

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  • Start speaking about white, right wing organizations as terrorists and create task forces meant to track their activity the way we do foreign threats 

  • State legislatures, county supervisors and city councils can approve community led police and sheriff review boards.

  • Like Berkeley, Calif., enact a program to hire unarmed civilians to conduct traffic stops instead of armed police officers.

  • Pass legislation that outlaws “no knock” warrants and “commander review” of warrants to protect the lives of Americans.

  • Restrict law enforcements lobbying influence on laws that directly hold them accountable for misconduct.

  • State legislatures should pass legislation to license officers to create a code of conduct and statewide police accountability overseen by a state agency other than the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

  • Make it mandatory for local state and federal law enforcement to wear body cameras and invest in technology to limit malfunctioning. (mandate immediate  punishment for turning off or blocking footage)

We must demand reform of the police state here in America, to save lives. It is time for Democratic members and this Democratic White House to listen. It is time to listen to people of color and progressives; stand up for Democracy.

Michael Deegan-McCree is a progressive strategist and criminal justice reform advocate. He also serves on the Board of the New Leaders Council . Follow him on Twitter: @mdmccreeCA.