Newswire: People for the American Way offers plan to reform police departments, law enforcement

By Barrington M. Salmo

( – The continued scourge of police violence against African-Americans is one of the most contentious issues in this country. According to statistics provided by People for the American Way (PFAW), in 2021 alone, police officers killed at least 1,134 people, with African Americans making up at least 23 percent of those killed, despite being only 13 percent of the US population. Racism is at the core of policing in this country, from colonial-era slave patrols to the post-Reconstruction vigilantism of the Ku Klux Klan to “order maintenance” policing of the late 20th century, Ben Jealous and his research colleague Dr. Niaz Kasravi contend.
In the aftermath of national and global protests following the murder of George Floyd by a quartet of Minneapolis police officers in 2020, Jealous said PFAW partnered with Covington & Burling LLP, and the Avalan Institute for Applied Research and consulted closely with law enforcement and policing experts, social justice activists, elected officials, community leaders produce a blueprint for reducing police violence titled, “All Safe: Transforming Public Safety.”
“We are very proud to unveil All Safe: Transforming Public Safety as a guide for local communities to take solutions to our public safety crisis into their own hands. Let’s face it: the federal government has failed to act on meaningful public safety legislation,” Jealous, president of People For the American Way and former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said in an exclusive press briefing for African American journalists. “Meanwhile Black and brown people are dying at the hands of police officers. This has to stop. We can seed true, nationwide change by putting the right tools into the hands of communities now and building on their success, to create an unstoppable movement for public safety transformation.”
Jealous and Kasravi announced release of the report. Kasravi – founder and director of the Avalan Institute and editor-in- chief of All Safe – said the report provides concrete policy proposals for the transformation and implementation of public safety programs at the local level.
“We know that this. We know that it’s time for a change because the tradition approach just hasn’t worked. Right? For centuries, this country has relied on “tough on crime,” over-policing, and law and order policies,” Kasravi explained. “And more moderate reforms around training and recruitment, of course are necessary and needed, but they are not the answer, the foundational answer to a long-term change that we need. We are in America, the #1 incarcerator in the world with roughly five percent of the world’s population but we have 25% of its prisoners because of centuries on overreliance on police and systems of incarceration …”
Jealous, echoed Kasravi’s comments that described the report as “the most comprehensive vision for transformation of public safety in our country.” He credited Ithaca, New York’s three-term Mayor Svante Myrick with embracing the report’s provisions and implementing many of the proposals on the ground and in real life.
“We have to build the criminal reform movement from the bottom up,” said Jealous, a trained criminologist who grew up in a family in law enforcement.
He described the challenge of achieving meaningful change with America’s mélange of police departments – 16,000 local individualized police departments – each agency with its own rules and regulations.

“I figured out when I was at the NAACP that about 85 percent of African Americans live in 500 of these jurisdictions which means when it comes to saving Black lives, we really have to reform 3-5 percent of law enforcement agencies in the US,” Jealous said.
Among the report’s proposals is changing police departments to public safety departments led by civilians with half the department comprised of typically armed officer and the other half made up of unarmed officers who are social work experts catering to the needs of the drug-addicted, homeless and mentally ill.
“We don’t train these folks because that’s not what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said, referring to police officers ill-equipped to handle non-crime issues. “It’s shoot to kill and everything else. It would mean 60 percent of the officers we have now, radically less numbers carrying guns.”
Kasravi elaborated. “This report is the most comprehensive report that we’ve been involved with or seen produced. It’s a handbook for elected officials with a large range of policy options to respond to the public demand from police reform,” she said. “There are two co-equal teams of armed and unarmed individuals. The public safety model is a win on all fronts: it reduces the risk of harm and armed encounters; people are treated more humanely; this addresses medical and psychological needs; puts less stress on officers; and increased trust in the community.”
Kasravi said the model also saves communities more money and increases efficiency and effectiveness as communities move towards “the vision we all want.”
“It’s a local fight in every jurisdiction, a fight police must take up. No size fits all. There are different models and ways to respond,” Kasravi said.
The report presents facts and statistics which illustrate the current states of affairs and the challenges of effecting police reform:

• Police violence disproportionately affects communities of color. In 2021, while Black people accounted for only 13 percent of the US population, 28 percent of people killed by the police were Black. Another 19 percent were Latinx.
• Of the estimated 240 million calls made to 911 each year, studies have found that 90 percent of calls involve situations that are nonviolent before police are called.
• Police unions have erected barriers to prevent removal for those officers accused of misconduct. At the state level, unions have passed police officer “bills of rights,” which provide broad protections for officers which are not provided to other people in similar situations.
In addition, the report’s researchers showed that over-policing is encouraged as police brass demand that officers meet quotas which is one evaluation tool. And also that police recruitment strategies attract aggressive men and women.
“A comprehensive study analyzing the recruiting materials used by the 200 largest police departments in the United States found that: 42.7 percent contained some display of drawn firearms; 34 percent portrayed military-style weapons; 32 percent showed officers in tactical vests; and 27.7 percent depicted paramilitary policing units,” the report said.
Key tenets of the report are to remove police officers from schools; eliminate unnecessary misdemeanors and fines and fees; and ending the use of “excess” military equipment by law enforcement.
Jealous said PFAW focused on small college towns, like Ithaca, New York, where supporters and those connected to or affiliated with PFAW coalesced around the police reform policy proposals. The bedrock of the report is to restructure, hold responsible, remove, and recruit as a means of change, all the while addressing “the underlying issues and concerns that shape the organization’s public safety programs and make specific suggestions for transforming both how we think of public safety and our public safety programs.”
Their focus, Kasravi and Jealous said, has been at the local level because they contend that while a system overhaul will only come when state and federal officials move on it, “at the local level, executive, legislative, and judicial authorities can take steps immediately to reduce police violence.”
But as it has in the past, the post-Floyd effort to secure meaningful reform fizzled because of the lack of political will, raw, hyper-partisan politics and an unwillingness of national politicians to accede to the real demands of African Americans. Yet Jealous and Kasravi argue that even in the face of these and other challenges, it is imperative for the Black and brown communities most affected to devise new ways to confront, address and change the status quo as it relates to policing in America.
“It’s time for a fresh approach to the delivery of public safety in this country, because the hard truth is that what we have been doing hasn’t worked,” Kasravi said. “We have some of the most highly armed police forces and the greatest rates of incarceration in the world. If those strategies worked, we should be the safest nation in the world. But we all know that’s not the case. It’s time to transform our approach, and this report offers a range of options for communities to do that – and to improve and save lives, starting now.”
The release of the report coincides with People For the American Way kicking off it’s “Big Ideas” Summit in Atlanta this week. Civil Rights leaders, grassroots activists, elected officials and faith leaders will gather from around the US and mayors and other local officials have the option of taking All Safe recommendations back to their own communities to implement them.

Newswire : 5 ways Trump’s over-inflated budget hurts Black Folks

Funding is being slashed for programs many African-Americans rely on.

By Bruce C.T. Wright, Newsone

It’s not a surprise that any political action supported by the president is bound to hurt people of color, but the extent to which his super inflated proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year affects Black people is impossible to ignore upon closer inspection.
Not only would the budget add $7 trillion to the already ballooning deficit – something Trump made a habit of chiding Obama for – it would slash spending for five programs in particular that have been crucial for Black people and people of color overall.

Renters receiving public assistance for housing will have their benefits cut by 11 percent, the Associated Press reported. While that news might please Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, the fact of the matter is that “Forty-eight percent of public housing households are black compared to only 19 percent of all renter households,” according to statistics compiled by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research. With Black unemployment remaining high despite recent, yet overstated, progress on that front, the plight for Black folks to secure adequate housing could get much tougher in the near future.

Food stamps
Black people have been the disproportionate recipients of food stamps, with nearly 25 percent of African-Americans being sent the public assistance each month. With Trump’s budget cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits program by $213 over the next decade, the move will almost certainly be devastating to the Black folks who depend on them. To add insult to injury, Trump has proposed replacing food stamps with a “Blue Apron-style” system that would deliver boxes of food to families, introducing a number of potential cultural, personal and social conflicts.

Law enforcement
The rise of Trump and his White nationalism has likewise meant the rise of Jeff Session, America’s top law enforcement official who has doubled down on his decades-long reign of racist terror against Black people. He just vowed Monday to protect the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” which is not-so-coded language that could be translated to mean its open season on people of color. Beyond that, Trump’s budget “seeks more than $109 million for crime-fighting efforts,” according to the AP, which only empowers the same police departments that routinely terrorize Black communities.

As if the above wasn’t bad enough, Trump’s budget would also make student loan debt forgiveness by the government a thing of the past. That would be terrible on face value alone, but when you factor in how nearly half of all Black student loan borrowers end up defaulting on what the borrow — never mind the negative implications for Black borrowers’ financial futures because of those loans — enrolling in, let alone graduating from, college becomes an even higher hurdler Black folks to clear than before.

Health Care
Even though just 10 percent of African-Americans depend on Medicare, Trump’s proposed budget cuts would force those senior citizens to pay much more for their prescription drugs, according to the AP. With the health discrepancies between Black people and other races being well documented, expanding, not reducing “health coverage among African Americans is critical,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Obama calls for mutual respect from Black Lives Matter and police

By: Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

President Obama

President Barack Obama


MADRID Spain — The Black Lives Matter movement that’s arisen in response to police shootings of black men is part of a long line of protest movements that have transformed America for the better, President Obama said Sunday, defending the protests amid renewed tensions over race and policing across the country. But he also acknowledged that those debates are often “messy and controversial,” and urged protesters to “maintain a respectful, thoughtful tone” after a week of deadly shootings — both of African-American men by police and of police officers by a Dallas gunman.
Obama cut short his four-day trip to Europe and instead will go to Dallas Tuesday to speak an an interfaith prayer service, the White House announced Sunday. He’ll also devote most of the week working on police issues, aides said.
Obama has spoken about the events of last week four times in the last three days, even as he’s juggled an important foreign trip with NATO allies in Warsaw and Spanish leaders in Madrid. But Sunday’s comments were focused on the social media-fueled protest movement that has has brought national attention to the issue of police shootings.
And they came the day after DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter activist, was arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge. That’s where police shot and killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in an incident caught on video and widely shared on social media last Tuesday — the first of three incidents that brought issues of race and policing exploding back into the headlines.
On CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist” and that police feel it “puts a target on their back.” “They sing rap songs about killing police officers and they talk about killing police officers and they yell it out at their rallies and the police officers hear it,” Giuliani said
Obama condemned the more extreme voices, while defending the movement as a whole. “In a movement like Black Lives Matter there are always going to be folks who say things that are stupid or imprudent or over generalized or harsh,” Obama said after meeting with acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
“Whenever those of us who are concerned about fairness in the criminal justice system attack police officers, you are doing a disservice to the cause,” Obama said, calling violence against police a “reprehensible” crime that needs to be prosecuted. “But even rhetorically, if we paint police in broad brush without recognizing that the vast majority of police officers are doing a really good job and are trying to protect people … if the rhetoric does not recognize that, then we’re going to lose allies in the reform cause.”
Even before a sniper killed five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Obama has gone out of his way to acknowledge both the evidence of bias in policing and the difficult and dangerous job that police officers have. “There are legitimate issues that have been raised,” he said. “And there is data and evidence to back up the concerns that are being expressed.”
Obama praised the Dallas police department and its chief, David Brown. “That’s part of why it’s so tragic that those officers were targeted in Dallas, a place that is because of its transparency and training and openness and engagement has drastically brought down the number of police shootings.”
Just as protesters need to be respectful of police, the law enforcement     community needs to listen the frustrations of people in minority communities, Obama said, and “Not just dismiss these protests and these complaints as political correctness or as politics or attacks on police.”.