OBS Launches Quality Policing Initiative

In December 2014, Organization for Black Struggle launched their Quality Policing Initiative:

The killings of Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, Vonderrit Myers and others are not the result of abnormal incidents resulting in accidents, nor do these killings reflect “one bad apple” police officer. It is a manifestation of a system of policing that is unaccountable, out of control and acts from its worst impulses of racism and aggression. It sees black and brown citizens as individual targets and whole communities as collective threats. The existing situation means that too frequently there will be random and unlawful executions of individual targets, and police forces will have negative and even predatory relationships with the communities that they are supposed to be serving and protecting, instead of killing and harassing.

As a result of the current system of policing we have been stripped of our citizenship and robbed of our Constitutional and Human Rights by the very people we pay and empower to protect these rights. This is intolerable, but there is a solution that maintains our best values and creates the proper relationship between policing authorities and the people who vote them into office and pay for their protection. That solution is the Quality Policing Initiative.

We want a Quality Policing Initiative that is based on the concept that police are hired to defend the personal safety and the Civil, Constitutional and Human Rights of every person they serve and protect first and foremost.

Our Quality Policing Initiative makes all five phases of policing authority—(1) recruitment, (2) training, (3) deployment, (4) accountability and (5) advancement—responsive to the communities that they are policing and to the elected officials who regulate and deploy them.

Our Quality Policing Initiative can be reached many ways. Any one piece of it is a step in the proper direction but only by adding significant community-driven involvement, as spelled out in the Initiative, can we truly put policing into a proper relationship with the community it is empowered to protect and serve.

We are asking that St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis County Police Department and the 42 individual police departments voluntarily sign on to our Quality Policing Initiative and to work with the community to put the model in place.

We are advocating legislation at the state, county and local levels to make our Quality Policing Initiative law and will be holding elected officials accountable for the present levels of oppression, violence and impunity that defines most police relationships. Every death and/or injury going forward is and continues to be the fault of the elected officials who have allowed this predatory system to continue to grow.

We will be working with human rights and other organizations to compel the Department Of Justice to do its job and hold every policing body in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis accountable for their demonstrated lack of accountability. We will be advocating for the investigation, monitoring, control and even dissolution of any policing body opposed to our Quality Policing Initiative.

We will be working to dismantle the current structure that undergirds the Human and Civil Rights violating relationship between the community and the policing authorities. We will change the culture one politician, police officer and law at a time.

Below are the components of the Quality Policing Initiative:

Recruitment:

  1. Residency Requirements: Police Officers must live within the jurisdiction that they police.
  2. Affirmative Action: hiring for racial and gender parity is a minimum requirement so that the police reflect the population they are policing.

Training:

  1. Enhanced Personal Unarmed Combat Training: Police should have to qualify in unarmed combat to give them more confidence and less dependence on their weapons in street encounters.
  2. Conflict Resolution Training: An officer should be taught to and rewarded for deploying de-escalation/conflict resolution training.
  3. Threat Progression Training: Police should be taught that there are different levels of response to the public so that they only use force as a last resort, and then only against violent individuals.
  4. Anti-Racism Training: An officer must be trained in cultural core competencies.

Deployment:

  1. Demilitarize All Police Forces: Withdraw from the Department Of Defense 1033  (DOD 1033) Program and withdraw from the Forfeiture/Seizure Program to buy military grade gear.
  2. Stop Using the Police as Collection Agents: Remove ticket quotas and fees and fines as primary mechanisms to fund municipal government.
  3. Implementation of field contact cards or reports for traffic stops and investigative stops based on suspicion of criminal activity containing race and gender of persons stopped: The cards should be retained for 24 months and, in addition to the age, race and gender of the person stopped should include (a) the officer’s name, race, and badge number; (b) approximate time and location; (c) whether the stop involved a frisk or pat-down search; (d) any weapons, evidence or contraband found during the search; (e) whether the individual involved was arrested or cited, and if so, the charges.
  4. SWAT/Lethal Force Parameters: Designed in conjunction with the Citizen’s Review Board/Civilian Accountability Project.
  5.  First Response Escalation Model: Police responses will not begin at lethal force but will scale up to it and the guidelines will be designed in conjunction with the Citizen’s Review Board/Civilian Accountability Project.

Accountability:

  1. Creation of an effective and automated Early Warning System: In order to produce an effective disciplinary/rewards system we recommend that there be an automated Early Warning System that consists of a database that takes into account the following:  (a) numbers and patterns of disciplinary complaints against each officer by citizens and police personnel; (b) allegations of racial bias and domestic violence, civil actions against the officer; (c) use of force as documented in the “use of force” reports; (d), illegal entries and searches as documented in the “search and seizure” reports; (e) other reliable indicia of “at risk” officers and which recommends increased monitoring, supervision, and/or counseling of the officer when the threshold for triggering action by the Early Warning System is reached.
  2. Media Accountability System: Body and Dash cameras where the data is controlled by a Citizen’s Review Board/Civilian Accountability Project entity and shared with the community and police together.
  3. A Citizen’s Review Board/Civilian Accountability Project: The Board must have subpoena, investigatory and prosecution powers. The Board should also have a role in developing police policies and setting standards that impact all five areas of policing (recruitment, training, deployment, accountability and advancement).
  4. Civilian complainants must be treated equally with the accused officer: We propose and recommend that civilian complainants be treated equally with the officer in question. Both the civilian and the officer must be questioned in the same detail about the alleged conduct, the officer’s word must not automatically be accepted over that of the civilian, and reasons must be given for sustaining or not sustaining all cases.
  5. Consideration of substance and patterns of civilian complaints of officer misconduct by the Citizen’s Review Board/Civilian Accountability Project (CAP) and Internal Affairs Division (IAD) investigators and supervisors: We propose and recommend that the substance and patterns of all civilian complaints of police misconduct against an officer be considered by police disciplinary investigators, supervisors, and internal auditors, and that disciplinary complaints of misconduct be included in the periodic evaluations of officers, considered in promotion decisions and that nothing in the Police Union contract shall be interpreted to interfere with this.
  6. We propose a Four Step disciplinary process: Investigation, findings and disciplinary recommendation of CAP and IAD investigators should be made available to the public wherein Civil litigation or Civil Rights may have been violated and to the County Prosecutor’s Office. (a) Review and concurrence or non-concurrence by CAP or IAD supervisors and administrative heads of the agencies; (b) Review of findings and recommendations by the Chief of Police; (c) Review of cases by the County Prosecutor’s Office & the CAP where discipline of more than five days is recommended or if criminal charges are going to be pursued. Officers will still have the right to challenge any disciplinary action that does not result in a criminal charge, in court; (d) The Police Department will make available statistics on how many punishments are reversed or reduced through the grievance procedure thereby making evaluation of the frequency and severity of punishment in the disciplinary process possible and transparent.
  7. Immediate supervisors have responsibility for discussing all disciplinary complaints with their subordinates and recommending additional monitoring, counseling, and/or training when appropriate.
  8. Creation and implementation of “use of force” and “search and seizure” reports: We propose and recommend that all officers develop and require all officers to complete written: (a) “use of force” reports to be filled out by any officer using type of force greater than escort and compliant cuffing; (b) “search and seizure” reports to be filled out when any officer (1) performs a warrantless search (excluding searches incident to arrests, frisks, and pat-downs (2) performs a body cavity or strip search, or (3) conducts any warrantless seizure of property (excluding towing vehicles) and that these reports as well as all disciplinary complaints be routinely monitored by the CAP to determine abuses and patterns of abuses.
  9. Police officers who provide information about other officers’ wrongdoing be protected from reprisals: Police officers who provide information about other officers wrongdoing should be given protection from reprisals and where necessary rewards for providing testimony concerning other officers wrongdoing by allowing transfers to other units and in some cases promotions. Investigators should be permitted to reward officers who risk personal harassment by disclosing other police officer’s misconduct. The promise of rewards is a necessary and effective tool in discovering and eliminating misconduct within any close association of people.
  10. CAP and IAD accept anonymous complaints: We further propose that anonymous complaints of police abuse of citizens be accepted, instead of the current ordinance prohibiting anonymous complaints except where criminal conduct is alleged.
  11. Records of disciplinary complaints against officers and their dispositions should be maintained during and for three years following an officer’s employment: We further propose that records of disciplinary complaints by citizens and dispositions of these complaints be maintained during the employment history of the officer and for three years following in the event he/she may seek to resume employment.
  12. Every police jurisdiction should produce printed annual reports and make monthly statistics sufficiently available to allow public monitoring and reasonable analysis of the disciplinary system and should monitor the field contact cards to determine if and where racial profiling is taking place: These reports must include by unit, district and countywide (a) the number and type of Complaint Registers, (b) who investigated the complaints (CAP, IAD, or the officer’s supervisor), including the disposition by category of the complaints (i.e. sustained, not-sustained, unfounded, and exonerated), the punishment recommended at each phase of the process, and the actual punishment meted out at the end of the arbitration process. [Current reports are particularly lacking in describing what punishments if any are actually meted out in what types of cases and in describing how frequently the CAP investigator’s findings and recommendations for punishment are reversed or reduced in the disciplinary process.
  13. Participatory Budgeting: Control of amount and spending of police funds through a community process.
  14. Enhance FOIA Process.

Advancement:

  1. Consideration of substance and patterns of civilian complaints of officer misconduct by the Citizen’s Review Board/Civilian Accountability Project (CAP) and IAD investigators and supervisors: We further propose and recommend that the substance and patterns of all civilian complaints of police misconduct against an officer be considered by police disciplinary investigators, supervisors, and internal auditors, and that disciplinary complaints of misconduct be included in the periodic evaluations of officers, considered in promotion decisions and that nothing in the Police Union contract shall be interpreted to interfere with this.
  2. Advancement is based on demonstrated expertise and commendations: This is in field use of Quality Policing training competencies and not carrying too many censures from the accountability section of the initiative.
  3. Adherence to Best Practices Connected to Advancement: People who are promoted demonstrate Quality Policing practices and those who don’t are not promoted.

Download OBS_Quality_Policing_Initiative_Update_Jan_2015.pdf

Read about the Initiative on OBS's website.

 

May 9, 2019

Building Power in the Sunshine State: Lessons from FJE’s Florida Learning Tour

In April 2019, NFG's Funders for a Just Economy and Florida Philanthropic Network brought together funders from across the country and community organizing leaders in Florida to explore how diverse communities in the state are building power and political infrastructure for workers’ rights, migrant justice, women’s rights, and more.

Sienna BaskinSienna Baskin, Director of the Anti-Trafficking Fund at NEO Philanthropy, shares her experience from the learning tour. You can follow Sienna at @SiennaBaskin and NEO at@NEOPhilanthropy

Would you be able to come from the frozen Northeast to a resort in Ft. Myers without relishing the feeling of your toes in sandals or the warm bay breezes? I know these were my first impressions as I landed for the Funders for a Just Economy Florida Funder Tour. But as we left the sunshine to enter a darkened conference room, our eyes adjusted to read the first slide: “Racial Capitalism and Resistance in the Sunshine State.” As funders, many of us tourists and outsiders, we were invited in to learn the real story of Florida.

During this introduction to the tour, we learned that the inequities Floridians are suffering were sown in the earliest days of European colonization, and the roots of revolt stretch just as far back. By the 1800’s, Native Seminole communities were a haven for escaped slaves, and some of the largest anti-slavery uprisings were launched from these enclaves. Post-reconstruction, this blossoming of freedom was repressed with an especially brutal reign of the KKK – Florida had the highest number of lynchings per capita of any southern state. Florida also passed the first “Right to Work” law in the nation, disenfranchising African American communities to maintain the status quo, and built the tourism sector with leased convict labor. Considering these challenges, Cuban, Spanish and Italian workers built strong unions and mounted many strikes at cigar-rolling factories. In 1968 it was out of a failed sanitation strike in St. Petersburg that one of the fastest growing multiracial unions in the south — SEIU Florida Public Service Union – was born. And just this week, Florida passed one of the harshest anti-immigrant bills in the country, banning sanctuary cities and requiring local government agencies to cooperate with ICE.

Learning tour participants sit at tables to listen to local community organizers in a colorful room surrounded by posters.

Photos by Arista Collective

This sense of a violent swing from liberation to repression and back again permeated our time in Florida. We met many of the brilliant leaders riding these waves. They had much to teach us. Like the country at large, Florida is almost perfectly balanced between progressive possibility and conservative ideology. Every election is won or lost by 1%, but a Republican stronghold has held onto power. This means organizers must find ways to engage conservatives around shared values, build an alternate narrative powerful enough to contest for governing power and move the apolitical (30% of voters are unaffiliated), or create new systems of accountability and power outside of government.

We heard examples of all of these strategies. The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition recently won a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to people with criminal records by connecting with returning citizens, their families, and the wider community around a sense of justice, not by arguing politics. Alliance for Safety and Justice organizes crime victims around criminal justice reform by talking about failures in public safety. The Statewide Alignment Group, an alliance of 7 organizations including Florida Immigration Coalition, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, and Faith in Florida, are building a new electorate through leadership development, community-based popular education, and ballot initiatives, with Medicaid expansion, automatic voter registration and $15 minimum wage in their sights. The Miami Workers Center organizes victims of domestic violence and domestic workers to fight the feminization of poverty with a shared agenda. All aspire to a new definition of civic engagement, where working people are authors of the laws that affect them, an audacious goal in a state that has long repressed workers. This requires not being “prisoners of the moment” as Alphonso Mayfield of the SEIU called it, but seeing where even failure leads to future change, if there is deep collaboration and engagement over years.

Nelly Rodriguez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers speaks to learning tour participants sitting at a table with her.We also visited Immokalee, a town of migrant workers, small bodegas and vast tomato and citrus farms. Around bright oilcloth-covered tables we heard about the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' famous human rights program, built to change the slavery-like conditions on industrial farms. By holding the brands at the top of the supply chain accountable for enforcing worker protections and threatening the loss of sales for farm owners if they did not sign up, workers were able to institute higher pay and standards than even the law requires. Surrounded by hand-painted signs from their marches against Wendy’s, Taco Bell and other corporate giants, we saw the potential of this program, born of necessity in one of the most oppressive regions and industries in the country for low-wage workers.

Unfortunately, philanthropy is not always walking with these activists. While Florida is perceived as a wealthy state, we learned that there are almost no social justice funders in Florida, especially for workers or immigrant rights. Many holders of wealth hail from outside of Florida, and think of the state as their vacation or retirement spot, not where they should be giving back. And national funders aren’t always investing in the most impactful ways. Money pours into Florida for disaster response or to swing the state during election years, focused on numbers, not depth or long-term engagement. These kinds of resources may lead to the problem of “burnt turf,” when voters don’t trust that organizers are really working in their best interest. For long term grassroots investment, Florida often falls through the cracks.

Two people on the learning tour sit in a bus looking out onto farm fields.

Photos by Arista Collective

The Contigo Fund showed us one example of how to do things differently. After the massacre of 49 LGBTQ Latinx young people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a combined effort through crowdfunding and traditional philanthropy raised 30 million for the families and survivors, and 3 million more was raised for longer term efforts. The Contigo Fund carried out an assessment to learn how the community identified the conditions they were facing, the gaps in resources, and their hopes and dreams for change. The resulting grants promoted 37 new LGBTQ leaders of color into positions of power, launched new programs for LGBTQ communities in existing organizations, and helped found 11 new organizations led by LGBTQ people of color in central Florida.

Tarell McCraney, writer of the Academy Award-winning “Moonlight,” called Miami “a beautiful nightmare.”  My sense, after soaking in Florida sunsets and hearing from these activists, is that this moniker could apply to the entire state. Florida has suffered many traumas: historical, environmental, collective and individual. It is top in the nation for poverty-wage jobs, has the highest rate of ICE arrests in the country, and was home to half of all US murders of trans people in 2018. But it also has enormous potential, potential Florida activists and organizers can feel. Some of the most brilliant organizing strategies in the country are emerging from this state, out of the urgency of the moment and the creativity of activists overcoming high barriers. These are the strategies we need to turn this whole country around. Marcia Olivo of the Miami Workers Center shared her belief that out of healing can come collective action, and without this action, healing is incomplete. Philanthropy has an opportunity to help move this, and all the other exciting ideas in Florida, to a place of flourishing.

More about the tour: Tour Agenda | Speaker Bios | Attendees List

We are so grateful to the organizations that worked with us on this tour: Alliance for Safety and Justice, Alianza for Progress, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Community Justice ProjectContigo Fund, Dream Defenders, Faith in Florida, Fair Food Standards Council, Family Action Network Movement, Farmworkers Association of Florida, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Florida New Majority, Florida Philanthropic Network, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, Miami Workers Center, Organize Florida, QLatinx, SEIU Public Services Union of Florida, VIDA Legal Assistance, WeCount!

May 1, 2019

FFJ Advisor Discussion Series: Jenny Arwade

Photo of JennyJenny Arwade, Co-Executive Director of Communities United and FFJ Field Advisor, tells us about current Chicago happenings and the role of healing justice in “building the power necessary to change the conditions in our communities, dismantle structural racism, and address long term healing through transformative change”.

What are some key fights happening in Chicago that you think folks across the country should be watching?

In Chicago, we are coming off of a historic Mayoral run-off election, with voters electing the city’s first Black, Lesbian woman as Mayor. We now have Black women at the helm of our city, county, and occupying a key position in our state as Lieutenant Governor. All eyes are watching to see if this will help our city lead to progressive change, or if the status quo will merely be reinforced through new leadership. What we do know is that all three women have a stated an ongoing commitment to criminal justice and juvenile justice reform, and addressing the cycle of violence through positive investments in communities.

There are several key things to watch for: Under this new leadership, will we start seeing progress towards community justice reinvestment? — a paradigm shift in which public resources are invested in meeting the employment, housing, educational and health needs in communities of color that have been hardest hit by disinvestment, mass incarceration, and immigration enforcement, rather than perpetuating systems that reinforce trauma, violence, and the separation of families. Can we move from a place of winning critical policy changes, and losing others, to having truly transformational change to preserve Chicago as a city that continues to be home to the poor and working class, and where a holistic racial equity agenda is advanced by both communities and our elected leaders?

This may all sound aspirational – but that is the key challenge ahead of us. We need to not only believe it is possible, but recognize that it will only be possible with visionary demands, coming from communities most directly impacted. While having people that represent the identities of our communities is an important aspect of the paradigm shifts we are working towards, we know from history that it is not just who represents us, but the movement for change that is built from the ground up that will make the difference.

Why does Communities United use a Healing Justice Frame? How is Healing Justice central and vital to your work and the work of Communities United?

“We are the solution we need”

Communities United’s Healing Justice frame is centered around the need to decolonize health and wellness. While there is growing attention to the medical benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and other practices that are deeply rooted in the ancestry of people of color, they are also becoming billion dollar industries that in many cases continue to fuel corporate profit, and underscore elitism, cultural appropriation, and a lack of access for communities most directly impacted by trauma.

CU’s approach is grounded in the notion that we all have the capacity to be our own healers, and support the healing and wellness of those around us – that we ARE the solution we need. Breaking it down very simply, our approach to healing justice focuses on the sharing of our stories and our wounds, building a community of support, moving to collective action, and being conscious of our own movement and breath as we build together. We believe that every act of self-love and individual recovery is an act of heroic living. By building a critical mass of individuals who are redefining what investments in communities need to look like, we are building heroic communities. This leads to building the type of power needed to hold public systems accountable and advance change that is truly transformational.

What do you want funders to better understand about the healing justice frame?

We believe that a healing justice frame creates a pathway for systems change and community change that is transformational. Through our work with mental health professionals, we have broad agreement both that the scope and impact of trauma is so expansive that clinical supports will never be enough, and that there are often no systems available that reflect the cultural dynamics and histories of communities of color. We also have agreement that the critical role of community in supporting the healing process is not widely recognized or valued through traditional systems, even though it can have the most powerful impacts. Healing needs to be broadly accessible, and the reason community plays a vital role is that it is rooted in relationship – our relationship to ourselves, each other, and our understanding of the world around us. We all have the power to be our own healers, and to help each other on the healing process.

Partnerships are also critical in this work. CU partners with organizations that have values and approaches that are aligned with our healing justice frame, such as organizations focused on supporting individuals suffering from addiction along their path to recovery using approaches that include traditional healing practices, and more. These partnerships are critical to bringing the breadth of community wisdom and values-aligned health institutions together to advance our healing justice work.

We are currently working to build movement with our Healing and Justice Transformation framework across communities. Our hope is that the more we all share and make resources accessible, the more this work can grow and become part of the fabric of how communities and institutions are engaging in this work. As we work to decolonize health and wellness, we believe there is a crucial role for mental health professionals, especially those that come from our communities, but that healing and wellness is a movement approach.

How do you understand the political moment that we’re in? What do you think we need to do differently right now?

Healing justice is about building the power necessary to change the conditions in our communities, dismantle structural racism, and address long term healing through transformative change. If we believe that “we are the solution we need,” then we need to trust communities to define our own needs, what makes us well, and not try to fit anything into a box. In this political moment, as in all political moments, we have to look back to our roots. Healing justice is not a new shiny object, but an approach grounded in our ancestry and past movements, and propelled by the vision of our next generation of leaders.