Mothers for Justice United is engaged in advocacy on two main, somewhat overlapping fronts: police accountability and reform; and mental health, particularly as it interacts with policing.
POLICE REFORM AND GREATER POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
We are engaged in a long-term struggle to improve the lives and survival chances of young black men. This will require changes in the hearts and minds of policy makers in this country, and in the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. On this page, we will provide links to various campaigns, petitions, legislative initiatives, and others efforts to education. Please join us as you are able.
Click here for some lobbying tips.
Use this link to identify your US congressional representative: Find my US representative
To contact your federal representatives, in reference to particular legislation, or just to express the need for changes in the ways that we are policed:
How to Contact Your U.S. Senator -- Senators’ Emails
How to Contact Your U.S. Representative -- Emails can be found on the individual members' websites. See link above -- Find my US representative.
Senators (202) 224-3121
Representatives (202) 225-3121
As an overarching demand, we ask that the 63 Recommendations of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing Interim Report be implemented immediately, knowing (and acknowledging) that our demands, developed in conversation with our moms and organizers, are probably all encompassed in some way.
1. We call on the office of the US Attorney to establish and maintain a public directory of known officer-involved deaths within the last five years, including those deaths that occurred during law enforcement encounters and while individuals were in custody. We acknowledge that imperfect records have been kept in the past, but ask that every effort be made to amend the existing records to include previously unreported incidents. Going forward, it should be a requirement that all state and local law enforcement agencies report officer-involved shootings and instances of the use of excessive force.
2. We demand that the Department of Justice review all officer-involved deaths, and investigate the patterns and practices of all those local police departments against which there is more than one complaint.
3. We ask that these cases be scrutinized for Civil Rights violations, and that the standard for determination of bias be reformed to be more inclusive of cases that don't pass the "sniff test."
4. We demand that the Federal government discontinue the supply of military weaponry and equipment to local law enforcement agencies under the 1033 program.
5. We call for the establishment of Civilian Oversight Committees for all local police departments, as a condition of federal aid. COC's must have all necessary powers, including subpoena power, to ensure their effective performance.
6. We call for the mandating of meaningfully independent investigation and prosecution of all officer-involved deaths. This would preclude dependence on locally collected information, inclusion of investigators with ties to the local department, and charging decisions by local prosecutors dependent on the local police department for testimony in other cases. Additionally, we call for adjustments in Law Enforcement Bill of Rights which result in a double standard for police suspected of wrongdoing, as opposed to civilians accused of a crime.
7. We ask that officers who are charged and convicted of wrongdoing involving death or serious injury to a civilian be sentenced proportionately, according to published guidelines, and similarly to others whose wrongful actions result in death or serious injury.
8. We demand that all law enforcement officers wear body cameras that cannot be turned on or off by the individual police officer. The cameras should automatically be turned on whenever an officer is on duty. Additionally, we ask that dash cameras be installed in all police vehicles, and that their use be effectively regulated to ensure the recording of all police-civilian encounters which occur within their range.
9. Use of a police officer's service weapon must always be a last resort. Any officer who has the ability to retreat to a safe distance from an aggressive suspect and take the individual into custody alive must do so. This has to be standard protocol, prior to lethal force. Standards should be developed and enforced to require graduated methods of control and management of potentially aggressive encounters with civilians, using all available technology and instruments to apply the minimal necessary force in all situations.
10. We demand changes in the selection, training, assignment, and evaluation of police officers.
- All potential candidates for the police academy should be required to undergo psychological and character evaluations. Any potential police officer who exhibits racism, severe superiority complex, fear of other races, misogyny, psychopathic behavior or thoughts must be disqualified from entering the police academy. Screening must be intense and intended to weed out individuals who will intentionally mistreat or discriminate against members of any vulnerable community (including communities of color); behave dishonestly; engage in illegal behavior; or act out of fear.
- The amount of training for police officers needs to increase. Police officers are given a great deal of tactical training. However, they are given very little training on communication. A number of situations could be avoided based upon the approach of the police officer. Police officers must be given general communication training in the police academy and additional communication training when they begin at or transfer to a new precinct. They must be instructed in the best practices for dealing and communicating with the communities they serve. The training for communication should be created and taught by an expert in race and/or class relations.
- All officers should be trained in de-escalation procedures, and should be expected to demonstrate adherence to principles of de-escalation in situations involving aggression or potentially aggressive behavior by civilians.
- Trainees and officers must undergo a minimum of biannual diversity training and psychological evaluation.
- Psychological evaluation is needed for officers immediately following any critical incidenct in which they are involved.
- Officers involved in civilian deaths, whose actions are shown to be noncompliant with department policies and procedures, training, and civil rights laws should be summarily fired, and not eligible for employment in any law enforcement capacity.
11. The racial profiling ban issued to all federal law enforcement officials needs to be extended to local law enforcement.
12. If a police officer is witness to or obtains information that a fellow police officer has violated the law and/or participated in behavior in violation of the Constitutional protections afforded to all, that witness should be required to report said violation and/or place the violating officer under arrest. Failure to do so must result in charges of aiding and abetting.
13. We ask that the federal government act to mandate the establishment of specialized mental health response teams, all members of whom volunteer for and receive specialized critical incident training (CIT), along with ongoing in-service trainings. These teams should coordinate closely with trained mental health personnel, and act as first responders in instances of difficulty or crisis with mentally ill or emotionally disturbed individuals.
This area has received less attention in recent years, although some activists, policy groups and others are beginning to look at the concept of accommodated policing. The idea is that, as in schools and workplaces, disabled individuals may require modifications in order to be fairly and safely interrogated, detained, arrested, jailed, charged and tried. MFJU supports this idea for all disabled people (for example, deaf and hearing impaired individuals and the physically handicapped), and we are particularly concerned with the greater vulnerability of individuals who struggle with mental health in encounters with law enforcement. In particular, an individual’s mental health may affect their perception and/or understanding of verbal instructions, especially when such instructions are delivered angrily, or with other troubling emotional overtones, such as sarcasm, fear, or derision. Police officers often carry the same attitudes and biases that impede others in society from relating effectively with mentally ill people. Further, one’s mental health may impact the ability to behave appropriately, or self-protectively in law enforcement situations.
Data is beginning to suggest that individuals who suffer from mental illness may be more likely to be tased by police, and when tased more likely to suffer adverse effects, even including death. Research has shown that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, and they are disproportionately the victims of police violence, being nearly four times as likely to die at the hands of an officer than other detainees. And those with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to die at the hands of police.
In addition to our concern for better police recruitment and training which could result in more humane and just treatment of the mentally ill, we are also focused on better care generally for those who suffer from mental illness. This issue has impacted some of our murdered family members, and was a factor in the death of many of those individuals. And the mental health of surviving family members is adversely affected by the trauma of these tragic losses. We advocate for improved treatment for all who suffer from mental illness, and in particular for the expansion of peer support as a treatment modality which can positively affect those providing support and expand the overtaxed resources of the mental health system.