Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests across the country are pushing lawmakers to defund police departments and end police brutality partially.
Black Lives Matter
When the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag first started to trend in 2013, the movement mostly consisted of black Americans on Twitter. Black people across the country began to use the social media platform to organize protests and raise awareness of racial inequality.
After a video of Minneapolis Police Department officer, Derek Chauvin killing George Floyd went viral, millions of Americans were traumatized.
Comedian Dave Chappelle expressed an outrage shared by many in his Netflix special 8:46. “This man kneeled on a man’s kneck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds.
Can you imagine that? He thought he was going to die,” Chappelle said. “He called for his mother, his dead mother.”
Police Departments Face Backlash
Protestors in Minneapolis turned into small riots. President Donald Trump threatened to take aggressive action to restore “law and order.” In a White House call, President Trump told state governors to “dominate” protestors.
Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the US Senate, attempted to soften Trump’s hardline position. However, after the Secret Service violently dispersed protestors so Trump could awkwardly pose with a bible in front of a church, the Black Lives Matter movement became unstoppable.
Police responded to protests against police brutality, with what seemed to be more police brutality. Several videos show peaceful protestors being tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and physically assaulted.
The Black Lives Matter protests awakened White America to the fear of being the victim of an officer-involved killing. With pressure mounting, many cities and state governments are enacting new legislation to change how police departments deal with the citizens.
What Does It Mean To Defund The Police?
Continuous displays of police violence have led to protests in all fifty states and around the globe. Many are demanding that legislators defund police departments and redirect the funds towards social services that may prevent crime.
The police “budgets are overly bloated,” says Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. According to Tometi, this overfunding lead to the militarization of police forces and the over-policing of poor minority communities.
New Rules For Law Enforcement Agencies
Seattle City Council Bans Chokeholds and Tear Gas
The Seattle City Council voted to ban the use of chemical weapons, chokeholds, and other forms of crowd controls.
“Seattle police are attacking peaceful protesters daily, from young children to the elderly with chemical weapons that are internationally banned in warfare. They have used chokeholds on protesters, including the same kind of chokehold that killed George Floyd,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant.
The ban prohibits police from using pepper spray or “non-lethal” weapons. Rubber bullets and other “crowd control” weapons have caused severe injury to many protestors.
New York Bans Chokeholds and Creates More Transparency
The New York State Senate passed recently passed the “Eric Garner anti-chokehold act.” Nearly six years ago, a New York City Police Department officer killed Garner while arresting him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes. The bill makes any action in which an officer obstructs kills or severely injures someone by restricting their “breathing or blood circulation,” a felony.
“Eric Garner did not die in vain,” said New York Govern Andrew Cuomo. Garner cried out, “I can’t breathe” several times before he died. George Floyd echoed those same painful words as he pleaded for air.
New York’s police reform bill will require police to report any time they discharge their weapon. They are also required to provide needed medical attention to any individual in police custody.
Previously, police departments in America’s largest city were allowed to withhold virtually any information related to evaluating police officers’ performance. The new law seeks to make it more difficult for police departments to hide records of police misconduct form the public.
Connecticut Bans Chokeholds And Updates Use Of Force Policy
Connecticut’s Governor, Ned Lamont, signed an executive order prohibiting police from using chokeholds and any other tactic that can restrict oxygen or blood flow to the brain.
The order also requires state troopers to try to de-escalate situations and only to use force as a last resort. State troopers must intervene if a fellow officer is using excessive force and report such cases in writing. There’s one notable line in the EO where Lamont writes emphatically that “black lives matter.”
Louisville Bans No-Knock Warrants
The Lousiville Metro Council unanimously passed “Breonna’s Law,” an ordinance that will ban the issuing of no-knock search warrants. The new law will require police to knock at the front door, announce themselves as law enforcement, and to wait for at least 15 seconds before entering.
Louisville Metro Police Department officers killed Breonna Taylor after entering Taylor’s home unannounced and engaging in a gunfight with her boyfriend.
San Francisco Mayor Calls For Several Police Reforms
San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed outlined the city’s four police reform priorities:
- Demilitarize the police force
- End the use of police as a response to non-criminal activity
- Addressing police bias while and strengthen accountability
- Redirect funds away from law enforcement towards investment in the African American community.
“We are going to keep pushing for additional reforms and continue to find ways to reinvest in communities that have historically been underserved and harmed by systemic racism,” said Mayor Breed. While these reforms are not yet in place, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott endorsed the changes.
Judge Bans Inappropriate Use of Force in Minneapolis
A court order approved by Hennepin County Judge Karen Janisch bans the use of chokeholds. It also requires officers to get approval from the police chief before using any crowd control weapon on protestors. The court order also requires that officers intervene if they see a colleague using unnecessary force.
Lawmakers Promising New Legislation
With over 12,000 local police departments in the USA, changing law enforcement policy across the nation will take some time.
Cities planning on banning chokeholds include Austin, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, South Bend, IN, and Washington, DC.
In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, many lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also proposing police reform bills.