In Grief and Rage, Finding a Way Forward?

Even as we remain stunned by the events of last week, we at Justice Not Jails are deeply concerned that people who were never remotely sympathetic to the reality of abusive policing will now pounce on the tragic news from Dallas as justification for resisting legitimate efforts to reform policing practices and end the horrific ongoing mass criminalization of people of color. Rather than feature any "breaking news" items this week, we present five sobering reports on how much challenging work … [Read more...]

Stop Deputy-on-Inmate Abuse in the LA County Jails

Take Action on Civilian Oversight of the Sheriff's Department Justice Not Jails has been a full participant in the three-year effort by the Dignity & Power Now coalition to win effective civilian oversight of the nation's largest local law enforcement agency: the one that administers the nation's largest and most abusive local jail system. People often think that New York's Riker's Island is really bad, or that Chicago's Cook County Jail is a total horror show. But the documented history … [Read more...]

L.A. County Hashing Out Sheriff’s Oversight Details

After a lengthy delay, Los Angeles County supervisors began to hash out final details Tuesday in the structure of a new civilian oversight commission for the Sheriff's Department, which has been racked by years of scandals over abuses in the jails. The supervisors voted 4 to 1 to move forward with a process for approving members of the nine-member panel. Under the proposal, the five supervisors would appoint one member each. The remainder would be chosen by the board from a list of 20 … [Read more...]

When Policing Goes Wrong

Since 1994, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has investigated and reached settlements with more than 20 state and local police agencies. Much controversy surrounds these so-called “consent decrees,” which have mandated reforms of police practices in agencies ranging from the municipal forces of Los Angeles, New Orleans and Albuquerque, to state agencies like the New Jersey State Police. Investigations of Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD are currently underway. Do these consent decrees … [Read more...]

June is Civilian Oversight Month: Demand Civilian Oversight with Power!

To The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors: I urge you to create an independent civilian oversight commission to help end the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department’s (LASD) pattern and practice of abuse, medical neglect, and excessive force Los Angeles’ Black and Brown communities. This commission must have full legal authority to retrieve records and testimony, as well as assess, analyze, and report on patterns of excessive force, misconduct, medical neglect, and any other human rights … [Read more...]

I’m a Black Ex-Cop, and This Is the Real Truth About Race and Policing

That's a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 … [Read more...]

Police Unions Must Not Block Reform

THE decline of public trust in the police we’ve seen after a string of incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland, New York and Baltimore has many causes. Policies like hot-spot policing and stop-and-frisk searches — outgrowths of the “broken windows” law enforcement strategy — have put enormous pressures on minority and low-income communities. But the role played by police unions in shielding their members from accountability for excessive force has also contributed to the erosion of trust. Police … [Read more...]

Calling All Justice Seekers: County Budget Priorities & Civilian Oversight of the Sheriff’s Department

n our Justice Not Jails work we are called to stay awake and stand ready to act when needed. Now is the time our action is need to push for sane budget priorities at the county level and also to push through to the best and strongest possible form of civilian oversight over the abuse-ridden Sheriff's Department. Budget Fight: What is called Law and Justice already takes a huge share of total county funds: around $7.4 billion out of a total budget of $26.9 billion This area has the highest … [Read more...]

How Best to Keep an Eye on the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department

n August, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors rejected the idea of a civilian commission to oversee the Sheriff's Department. That kind of panel would be an extra layer of bureaucracy, the board majority argued, and virtually powerless because the sheriff is directly elected by, and accountable to, the people. In December, however, with two new members, the board reversed course and embraced the idea. A civilian commission is crucial, the new majority argued, in part because the … [Read more...]

Time to Move Beyond “Bad Apple Cop” Frame

View image | and others have argued that video has “killed trust in police officers.” Police have been able to get away with a lot of abuse because judges, juries, and the public have usually deemed police officers more credible than abuse victims. But with a regular parade of videos being posted online, a certain naive faith in police officers held by many Americans may be eroding. But what has often replaced that blind trust is the frame of the “bad apple” police … [Read more...]