Written by Dillon Rountree, Staff Writer
Those who follow the #BlackLivesMatter movement may be familiar with a new list of policy proposals put forward by some prominent activists known as “Campaign Zero.” Zero refers to the goal of zero deaths at the hands of police. For the uninitiated, the campaign lists 10 major areas where they are proposing changes to both law and policy. Though well intentioned, some ideas expose a distinct lack of insight into law enforcement and policing.
If one looks only at the heading of each of the policy proposal topics, it’s hard to argue against most of them. Who can really say that we shouldn’t have more community representation or less use of force incidents? Unfortunately, the proposals are not made in the title sections, but in the details, and that is where the devil lies.
The most obvious flaw in the campaign lies in the proposals connected to limiting the use of force. To put it simply, many of these proposals are already being implemented in the vast majority of agencies. Currently, police are trained to de-escalate situations, use minimum force to subdue resisting suspects, and carry less-lethal weapons such as pepper spray; even a cursory glance at relevant sources shows this.
In addition to proposing changes that have been policy for years, many things being proposed in Campaign Zero are downright counterproductive, if not dangerous. For example, it is proposed that the disciplining and dismissal of officers should be taken from criminal justice professionals such as the police chief, or elected officials such as the district attorney, and be given to individuals making up a civilian commission without a day of law enforcement experience between them.
These people would not even be elected, but appointed at the recommendation of local organizations. Furthermore, no one who has ever been a police officer, or is related to a person who has been one would be eligible. These commissions would not only be made of amateurs, but almost certainly biased against the police officers they oversee.
This is not to say that all the proposals are negative. For example, it is incredibly difficult to argue against the proposals for the acquisition of body cameras for officers. It is well established that not only does the use of these cameras allow for illicit actions by the officer to be recorded, but those of the suspect as well. Use of cameras has been shown to reduce officer misconduct, improve citizen behavior in interactions with police, and provide valuable evidence for prosecutions that come after arrests.
However, even on this slam dunk issue, part of the proposal is troubling in that, according to Campaign Zero, officers shouldn’t be allowed to review footage before writing reports. This is nothing more than making an officer’s job harder and trying to catch them in “lies” that are more attributable to human error than any malice on the officer’s part.
Campaign Zero’s specificity is a good starting point for real discussions on the issues of police bias and brutality. Every act of police brutality is an affront not just to the victim, but to the liberties we all hold dear. That is beyond argument. Unfortunately, the recent murders of Deputy Goforth and his fellow officers have shown these are dangerous times not just for our communities but for our law enforcement officers. We as a nation must cease the violent rhetoric and provocations. Campaign Zero is a start to dialogue, but only if we consider the lives of those who wear the badge as well.