In the contentious aftermath of the presidential election, one issue should not be forgotten: the pressing need for police reform. To this end, it may surprise many people that the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) supports the aims of the Black Lives Matter movement. We also believe that resetting the relationship between police officers and the communities they serve must be a bipartisan effort that is embraced at both the federal and state levels.
Somehow lost in the shuffle is the fact that one of Black Lives Matter’s central issues has been to combat systemic racism embedded in the criminal justice system. NOBLE fully supports that goal, and we hope that a consensus-based solution can be achieved by focusing on areas where Democrats and Republicans agree.
While not everyone in the criminal justice system is racist, the system itself has exhibited ample evidence of systemic racism. The laws of our country and the manner in which they are enforced should be responsive to the needs of all of our citizens. In short, everyone should be afforded the same level of respect, grace and courtesy that we, as law enforcement officials, expect to receive.
Looking at the protests that unfolded across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death, many of those who took to the streets were not people of color; yet their mantra was “Black Lives Matter.” It is a collective call for equality, respect and the end to the unnecessary loss of innocent lives. As a fundamental principle, it is a shared recognition that we all have a right to exist. As public servants, the law enforcement community has a role to play in this long-overdue corrective, and we must own up to our part in driving this change.
The issues of race, justice and equality are nothing new. What is new is the urgency of the call and that we are hearing it from diverse communities across the country. The mosaic of the protest sends a message that, as a collective, we are outraged by the violence. We need to listen to this call and respond accordingly with real change in a nonpartisan way that ensures we make wholesale changes at the municipal, state and federal levels.
The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives will continue to reiterate the following recommendations to be adopted and implemented for standardization across law enforcement:
Duty to intervene — requiring police officers to either stop or attempt to stop another officer when they witness force being inappropriately applied.
Mandatory deescalation training.
Requiring officers to render medical aid to all people who need it.
Prohibition on all chokeholds and vascular neck restraints unless deadly force is authorized.
NOBLE supports the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which encompasses many of the solutions that law enforcement and local communities have agreed will help improve public safety, build trust and increase accountability.
Finally, we remain open to discussions about appropriately allocating funding in ways that best help communities. This isn’t about “defunding” as much as simple fiscal stewardship. If there are innovative ways to maintain public safety while directing our funding resources to the most needed areas of concern, transparent conversation around that is warranted. It’s everyone’s right as a citizen to show concern and ask for accountability. Equally, there needs to be a broader conversation about how to deal with social-services-related issues like substance abuse, mental health and homelessness and what role, if any, law enforcement plays in these areas. It serves no one for law enforcement or its advocates to be defensive about reevaluating their role and responsibilities in these areas. Instead, police officers should be supportive in finding solutions.
As Black law enforcement professionals, we know that Black lives matter, that systemic racism exists and that the criminal justice system must be reformed now, not in some distant future. NOBLE stands ready to do its part to put solutions in place to make everyday life safe, equitable and just.
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