Time and time again, we see the mistreatment of black Americans by the police. The tragic and unnecessary killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others make it clear that we need to fight for racial justice. We need policies that work to stop the mistreatment of black people at the hands of the police and the justice system. We need to maximize empathy and compassion, and listen to and lift up communities of color. I don’t know what all the solutions are, but there are some things I think Congress can do to help fight this grave injustice. This is not an exhaustive list, and I will work with the black community to find answers.


  • End “qualified immunity” for police officers, and public officials. Qualified immunity is essentially a get out of jail free card for many police officers. That should change. Police need to be at exposure personally for deaths or brutality that occurs on their watch. It will make them think twice and begin to shift cultural attitudes of indifference to police violence and be a source of potential monetary justice for the aggrieved.


  • Ensure civil rights oversight is enforced and observed by the DOJ. As a Congressman, I would put pressure, if not craft legislation, aimed at ensuring the civil rights division of the DOJ is actively working to pursue compassionate policing training and policies but also actively working to enforce and punish violations of the civil rights laws. We should also work to establish civilian oversight of police departments. 


  • Expand the use of body cameras. While many cities require their police officers to wear body cameras, I will work to make it mandatory for all police officers, and provide funding for smaller jurisdictions that can’t afford it. Furthermore, steps should be taken to ensure that body cameras are always on, such as fined for when they are not, and immediate termination if a body camera is off during an interaction with a civilian. 


  • Ensure better training for police officers. I would provide incentives for police departments to have mandatory training for their officers that include racial sensitivity and implicit/explicit bias training. This should be mandatory for all departments that receive any federal assistance.


  • Eliminate or reduce the militarization of the police. The 1033 Program permits excess military equipment to be transferred to state and local police departments. Billions of military-grade equipment has been transferred under this program to local police departments and, incredibly, even school districts. President Obama issued an executive order to limit and prohibit certain equipment transfers. Predictably, President Trump reversed this executive order and rolled back the Obama-era suspensions. It is time for Congress to pass legislation that ends the transfer of military grade equipment to local police forces or school district security forces.


  • Set a new federal standard of force. Emphasis should be placed on de-escalation and non lethal tactics, especially for non violent suspects. The use of lethal force should not be a standard operating procedure, and should only be an absolute last resort. We can use new technology and tactics to focus on de escalation and save lives, while keeping police officers safe. We need more legislation like HR 4408, introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, would prohibit the use of chokeholds.


  • End cash bail. Cash bail unfairly targets poor communities, and no one should be held in jail simply because they don’t have money. 


  • End racial disparities in the justice system. Whether it’s discriminatory policing, or disparities in sentencing, it’s unacceptable that black Americans are unfairly targeted by the police and receive longer sentences. Justice should be equal for all. There’s no reason why a white person that commits fraud receives a lesser sentence than a black person possessing marijuana. 


  • End “broken windows” policing. Nonviolent, minor crimes should not mean automatic jail time. Too often, these activities are a result of mental health issues, homelessness, poverty, or other problems with our society. They should be addressed by social services and healthcare professionals. We need to ensure that all abandon tactics like “stop and frisk” which too often racially profiles black and brown Americans. 


  • End the war on drugs, and treat addiction as a health concern. The war on drugs has clearly failed. It only serves to disproportionately jail people of color, and doesn’t help those suffering from addiction. And it’s long past time that we decriminalize marijuana and expunge records for non violent users. 


  • End for profit incentives in our justice system. Our criminal justice system should not be used to generate profit. Whether that’s ending police quotas, getting rid of private prisons, or other pro profit positions, our goal should be rehabilitation, justice, and equality, not corporate profit. 


These are just some of the policy ideas that are needed to reform our system. In Congress, I will work with groups like Campaign Zero, to make sure that the black community, which is disproportionately affected by police brutality, is very involved with the process. Make no mistake, there are concrete steps that Congress can take to make meaningful reform, but we need Representatives willing to challenge the status quo and speak truth to power.