On Election Day, voters in communities across the nation supported measures designed to increase civilian oversight over police departments. Amid widespread protests, rioting, and looting that has been occurring in major cities in America over police brutality, voters overwhelmingly supported actions designed to promote accountability in law enforcement.
Newsmax reported, “the measures take aim at a chronic sore point in many communities, particularly among Black residents: that police departments traditionally have little oversight outside their own internal review systems, which often clear officers of wrongdoing in fatal civilian shootings.”
Monica Steppe, a member of the San Diego city council, said, “recent events opened up people’s eyes more to how much this type of oversight is needed.” She was one of several who was pushing a proposal created before the civil unrest that would replace the city’s police review board with an independent body possessing investigative powers.
Voters in San Jose, California, approved an expansion of an independent police auditor’s powers. The measure gives them the ability to launch investigations without a citizen’s complaint. The outrage over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer has motivated many cities like San Jose to prioritize police accountability.
“The proposal was in the works for three years, but the City Council voted to place it on the ballot in the wake of protests that erupted after George Floyd died in May after a police officer pressed a knee against his neck for several minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.”
Councilmember Raul Peralez, a former police officer and current reserve officer told Newsmax that, “It ended up being great timing for us because as the national spotlight shined on police excessive use of force and police brutality and certainly demands for oversight, we already had everything in the works.”
In Seattle, voters supported a measure giving the King County Council the authority to determine the sheriff’s public safety powers. The objective is to provide an alternative to some areas of policing. For example, it would expand the use of social workers responding to certain emergency calls involving people in crisis.
Voters in Philadelphia passed a measure creating a civilian review commission that will be placed under the auspices of the City Council to ensure that it is independent. “In Pittsburgh, a charter amendment requiring police officers to cooperate with the city’s civilian police review board passed overwhelmingly,” according to Newsmax.
“If you’re going to have oversight of police actions, then you need the officers who have performed those actions to be transparent, and for other officers who witnessed it to bring their testimony,” said Rev. Ricky Burgess, a Pittsburgh council member. “Right now neither is required.”
Of course, members of the law enforcement community are concerned that the creation of civilian oversight boards would unfairly punish police officers. Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, told Newsmax: “Because they come from a flawed premise, in many instances they’re going to lead to flawed conclusions and therefore the remedies they would propose are going to be equally flawed.”
Police brutality became a hot-button issue once again in 2020. After the killings of Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others, Americans demanded solutions. Public demonstrations, many of which were violent, broke out across the nation.
While radical leftists called for the defunding and dismantling of police departments, the majority of protesters pushed for reforms in law enforcement. The lack of accountability that many officers receive when they abuse their authority is seen as one of the primary contributors to police brutality. When a bad apple in law enforcement knows that he will not be punished for overstepping his boundaries, he has no reason to hold himself to the standard that is expected of police officers.
Many on the far-left have used the deaths of black Americans to sow racial tensions and foment anti-police sentiment. Their actions have shown that their protestations have nothing to do with safeguarding black lives or decreasing police brutality.
But this does not mean that America does not need to have tough conversations about the problem. Police brutality is an issue that should be addressed. Law enforcement officers are government officials who have been granted the authority to violate our rights when the situation calls for it. In some cases, they can even take the lives of citizens.
As it stands, very few officers receive any real punishment when they abuse their authority. In light of this, there is no valid reason why there shouldn’t be some type of oversight. Part of fixing the problem means that officers must be held to a higher standard, which must be enforced. The cities adopting these measures are taking a step in the right direction. These measures might not be perfect, but in at least some of these cases, it can give the country an idea of how police oversight should work.
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