WASHINGTON, June 3 – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) outlined a sweeping set of policy reforms to be adopted in Senate Democrats’ legislative response to police violence, in order to “protect people and communities that have suffered this violence for far too long,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Sanders listed the following goals “to seriously address an intolerable situation in this country:”
- Amend federal civil rights laws to allow more effective prosecution of police misconduct by changing the standard from willfulness to recklessness.
- Abolish “qualified immunity,” so police officers can be held civilly liable for abuses.
- Prohibit the transfer of offensive military equipment to police departments.
- Strip federal funds from departments that violate civil rights.
- Create a federal model policing program that emphasizes de-escalation, non-lethal force and culturally competent policing in which access to federal funds depends upon the level of reform adopted. As part of this effort to modernize and humanize police departments we need to enhance the recruitment pool by ensuring that the resources are available to pay wages that will attract the top-tier officers we need to do the difficult work of policing.
- Provide funding to states and municipalities to create civilian corps of unarmed first responders to supplement law enforcement, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals, who can handle order maintenance violations, mental health emergencies, and low-level conflicts to aid police officers.
- Require agencies to make records of police misconduct publicly available.
- Require all jurisdictions that receive federal grant funding to establish independent police conduct review boards that are broadly representative of the community and that have the authority to refer deaths that occur at the hands of police or in police custody to federal authorities for investigation. In addition, the boards would be authorized to report to federal authorities other types of abuses by police including patterns of misconduct. This would be supplemental to current federal authority to commence investigations. Enhance federal funding for such investigations.
Read the letter here.