We have long needed to change our system of racist policing. We must reform how we approach policing and public safety to build a racially just and equitable community.
The City Council held work sessions with the Police Chief and our District 20 State Delegation over the summer to discuss existing policies and procedures and the changes that are needed. The Police Chief has been collecting data and information in response to the detailed questions that I and other Council and community members have asked, and we must use this information to thoroughly analyze and make changes to the way we think about policing and public safety.
To reform policing in Takoma Park, we need to:
- Develop an inclusive change-making process:
- Listen to Black and Brown residents through a collaborative, change-making, action-oriented process. Changes need to be identified and prioritized in collaboration with those most impacted and with the most direct knowledge, who have been too often left out of the conversation.
- Have difficult conversations, make difficult decisions, admit when we are wrong or have made a mistake in the past, and put our egos aside for the betterment of the community through a real, proactive change
- Adopt a practical plan of change to policing and public safety in collaboration with Black and Brown residents. Elements of change might include:
- Goals and outcome/benchmark reporting that emphasize improved life outcomes for the people involved and reduction of recidivism rather than reduction of crime
- New approaches to what are commonly thought of as policing problems — for example, traffic enforcement could possibly be handled primarily through cameras, infrastructure changes could be made to improve safety in a park or other location, etc.
- Creating partnerships and funding social services that emphasize community needs such as mental health, housing, and workforce development, and focusing on community-oriented programs such as violence interruption
- Improving training for dispatchers and developing alternative routing for calls for non-emergency issues
- New systems of anti-racist officer training and procedures, and analysis of the connections between some core historic policing principles and white supremacy
- Shifting of funds and focus from an enforcement/punishment model to a prevention/support model, as well as moving some services out of the police department (perhaps parking enforcement/permitting and code enforcement)
- Advocate at other levels of government for changes:
- Work with our State representatives to advocate for change to state-level policies that impact policing in Takoma Park, such as the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, use of force standards, criminal justice reform, and more
- Work with and advocate for change at the Montgomery County level and in DC and Prince George’s County, since we are in close proximity and initiatives (good or bad) affect the region as a whole