Samuel Sinyangwe recently released a report with his team at Mapping Police Violence assessing and analyzing data on the 1,127 police killings in 2020. This report’s findings can provide important guidelines to communities on how to bring police killings as close to zero as possible. According to Sinyangwe’s findings, most police killings occur in cases where police were responding to suspected non-violent offenses or when no crime was reported at all. These cases included alleged traffic violations, mental health crises, public disturbances, and wellness checks, and they disproportionately impacted people of color.
It’s critical that as we collectively reckon with systemic racism and work to become our most anti-racist selves, we implore our elected officials at the national, state, and local level to take bold action. This report makes clear that we can reduce police violence by removing police from many of the areas of our lives.
Berkeley, California has taken an important step by announcing they are removing police from traffic stops and creating an unarmed traffic enforcement body. We’ve seen police kill Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, and so many others at routine traffic stops. Disarming traffic enforcement will save lives. Denver, Colorado recently implemented the STAR program which created an alternative first-responder unit which responds to non-violent incidences such as mental health episodes, homelessness, and substance abuse. This program was modeled after compelling results from Eugene, Oregon’s CAHOOTS program. These cities are taking action to make their community safer. Broward County can too.
The Broward County Commission recently created a Police Oversight Board as a means of increasing accountability. This is a solid first step, but we should push them to go further. County Commissioners should devise an unarmed, first responder pilot program to serve communities across Broward County with the goal of scaling it up in collaboration with city governments. There is no reason we cannot take bold action to repair a broken policing system and combat systemic racism. Call (954) 357–7000 to reach the Commissioner’s Office, ask to speak with your commissioner, and tell them you want to see an unarmed, first responder pilot program. The time for structural change is now.