Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Local #BlackLivesMatter police policy agenda pragmatic, achievable

The missus has been volunteering this year with the Austin Justice Coalition, and I really liked their recently announced agenda on police accountability, which included proposals to:
  • Improve Austin PD's use of force policy (or in APD's Orwellian parlance, their "Response to Resistance" policy) by implementing recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum and prioritizing deescalation during critical situations. There are quite a few specific proposals under that heading.
  • Create avenues for the public to have meaningful input in the meet and confer process, which in Austin governs not just pay and benefits but all aspects of police discipline.
  • Stop arresting people for Class C misdemeanors for which the penalty is only a fine and incarceration-upon-arrest would be a greater punishment than the maximum sentence. (The Texas Legislature will almost certainly see similar, conservative-backed legislation on this front next year, in response to the Sandra Bland episode and other cases.)
  • Stop using police as primary responders on mental health calls.
Grits thought that last item was particularly interesting. AJC recommended moving "mental health first response out of APD. People who call 911 in mental health crisis should be met by mental health professionals, because when the first response is a law enforcement response, too often someone is injured and the next step is jail. Since people in crisis may not behave as expected when issued an officer’s order, nearly a quarter of 'use of force' incidents arise from these calls." The Meadows Foundation out of Dallas has been promoting a similar suggestion, so while that's an extremely substantive reform, it's not really that far outside the mainstream.

All of these are realistic, pragmatic, and achievable suggestions.

AJC is one of the constellation of local groups which have arisen in and around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Both locally and nationally, the movement has spawned promising policy-focused efforts, like AJC's and Campaign Zero, which hone in on the specific reform questions arising from questionable police shootings and misconduct. Meanwhile, other BLM groups have adopted much more sweeping agendas, some of which stray from the core concerns drawing  crowds in the past couple years.

While the broader agenda may be cathartic to articulate, the narrower, focused ones are more likely to be achieved.  Campaign Zero was a major milestone for the #BlackLivesMatter movement and seeing local groups like AJC embrace and extend that work strikes Grits as particularly heartening. It has been a long time since this writer held out hope for real change at Austin's police department.


Anonymous said...

Grits, I predict you will eventually get tired of rewriting history when it comes to BLM. When that day comes, you may with me lament what could have been in regard to BLM. This "movement" has a center in radical leftist politics as espoused on their official website. Campaign Zero is a webpage of policy put together by people who couldn't re-direct the core BLM leadership to reform oriented activism. That's because those people didn't look upon improper police shootings as something that could be addressed through policy discussion. Instead they saw police shootings as a platform for radical political ideology. Why generate political reform when the movement can raise up new radical would be politicians? Basically, climbers run the BLM center.

But maybe if journalists like yourself keep stipulating what BLM is, it may one day become that. I won't hold my breath. Instead, I'll put some small measure of hope into groups like AJC, which is not the Austin chapter of BLM. Instead the Austin chapter of BLM is.

Anonymous said...

Anon@ 6:12 nailed it. Has Gritz always been pinko?

Anonymous said...

@0:38 grits is a very noble person shining a light on topics most want to keep in the dark. I have tremendous respect for his work and his opinion, even when it diverges from mine. Believe me, I would have liked to see BLM succeed. The problem is they took their eye off the ball. They should have put all their energy and focus on police use of force problems and thereby galvanize the country to reform police policy nationally...or at least locally where it matters. But they figured they would append every grievance to the brand they created. Maybe Grits and other journalists can write them back into significance.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@6:12, first, I'm not a journalist, this is an advocacy site. Set your expectations thusly. Second, n.b. I didn't say AJC is the "Austin chapter of BLM." I said it "is one of the constellation of local groups which have arisen in and around the #BlackLivesMatter movement." And it is. The distinctions you're claiming I don't recognize are all articulated in the final two graphs of the post.

I understand it's easier to attack the caricature you're carrying around in your head as opposed to what I've actually argued. I neither defend every argument made under the BLM banner, nor do I dismiss every argument because someone supports the movement. If you'll "put some small measure of hope into groups like AJC," then we agree on more than we disagree because that's all I've said here.

Twitch - Entropy said...

Can we stop using that term "Pinko?" it's so dismissive and trivializing, and never truly described a solid political stance.
We used to call "pinkies," the inner pink rubber (kinda' looks like a pink eraser)lining of a tennis ball, we used as a poor-man's 'handball.' If you mean to be playful, maybe that's your intent. call a RED a RED!! And a fascist a fascist!!

Perhaps some of the core organizers ARE upwardly ambitious for political position, I can't say, reformists are that way - look at Jesse Jackson!

Mr. Twitch

Anonymous said...

So, who would be the first responder to an MH call? I was an EMT for many years and always requested PD "clear" my scene (go in first and make sure it was under control) before I'd send a crew in. Some of these calls actually are dangerous, and rescue isn't trained in negotiations.

Also, de-escalation? What is that exactly? Subject holding a weapon--de-escalates by disarming him.

Anonymous said...

BLM is now a terrorist organization. Social movement hijacking at its finest.

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