Police & Criminal Justice Reform

  • Portugal Shows the Way on Drug De-criminalization

    Portugal, the land of Fado music, cork orchards and Port wine, brings another gift to civilization: a way out of the insane drug war which has wracked our civilization, wasting untold billions on a quixotic quest to prevent people from using intoxicants, funding murderous drug gangs and incarcerating millions of especially minority Americans. Portugal, which removed criminal penalties for all drugs in 2001, including cocaine and heroine, has lower rates of addiction and 1/50 the number of drug-related deaths as the United States. Portugal's addiction-intervention efforts cost the state less than $10 per person, while the U.S. drug war costs our nation $10,000 per household. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff visted the sunny nation on the edge of Europe to see how they're doing it.

    Story at New York Times
  • In this heartbreaking article, Georgetown University law professor Paul Butler describes being profiled and harrassed by police officers while walking home from work in a Washington DC neighborhood.

  • The vast majority of the 450,000 Americans awaiting trial in jail every day pose no risk to the public. Instead, they were unable to make bail. A recent bill introduced by Senate Democrat Kamala Harris and Senate Republican Rand Paul will incentize states to assess defendants' potential danger to public safety and likelihood to flee, rather than the mere ability to post bail, in making a decision to detain before trial.

  • In June of this year a handcuffed man was beaten, dragged by his ponytail and tasered 12 times before dying at the hands of 4 Omaha officers. If the state’s attorney for Douglas County does not charge the officers, the case will go to a grand jury. The Washington Post reports.

  • Military-style drug raids have led “time and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property . . . and . . . enduring trauma,” writes Kevin Sack in the New York Times.

  • San Diego’s implementation of body cameras has led to “fewer complaints by residents and less use of force by officers.”

  • The high graduation rate of Chicago Police Academy recruits (97%) is seen by some as a lack of sufficiently high standards.

  • A recent video shows a Wilmington, N.C. police officer falsely telling an Uber driver that video-recording a police officer was illegal. What the officer didn’t know: the Uber driver was a moonlighting criminal attorney. These types of incidents, more numerous than we could begin to count, cry out the need for more robust citizen review boards, with subpeona power and the authority to cashier such disgraceful public servants.

  • The Ferguson City Council’s initial effort at police oversight, in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, is criticized as ineffectual.

  • Police investigating their own misconduct is “like having the fox guard the hen house,”according to personal injury lawyer Sid Willens, who spearheaded the establishment of police oversight in Kansas City. There are now 200 police oversight entities in the U.S., but “their powers to investigate and punish officers vary widely.”

  • The Palm Beach Post, considering the city’s poor record of police shootings, looks at options for citizen review. The Social Democrat supports ward-level citizen review boards with expert authorities, legal counsel, subpoena power, and the authority to dismiss unwanted officers.

  • Across the U.S., poor defendants unable to make bond are being imprisoned while those with means—including drug gang members—are released. Under the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s new directive, non-violent defendants unable to provide bails up to $1,000 will be released pending trial.

  • Los Angeles’s civilian oversight commission has adopted a resolution requiring the L.A. Sheriff’s office to post data involving police misconduct on its website within 60 days of any occurrence.

  • California’s Proposition 47, passed in 2014, moves funding from incarceration for non-violent offenders to programs designed to keep people out of the criminal justice system. This spring California will begin making grants to rehabilitation programs.

  • Long delays in reviewing police misconduct, documented in this Tribune article from March, 2017, reveal the city’s lack of attention to the issue.