Stopping racist police brutality
Wisconsin Greens call for measures for change in their state
by Mike McCallister, Wisconsin Green Party
Wisconsin Green Party was a part of protests objecting to the killing of unarmed Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee. Photo by Mike McCallister
From Michael Brown in Ferguson to Eric Garner in New York City to Dontre Hamilton in Milwaukee, there is an epidemic of police violence against unarmed black men in the United States. In Wisconsin in recent years, we’ve also seen white men like Michael Bell killed by police, and white vigilantes kill Corey Stingley for shoplifting in suburban Milwaukee.
This systemic pattern of excessive force has caused a sense of fear among blacks even in routine encounters with officers, eroding the trust in law enforcement that is essential to keeping our communities safe. The problem of police brutality is inextricably connected to Wisconsin’s runaway mass incarceration of people of color, showing an urgent need to reform our criminal justice system.
These deaths are preventable. Measures can be taken to solve this problem. Among them include:
Hold truly independent investigations of police killings. Wisconsin law requires independent investigations, but Dontre Hamilton’s killing was investigated by retired Milwaukee detectives—from the same department they were investigating. We call for a new, truly independent investigation of Hamilton’s killing, and for rules to ensure the independence of all future investigations.
A massive overhaul of Wisconsin’s justice system to address problems including: unrestrained police and prosecutorial power, privatization of prisons resulting in economic incentive to lock up more people, racial profiling and policies like “stop and frisk,” “zero tolerance,” as well as mandatory sentencing, which erode judicial discretion.
Establish independent citizen review boards to monitor police behavior, with the power to press charges and issue subpoenas.
Eliminate the sense of impunity that law enforcement officers and vigilantes enjoy when they commit harassment, assault, and extrajudicial killing of blacks. We must put an end to a law enforcement culture where even routine traffic stops turn into incidents of abuse for which police are never investigated and held accountable.
End militarization of local police. Stop training civilian police in military tactics and end provision of military equipment to police departments, which results in actions like SWAT raids for minor violations.
Stop the mass incarceration of people of color. Wisconsin has a higher percentage of black men in prison and parole than any other state. At 12.8 percent, Wisconsin’s incarceration rate for black men is almost double the national rate of 6.7 percent. Wisconsin also incarcerates a higher percentage of its Native American men than any other state.
Every officer should wear a body video camera. While not a complete solution for these systemic problems, the use of body cameras would be a tangible first step to deter abusive behavior by officers.
Legalize marijuana and end the “War on Drugs.” Criminalizing and incarcerating people for victimless crimes, like selling and using marijuana, has needlessly destroyed lives, wasted huge amounts of public money, and fueled organized crime. Systemic racism in the enforcement of “drug war” policies has been a key driver of mass incarceration and worsening relations between law enforcement and communities of color. We call for legalization and regulation of marijuana, and replacement of drug prohibition policies with a harm reduction approach.