Steve Kerr joined Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Andrew McCutchen to co-author an op-ed offering concrete solutions to address some of the problems raised by protesters across the country.
To achieve a more equitable justice system for people of color, the op-ed says police need to be held accountable for their actions.
“When these killings occur, we tweet, we write letters, we make videos demanding accountability,” Kerr et al. said. “We protest and we vow to change hearts and minds so that our young men can run through the streets without fear.
“And soon after, we see another officer kill a black person, usually a man, and usually without consequence. Where, we wonder, is the ‘accountability’ allegedly so important when it comes to arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating young people of color?”
The problem, Kerr et al. say, is that police supervisors simply don’t have the power to take away a bad officer’s badge.
“Among the greatest obstacles to cleaning up our police departments are police union contracts, which hamstring officials’ ability to fire officers who engage in bad and even deadly behavior,” Kerr et al. said. “Those contracts, nearly always negotiated behind closed doors, have clauses that determine how misbehavior may be disciplined. Many contracts prevent departments from investigating reports made by anonymous civilians. They allow officers accused of serious misconduct to review the complaint and the evidence before making statements to investigators, ensuring that they can craft their story to best explain whatever the evidence will show...
“In the rare case that a department pursues disciplinary action, many contracts require arbitration, which almost always results in reduced sanctions. In a survey of data compiled from 37 police departments in 2017, The Washington Post found that of 1,881 officers fired since 2006, 451 appealed and received their jobs back — nearly 25%.”
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The op-ed says these contracts are renegotiated every few years, so if you’d like them to change it’s not hopeless.
“In Philadelphia, for example, the mayor renegotiates the police union contract next year. In Minneapolis, it is renegotiated every three years and is in negotiations now. We must demand that our elected officials remove terms explicitly designed to protect officers from investigation and discipline if we are going to have accountability and safety.”
The second suggestion the op-ed makes is doing away with “qualified immunity” for cops, which protects them “from legal liability for even the most outrageous conduct,” unless a legal precedent has been set with “basically identical facts.”
They elaborate by saying “qualified immunity” can be used to protect cops from wide-ranging accusations.
“One court, for example, found an officer had qualified immunity after he let his dog maul a homeless man,” Kerr et al. said. “In another case, officers who tried to steal $225,000 while on the job received immunity.”
Again, the heart of the matter for Kerr, Popovich, Boldin, Davis and McCutchen is accountability.
“Citizens face consequences for breaking the law and harming others; our government should make sure officers are no different.”
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