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Op-Ed: Communities Need a Reset of Policing & The Justice System. But Barr & Trump’s Law Enforcement “Commission” is a Cynical Sham

WLA Guest
Written by WLA Guest

by Miriam Aroni Krinsky and Joe Brann

Under the guise of restoring public confidence in law enforcement, President Trump’s secretive and regressive Commission on Law Enforcement is stacked with old-guard & failed tough-on-crime thinking that precipitated the crisis of confidence we now face.

We are living in a moment in history where the Attorney General of the United States has forsaken blind justice for base politics. Over the past weeks, AG William Barr has declared three major cities “anarchist jurisdictions,” with no supporting evidence, attacked prosecutors who have declined to prosecute peaceful protestors and denied the incontrovertible truth of systemic racism in policing and our justice system.

These are only the latest in a string of troubling actions that highlight not just DOJ’s departure from norms around political neutrality, but DOJ’s bare-knuckled assault on mainstream law enforcement thinking on the need for reform. At the center of those effort’s is the Administration’s secretive and regressive Commission on Law Enforcement, a noninclusive and closed group preparing to release a slate of recommendations on the future of policing.

Addressing these issues in a thoughtful way – and bringing all voices to the table — could not be more timely. In the wake of the failure to charge any officers with Breonna Taylor’s death, communities were again torn apart by grief and protests. Our communities want to transform the criminal legal system and they deserve a transparent, inclusive and honest dialogue and process aimed at advancing that objective.

Sadly, however, a thoughtful assessment of how we rethink policing and our justice system at this fragile moment when trust in government is at an all-time low does not appear to be in the cards with this Presidential Commission. With a racial disparity denier serving as the highest law enforcement official in the nation, it’s no surprise that DOJ is defying and ignoring mainstream thinking on the need for justice reform, countless experts, the respected Task Force on 21st Century policing, and the majority of Americans — all of whom agree on the importance of addressing, rather than denying, racially biased policing.

Against this backdrop, District Attorney John Choi, one of the four DAs chosen to participate in the Administration’s Commission on Law Enforcement, resigned earlier this month due to grave concerns that the Commission wasn’t committed to addressing systemic racism, but instead is providing cover for a “predetermined agenda.” This came shortly before a federal court heard a challenge by the NAACP to the legality of the Commission’s composition and process. Seventy-six law enforcement leaders joined in an amicus brief supporting that challenge, noting that the Commission’s “flawed process … is the last thing a nation in crisis needs.”

Under the guise of restoring public confidence in law enforcement, the Commission is stacked with old-guard failed tough-on-crime thinking that precipitated the crisis of confidence we now face. Instead of addressing the erosion of trust within communities of color, the “Respect for Law Enforcement” working group was charged with examining “under-enforcement of the criminal law in certain jurisdictions” – with no recognition of over-enforcement in too many communities. Missing from the working groups’ charge is any mention of constitutional or civil rights, police accountability, or racial disparities.

After decades of policing that too often ignores or glorifies violence, we are facing a moral imperative to reshape law enforcement in this country. From our combined 70-plus years working on criminal justice and policing reforms, we know well the deadly and destructive consequences of over-policing communities of color and police departments gone bad. We have seen those tragedies play out in California and elsewhere. And now our country is reckoning with this shameful reality following the murders of Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Jr., Breonna Taylor, and countless others.

Despite what we hear from the Attorney General, racial bias in law enforcement is ever-present in police shootings, disparate arrests, and over-enforcement of laws in Black and Brown communities. Across the country, Black and Hispanic adults are respectively 5.6 and 2.5 more likely to be incarcerated than white adults. One in four Black children will have their fathers incarcerated before age 14, versus just 4 percent of white children.

The solution to these problems is a fundamental reset of the justice system led by community. That is why the amicus brief filed by prosecution and law enforcement leaders challenging the Commission’s legality stressed: “As communities rise up in protest against racial injustice and demand that we reimagine policing and the criminal justice system, it is a foolhardy exercise to do so without their input.”

And yet, the community didn’t even have a seat at the Commission’s table. Glaringly absent from the Commission’s roster or 17 working groups were community leaders, directly impacted individuals, civil rights experts, and defenders. Yet these are the voices calling for a reset of the justice system and a dramatic reduction in the role of police in responding to homelessness, mental illness, and substance use.

That consensus is supported by evidence that too often incarceration doesn’t make us safer. Thirty-five states have seen decreases in both incarceration and crime – and the crime decreases were greater in states with the largest reductions in imprisonment. Indeed, studies increasingly confirm that needlessly incarcerating people can increase recidivism and harm communities.

But neither the AG nor his Commission seem concerned with data, or with listening to those urging transformation of our justice system. Instead they seem intent on furthering continued attacks on reform-minded prosecutors and catering to police unions and others opposing transparency and accountability among the ranks of policing.

The unrelenting videos exposing the brutality and devaluing of communities of color by law enforcement are likely to continue, as will the protests and growing chorus demanding a reimagining of our justice system. Those heartfelt pleas cannot be ignored. We must welcome and fully engage our community as co-producers of public safety – or prepare for a future that holds further divisiveness and suffering.


Joe Brann is the retired Chief of Police in Hayward, California and founding director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in the U.S. Department of Justice and currently serves as a police reform expert assisting police departments nationwide with reform and culture change.

Miriam Aroni Krinsky is a former federal prosecutor and spent five years working on reform of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, including as Executive Director of the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence and Special Advisor to the former LA Sheriff; she is currently the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a national network of elected prosecutors working towards common-sense, compassionate criminal justice reforms.


This essay originally appeared in The Appeal, a nonprofit criminal justice news site.   If you haven’t yet checked out The Appeal, do it now.  You won’t be sorry!

12 Comments

  • Just admit what you liberals really want – complete lawlessness, police defunded to the point of complete ineffectiveness, and your pet minorities let out of jail.

    What’s the end game to that? You already saw what happens in a power vacuum in CHAZ/CHOP. It’s Lord of the Flies.

    Libs, are you sure you want this? Like that mural that’s so popular says, “Liberals get the bullet too.”

  • Let me guess. You think Gascon would be fantastic huh. Who is going to clean up all the poop in the streets?

  • No supporting evidence of anarchist jurisdictions???
    My God….are you blind?’
    How many days of lawlessness in Portland is it now?
    They have the means and tools to suppress it but they don’t…putting lives at risk every night.
    If that’s not evidence….the number of brain dead people lining up to write nonsense for Celeste is astounding.

  • The hater of America, George Soros, has given another million toward Jorge Gascon, the socialist liar in the DA race. The coward Garcetti has given his endorsement. As if any real voter cares about Garcetti! If you want more crime(it’s on the rise especially violent crime) more Domestic Violence, crap on the streets, Car Jacks, Rapes and a total breakdown of society then vote for the butt boy Gascon. Once again(C) WLA Guest is BS! Doesn’t Soros support WLA?

    We are on a bad road and if we continue we know the result. History has shown us that lies can only exist in a free society, as ours. In the socialist lies of the current Dem party it will outlaw the very idea of self determination. Individual effort will no longer be recognized. The bigger the government the smaller the citizen (not my words)and we are getting smaller by the day.
    Perhaps the biggest failure of government is education connected to Cultural Literacy. One small example of millions all over America: One day a professor of Latin was informing his students that Latin had been lost and that it was no longer spoken. One student raised her hand and demanded to know “what language to the people in Latin America speak?” Our kids can no longer compete with the demands that our present STEM demands.
    Well, perhaps we can give a Cum Laude to every graduate in order to pick up fecal matter in San Francisco?

  • “Failed tough on crime thinking that precipitated the crisis we now face”. That “tough on crime” thinking yielded the lowest crime rates ever seen, I’d hardly call that a failure. This “crisis” is a manufactured top down movement, and it’s already leading to higher crime rates. (somewhat still obscured, as the “tough on crime” thinking pushed the crime rates so low in the first place.)

    This has nothing to do with “communities” at least not the communities the writers of this propaganda are pretending to care about. They’re just trying to get their hands on as much government power and money as they can.

    It’s always interesting to check the bottom paragraph of witness la’s stories. Everyone of these guest writers always belong to some organization like “fair and just prosecution” (ms. Krinsky) or like joe Braun, have some phony baloney “police reform” scam going. Stock market brokers call this type of self promotion “talking your book”.

  • Who says it’s a sham, by what and by whose yardstick are you measuring and yours is just an opinion, so why should one be persuaded you know any better than the Attorney General of the United States of America. The arrogance, nerve and pretentiousness of these “opininion piece” so called penny article writers, tabloid journalist, “scholars for hire” and YouTube political wannabees to think they have all the answers and know more than many people much smarter, more educated and with a real list of actual accomplishments is sickening. I’m glad Attorney General Robert Kennedy had a mind of his own and enforced Federal Law when it came to Civil Rights for Black folks in the south. None of this stuff about state and local politciand ignoring and doing legal work arounds to flout the law of the land.

    Just more of the same propagandist driven opinion piece articles that get WLS awards for investigative fiction.

  • Celeste, I am extremely appalled beyond any reasonable shred of cerebral sense! How is it that these so called journalists (Miriam Aroni Krinsky and Joe Brann), are allowed to write such an ignorant, baseless, biased article, which reeks of common sense?

    It is painfully obvious that not only is the MSM getting their talking points, before they air all the BS. But, it is also evident that this has also trickled down to the low level, so called journalists. Somebody is yanking your chain and has a complete hold over you.

    Even a blind individual can see what is transpiring! I would presume that all of the mayhem, destruction of property, assaults on LEO’s and so forth are figments of our imagination? Especially, if one is conservative in nature? I would surmise that those with a differing opinion, are suffering from that dreaded disease of Liberalism / Progressivism? Which is being promulgated by TDS or the Orange Man Bad syndrome.

    INFUCKINGCREDIBLE!

  • Another liberal white female, Miriam, calling all of us for out for our support of systemic racism. Unfair and baseless attacks on the men and women of law enforcement with no real personal experience. Many of the large cities implemented the recommendations of the Commission on 21st Century Policing and their Chiefs of Police were true believers. Look at those cities. Riots, looting, violence…. maybe another perspective suppressed under Obama is exactly what is needed. But to use the logic of the left. As a white woman, you have no lived experience… so how about you shut up!

    • “…So how about you shut up!”

      Right!!

      In the country my wife comes from Journalists like that would simply disappear–never to be seen again.

      Ever.

      Then

      Quietude.

  • “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.” (Childhood Disrupted, pg.228).
    Unhindered abuse and neglect typically launches a helpless child towards an adolescence and adulthood in which their brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines.
    And, of course, a life of dysfunctionality and crime can more easily ensue.

  • Editor’s Note:

    Dear Legal Alchemist,

    You’re very articulate, and you’re a good storyteller, but being an attorney you’re likely familiar with libel laws. So you’ll understand why I spiked your most recent novella-length comment. Oh, and the wall-to-wall, slightly murderous hate spewing — which featured a variety of terms for parts of women’s bodies –didn’t really help either.

    Thanks in advance for your future co-operation.

    C.

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