The details are always a little different, but the results are all too often the same: police officers confront a Black man for nothing much at all, and the Black man ends up dead. The officers go about their jobs and living their lives. This is how Daniel Prude died in March.
This time it was in Rochester, NY. This time he was mentally ill and experiencing distress. This time his brother called the cops, hoping against hope for help from them. This time it was in the middle of the street. This time there were seven police officers. This time no one knew about it until many months later. This time it was death by asphyxiation. The details differ but the end is too often the same: a lifeless Black body. A murder.
When will this stop? After millions of people around the country—indeed, around the world—took to the streets for over a month to protest the police murder of George Floyd, what has to happen before police officers stop killing Black men and women? What exactly do we have to do to stop these brutal murders?!
We are sick and tired of seeing Black men and women brutalized by police in our streets. We are sick and tired of police officers murdering Black people and getting away with it. And we are sick and tired of not having our voices heard, often even by our supposed progressive political leaders who talk about reform and then fight every effort at genuine institutional change.
It is long past time for reform in police training, in police hiring practices, and in police funding. It is time to dedicate a large and irreversible percentage of police funding to mental health needs and responsiveness. And it is time to put racist murderous cops behind bars each and every time an innocent Black person is killed. We have a systemic problem that calls for systemic solutions. Among several possible reforms, we call for immediate:
- Defunding of police department budgets with those resources being diverted to immediate social needs at the local level
- Rigorous anti-racism training for all police officers
- Increased funding for mental health care, including for public responders
- Requirements that trained medical and mental health professionals act as first responders to medical calls.
Police are clearly not equipped to respond to mental health crises. Communities across the country have been relying on untrained, often violent police officers to respond to medical emergencies, mental health crises, minor disputes, and other situations where trained health professionals such as social workers would be much more likely to resolve matters peacefully, without resorting to violence.
We have seen far too many Black people who need care and compassion be murdered by police out of fear, ignorance, and racism. It is time for systemic change. The time is now.