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Latinx lawmakers on police reform: Where do they stand?

Though not all leaders agree, these reforms are an attempt to put a system in place that reinforces accountability and moves away from dehumanizing police…

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The murder of  Ahmaund Aubery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more has sparked nationwide protests and demands for justice reform. 

Political leaders and councilmembers throughout the country have been forced to hear the voices of thousands at protests calling for reform and revolution, but many Black and Latinx lawmakers vary across the spectrum of defunding and disbanding the police.

Defunding would mean relocating police funds to other areas of necessity, such as school systems and healthcare. 

Disbanding moves away from local police, and equips people in the community to respond to crises involving mental health and homelessness.

For instance, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) calls for drastic changes. Garcia, who represents the Hispanic Congressional District in Illinois, is pushing legislation centered on dismantling the current system. 

“No single piece of legislation can bring back the countless innocent lives lost or erase the legacy of racism, but we must demand concrete reform to end police brutality and dismantle a racist criminal justice system; and we will, we must make sure that cops fired for violent offenses can never be rehired anywhere,” García told the Chicago Sun Times.

“We need to keep pushing for drastic changes at the federal and local levels to hold them accountable, García tweeted.

However not all Latinx politicians are on the same page. 

Massachusetts state rep . Carlos Gonzalez, chair of the state’s Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, calls for “reprogramming” of police funds rather than defunding. That, he says, is going too far.

“This is not about police officers, this is about a small segment of bad police officers that many good police officers say they would like to get rid of,” Gonzalez said in an interview with WBUR.

Essentially Gonzalez is saying the issues stem from isolated incidents brought-on by a few bad apples. This signals he is not on the same page as the protesters and politicians like García who recognize the systemic racism within local police departments.

These are not isolated incidents. Deadly encounters are a direct result from a history steeped in centuries of violence against people of color. Still, while not sharing the full extent of demands from protesters, Gonzalez is advocating for the passage of four bills in Massachusetts that address the issues at hand.

The first bill would create a special commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to ensure officers are following protocol on police conduct and cultural competency.

The next two bills would create an Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity and a commission to study the systemic presence of institutional racism.

The fourth bill aims at limiting police force, including deadly tactics like chokeholds. The Bay State Banner says it also requires all departments to collect race data on individuals who are subject to police force or arrest. 

Gonzalez’s approach to police brutality issues, while not as severe as defunding the police, is one top democrats in Washington  may be able to echo. 

While Latinx leaders like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez call for dismantling and defunding of police, other politicians think the message is distracting from other issues at hand.

“I think it can be used as a distraction and that’s my concern,” Rep. Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters. “I think the intent behind it is something that I support — the idea that communities need investments.”

Not all Black and Latinx leaders agree, and while not as radical as protesters would like, the nationwide conversation has spurred legislative action. 

Varying in severity, these reforms are an attempt to put in place a system that reinforces accountability and moves away from dehumanizing police tactics. 

 

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