The death of George Floyd spurred a nationwide furor that directed torrents of emails, voicemails, Twitter mentions, and public statements to city officials with demands to defund or structurally reform their police departments.
And those petitions are not falling on deaf ears.
The City of Minneapolis, the origin of the most recent outcry, this week announced its plan to disband the police department — a move which its mayor, Jacob Frey, opposes. Such an action would require amending the city charter, which must be approved by a public vote.
Each of those cities and more have received appeals, both formal and informal, to adopt reforms ranging anywhere from prohibiting the use of less-lethal ammunition to redirecting portions of funding toward other community-oriented programs to dismantling the police department entirely.
Fort Worth’s demands, though brief, were pointed.
Listed out by WFAA, they read:
- We demand to defund the police.
- We demand the Fort Worth Independent School District to immediately remove all Fort Worth police officers from our schools.
- We demand the FWISD immediately cease all contracts with the Fort Worth Police Department.
- We demand to the demilitarization of the FWPD. The SRT should no longer have access to militarized gear.
- We demand the creation of a community oversight board (not appointed by the City) with subpoena power.
- We demand the disarmament of police, especially in response to nonviolent offenses.
- We demand a substantial portion of the FWPD budget be allocated to creating mental health response teams, youth homelessness programs, and a young people’s task force on race relations, etc.
The Dallas list includes police-related measures such as discontinuing the department’s partnership with the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); diverting police funding to housing, employment, and other social services counselors; prohibiting firearm use by officers when suspects are unarmed, fleeing, or are armed with non-firearm weapons (including knives); and removing from armed patrol any officer under a use-of-force investigation.
But it doesn’t just stop at police-related demands. The ninth demand is the discharge of every aged-65 or older inmate, any inmate that has tested positive for COVID-19, or any inmate with a health condition that heightens their risk of contracting coronavirus.
San Antonio’s received demands include some more specific provisions such as a minimum payout of $250,000 to the family of any “unarmed civilian…unlawfully killed by police.” A popular demand, echoed in the San Antonio list, has been to end no-knock raids.
A Louisville woman and EMT, Breonna Taylor, was killed in a no-knock raid by police earlier this year based on a dubious connection to two men suspected of dealing drugs that led to the signing of a warrant. Both, it turns out, were already in custody at the time of the raid during which Taylor was killed.
Another specific request is for a monthly forum between citizens and police.
They also request that all current and future police hires be “vetted and polygraphed for racist ideology, and discrimination.”
Other cities like El Paso and Austin have faced calls for overhaul and other reforms.
Spurred by a petition from the Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) to implement a quarter-budget cut to the police department’s funding, the city council will consider a $100 million hash on Thursday. AJC is also calling for the resignation of Police Chief Brian Manley.
A source close to the situation informed The Texan that at least five councilmembers currently support the cut and the mayor’s support would make it six. A simple majority by the 11-person body is required to approve the cut.
The department was already facing a serious staff shortage before these calls for defunding found foothold.
The movement to seriously change police departments in America is sweeping the nation, and the epicenters of these reforms will be large cities. The same holds true for Texas’ biggest cities.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.