Law Prof Insists Protecting Civil Rights While Reducing Community Violence Not Mutually Exclusive 

William & Mary School of Law via wikipedia

By Vaiva Utaraite

WILLIAMSBURG,, VA – The “goals of reducing community violence and protecting the civil rights of those who live in our most vulnerable are not mutually exclusive,” according to Kami Chavis, a professor of law and director of the Center for Criminal Justice Policy and Reform at the William & Mary School of Law, in reference to the killing of Tyre Nichols by police.

Noting 2022 was marked as the “deadliest year for police violence,” Chavis said “No other western nation has the number of police-related deaths in custody as the United States.”

“Violence in America was a prominent theme as President Biden’s State of the Union address followed the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols…the president spoke forcefully against the surge in gun violence and other violent crime,” writes Chavis, adding “combating violent crime has been used nationwide to justify the creation of specialized units and aggressive policing tactics, both of which led directly to Nichols’ senseless death.”

Chavis said policymakers are constantly addressing the issue of police violence in the nation, but their most often-used strategies are to increase the number of police officers in communities. Specifically, they focus on communities that are most impacted by violent crimes, which are dominantly African American.

Chavis stated that “while many residents of communities acutely impacted by violence want to be safe, they do not want to be deemed a suspect as they go about routine tasks in their daily lives.”

Chavis argued community policing methods often involve random stops and make the citizens of a community feel as though they are being watched with the utmost scrutiny and suspicion, even though they are the victims of the violence.

The aspect of “hot spot policing” makes the officers feel as though they should remain on high alert at all times, encouraging and necessitating violence at the smallest infractions, said Chavis, adding, “Such ineffective tactics come not only at the expense of the individual’s dignity, but impact the relationship with the entire community these officers purport to serve.”

Since taking office, Chavis observes, President Biden has employed a number of tools that aim to mend the bond between community policing and the community itself, targeting the police departments where “high-profile police-related deaths” happened.

He noted that when the U.S. Senate refused to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act “which included sweeping changes such as limiting certain uses of force, requiring data collection, and banning racial profiling,”  Biden signed an Executive Order on the federal level.

“These federal measures are important and can provide a blueprint of best practices and standards that local law enforcement agencies can use to address crime and hold officers accountable when they violate departmental policies, local and state laws, and the U.S. Constitution,” said Chavis, admitting it is unlikely that Congress will pass this bill at the national level, leaving it up to local and state jurisdictions.

Chavis wrote that while Nichols’ death prompted the Memphis Police Department to call on the Department of Justice for help in reforming its policies, “The DOJ does not have the resources to review every department, [but] departments should not wait until the next tragic death to assess tactics most know are violent and ineffective.”

Chavis insists police departments do not have to wait and rely on a bill to be passed at the national level in order for reform to take place, that there are plenty of reports and federal investigations to guide departments in taking the necessary steps to ensure that police violence does not stay as a norm in the country and “Doing so might mean at least one less American family will be forced to bid farewell to their loved one too soon.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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