Black conservative leaders are finding common ground with their liberal counterparts on a host of police reform policies in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, including de-escalation tactics, ending civil assets forfeiture and holding bad officers accountable.
“Four people for one person is ridiculous,” said Marie Fischer, a member of the black conservative group Project 21, referring to the number of officers who helped restrain Mr. Floyd while one of them knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25. “And they stopped him all for a counterfeit $20 bill?”
Liberal and conservative black leaders are beginning to coalesce around similar ideas in the wake of high-profile police killings of unarmed black males.
“Unusual coalitions are emerging,” Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, said Monday in a phone call with reporters hosted by leading civil rights groups. “We have a nation where you’re seeing more receptivity to ideas that just four or five years ago would see [Republican] resistance.”
At the center of this dovetailing are two documents from partisan opponents: the “21st Century Policing Report” written by a task force convened by President Obama and Project 21’s “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America.”
The documents reflect ideological differences in the role of faith leaders, LGBTQ inclusivity and other topics.
But both support the “broken windows” community policing approach implemented in New York City in the 1990s and encourage the development of police tactics for people with disabilities and increasing data on effective strategies.
Both also encourage ending civil assets forfeiture: the taking of private property by law enforcement during the course of an investigation.
“Law enforcement agencies have become too focused on revenue-generating activities,” Project 21’s “Blueprint” says.
The organization cites a study from the Nevada Policy Research Institute showing that two-thirds of assets seized by police in 2016 were concentrated in 12 ZIP codes, all with mostly nonwhite populations.
“In some communities, tickets, fines, fees, and asset forfeitures generated by arrests contribute to a significant portion of revenue and law enforcement budgets,” the “21st Century Policing Report” says.
Several black liberals called Monday for a variety of reforms, including a national registry of police officers to prevent repeat offenders from moving to different departments and a federal statute to lower the threshold for prosecuting officers who use lethal force, otherwise known as the “doctrine of qualified immunity.”
“The way the laws are written now, they can justify choking a man to death … because they are not required to prove that there was no other way to de-escalate a situation,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network.
Mr. Booker pointed to deals with Republicans that led to the 2018 bipartisan criminal justice reform package, signed by President Trump that overhauled prison and sentencing laws that historically had been harsh on blacks.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, condemned the rioting and looting that erupted after Mr. Floyd’s death. But he also has called for reform and repeated criticisms of racial profiling and unequal treatment of blacks.
“There’s too much abuse within law enforcement towards African American men,” Mr. Scott told “Fox News Sunday.” “I have been a victim seven times — stopped in one year — as an elected official, just driving while black.”
Black conservatives and liberals were united in criticizing the violence and destruction emerging in protests over Mr. Floyd’s death and said justice should be found in the courts.
“The officers who killed George Floyd will be tried and judged by a jury of their peers,” Stacy Washington, co-chair of Project 21, said Monday. “That is the system of justice that we have and cherish here in America.”
Project 21’s Ms. Fischer and Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, echoed that sentiment. She said the incidents in Minneapolis show a need to go beyond anti-racism training for police officers.
Ms. Fischer said “there doesn’t need to be a lot of police training” to know not to kneel on a person’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
“We’re not talking about training individual officers anymore,” said Ms. Ifill. “There’s no training that’s going to train that officer [who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck].”
The Rainbow/PUSH and the Congress for Racial Equality did not respond to requests for comment.