Richmond City Council + Mayor Stoney must enact the Marcus Alert and Civilian Oversight.
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Richmond is grieving and angry at the violent police systems that continue to murder Black and Brown people. We stand with the families and organizers of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many others who have been lost to police violence.
For many of us, this issue hits close to home as we remember the life of Marcus-David Peters and his violent death in May 2018 at the hands of a Richmond Police officer. For over two years, Justice & Reformation and the Richmond Transparency & Accountability Project have worked to seek comprehensive police reform in our city. We’ve received nothing but broken promises. In our grief and rage, we demand change now.
Civilian oversight of the Richmond Police Department (aka a “civilian review board”) would give the community the power to check the police’s behavior, both on an individual officer level and systemically. We have witnessed the tragedies that come with a lack of meaningful oversight, when the police are left to police themselves. We’ve had enough.
We need an independent body composed of our neighbors, with seats specifically reserved for Black and Brown residents, public housing tenants, and those who live in the most policed districts. We need that body to have the power to audit police data and complaints, to identify racial biases and other systemic issues in RPD’s policing, and to proactively recommend policy changes. We need it to have the power to conduct independent investigations of complaints of excessive force and officer misconduct. We believe transparency and accountability are only possible with community access and power around all our public institutions.
The Marcus Alert addresses police training and collaboration with behavioral (mental) health professionals. Currently, all RPD officers receive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) but in a crisis situation, the officers are not mandated to actually use crisis intervention techniques; it is only recommended. Officers are given the discretion to resort to academy training, and potentially lethal force, at any moment in a crisis situation. The Marcus Alert would make the presence of mental health experts / professionals mandatory on calls deemed as crisis or for wellness checks. The Marcus Alert system would also address the CIT training itself, as the training is not aligned with behavioral health practices for de-escalation, nor does it address police accountability. Under the Marcus Alert system, RPD would follow the Department of Behavioral Developmental Disabilities restraint training regulations and be recertified annually with de-escalation and restraint training.
The Marcus Alert would shift the decision making authority during a crisis call to trained mental health professionals. Currently, law enforcement officers decide which de-escalation interventions to use during a crisis. The Marcus Alert proposal would require law enforcement and behavioral health authorities to establish policies that put behavioral health clinicians in charge in these complex situations. Law enforcement may be present to secure the scene and only use non-lethal force if advised by the mental health clinicians. This model recognizes that public health is public safety in times of behavioral health crises.
Richmond demands better for our neighbors, our loved ones, and ourselves. We call for concrete solutions to policing that brutalizes Black and Brown bodies and unjustly destroys lives.
We demand that each Richmond City Councilor, Mayor Stoney, and Chief Smith immediately and publicly express support for both civilian oversight of RPD and the creation of a Marcus Alert in Richmond. We urge that support to be accompanied with the concrete next step each official will personally take to make these long overdue changes a reality. Sign on to tell our officials we will no longer accept empty promises!
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