The following editorial is written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today
WASHINGTON, DC- This is the first in a series of articles examining the Biden-Sanders “Unity Task Force Recommendations,” which serves as the Democrat “platform” for the upcoming November elections.
We will start out with the criminal justice recommendations since Law Enforcement Today’s core audience is individuals associated with law enforcement. We feel it is important for our brothers and sisters in the criminal justice system to be aware of the implications a Biden presidency would have on criminal justice and our profession.
Make no mistake about it…the Democrat party platform where it concerns criminal justice would have a profound effect on our profession. If you like what has been going on in cities such as Portland, Seattle, Chicago, New York and recently Kenosha, you will love this. The information presented is taken directly from the Biden campaign website, and are recommendations made by the so-called “Unity Task Force” between the Biden campaign and Bernie Sanders. It’s a hoot.
Use of Force Guidelines:
Would create a national use of force standard, which would limit deadly force “only when ‘necessary’ and as a last resort to protect against an imminent threat to life. Law enforcement agencies would be subject to an executive order requiring police agencies adhere to these standards. The receipt of federal grants would be contingent upon adopting this standard at the state and local level.
Ban Chokeholds: would prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, to include chokeholds and carotid holds; such use of force would constitute a federal civil rights violation and would condition the receipt of federal JAG grants on banning such force.
Asset Forfeiture: restrict the conditions under which property can be seized by the government
Non-Police Responses: would create federal funding to create a civilian corps of unarmed first responders such as social workers, EMT’s and trained mental health professionals, who would handle “non-violent” emergencies such as order maintenance violations (i.e. protective/restraining orders), mental health emergencies and “low-level conflicts” outside the criminal justice system. They would also have substance abuse experts, social workers and disability advocates respond to calls with police officers do “better de-escalate interactions with citizens.” What could possibly go wrong with either of these concepts?
Police Hiring and Diversity: think affirmative action for hiring of police, which would prioritize the recruitment, hiring and retention of police candidates so that police departments “reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.” Not the best qualified, the ones who meet certain demographics.
Weapons of War: prevent the transfer of surplus military equipment to police departments
Body Cameras: support the continued use of body cameras, but make sure if it shows bad guys doing something wrong it “protects civil rights and personal privacy.”
Law Enforcement Oversight
Oversight of Police Practices: Create a “national police systems review commission” to look for “systems failure.” In other words, another government bureaucracy.
Qualified Immunity: “Reign in” (in other words, eliminate) the doctrine of qualified immunity
Civil Rights Prosecutions: Lower the evidentiary intent standard for prosecuting law enforcement officials under U.S.C. § 242.
Immigration Enforcement: Reverse the use of 287(g) and similar programs that force local law enforcement to cooperate with immigration enforcement, ending all agreements entered into by the Trump Administration.
Task Force on Prosecutorial Discretion: Create a new task force, outside of the U.S. Department of Justice to make recommendations for tackling discrimination and other problems in the criminal justice system that result from arrest and charging decisions.
Federal Prosecutorial Guidelines: End the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” immigration enforcement policy by rescinding the Department of Justice (DOJ) memoranda.
Appointing Prosecutors: Appoint people committed to criminal justice reform to key prosecutorial positions, including AG, DAG, and U.S. Attorneys.
Restorative Justice: Launch a federal restorative justice program and fund pilots in the states.
Support Progressive Prosecutors: Support new state prosecutors through funding and technical support in their efforts to ensure public safety while reducing incarceration.
Public Defense, Pretrial Release, Bail, Fines & Fees
End Cash Bail: Enough said.
End the Criminalization of Poverty: Prohibit federal funding to any state or local jurisdiction that incarcerates for failure to pay fines or fees or suspends driver’s licenses for any reason unrelated to public safety, such as the inability to pay fines or fees or child support.
Right to Counsel: Invest in public defenders’ offices
Public Defender Salaries: Address funding and salary parity between public defenders and prosecutors
Pretrial Detention: Reduce pretrial detention rates and prohibit “risk assessment tools” that carry bias.
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Fair Sentencing & Reducing Incarceration
Marijuana: Automatically expunge all past marijuana convictions for use and possession. Encourage states to invest tax revenue from legal marijuana industries to repair damage to black and brown communities hit hardest by incarceration.
Death Penalties: Abolish the death penalty at the federal level; incentivize states to do the same thing.
Mandatory Minimums: Fight to repeal mandatory minimums at the federal level and give states incentives to repeal their mandatory minimums.
Retroactive Reforms: Make all sentencing reforms retroactive.
Clemency Board: Establish an independent clemency board.
Appointments: Appoint federal judges who have demonstrated a commitment to criminal justice reform, and who have diverse backgrounds and experiences, including as public defenders, legal aid attorneys and civil rights lawyers.
Private Prisons & Detention Centers: End the use of private prisons and detention centers, including for immigration offenses.
Solitary Confinement: End solitary confinement in all but rare, exceptional cases.
Educational Opportunities: Expand funding for the opportunity to pursue education and skills training (learn to read, earn a GED, pursue a college degree, or learn a new trade) during and after incarceration.
Bureau of Prisons Oversight: Create a Bureau of Prisons ombudsman for people who are incarcerated and their families to make complaints and get prompt redress.
Prison Closures: Incentivize jail and prison closures as populations decline. Ensure the resources saved are invested directly into those communities that have been most impacted by mass incarceration.
Prison Workers: Abolish forced and exploitative labor in prison; ensure enforcement of health and safety laws (i.e. OSHA for prisoners).
Rehabilitation and Reentry
Removing Barriers to Reentry: Remove restrictions on access to public housing, employment, occupational licenses, driver’s licenses and public benefits. Expungement and sealing of convictions.
Housing: Ensure 100% of formerly incarcerated individuals have housing upon reentry. Direct HUD to only contract with entities open to housing reentrants.
Driving Privileges: Wipe out outstanding traffic fines that would prevent reentrants from obtaining a license, if they have been incarcerated for six months or longer (but not for serious driving violations).
Pell Grants: Reinstate Pell Grant eligibility for previously incarcerated individuals.
Voting Rights: Restore the right to vote for all formerly incarcerated individuals.
Juvenile Justice Reform
Expungement: Condition the receipt of federal funds on the automatic expungement and sealing of juvenile records (no matter what the underlying offense).
Juvenile Courts: Incentivize states to raise the minimum age at which an individual may be tried in adult court. Encourage the establishment and use of juvenile courts.
Juvenile Sentencing Reform: Abolish life without parole for juveniles (no matter the underlying offense).
So, there you have it. And this is only the criminal justice reform portion of the Biden/Sanders Unity Task Force manifesto.
We don’t know about you but from a law enforcement perspective, there is not a lot in there to like if you are a police officer, sheriff, corrections officer or for that matter anyone who works in law enforcement in general.
Clearly these proposals were not made in concert with people who actually work in law enforcement. Is there room for compromise on some of these proposals? Absolutely. But it is clear that these proposals come from the standpoint of taking care of offenders and tying the hands of cops.
We urge our brother and sister law enforcement officers and officials to please consider the above when you vote on November 3.
Part II of our series will publish later this week.
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