Bernie Sanders has made waves across social media and news sites this week after unveiling his plans to decriminalize marijuana use.
The presidential hopeful went far beyond his Democrat competitors and has committed himself to legalizing marijuana use via executive order within the first 100 days of his presidency. While the legalization of marijuana has become more mainstream in the past few years, Sanders’ next steps go far beyond what any states have adopted.
Bernie Sanders announced on Thursday that he not only intends to legalize marijuana, but will review and even reverse marijuana convictions. He claims on his official campaign website proudly boasts:
“All past convictions will be expunged.”
His website recognizes California as the standard to follow and states that anyone currently incarcerated on marijuana convictions will be resentenced.
Additionally, he plans to invest billions of dollars into communities which he feels have been most impacted by the past administrations’ efforts to curb drug use. He vows to invest $20 BILLION dollars in urban communities which he feels have been victims of the war on drugs.
He states this grant money will be reserved exclusively for people of color, as opposed to any individual regardless of racial background hailing from an impacted community.
On top of that, Bernie plans to spend an additional $10 BILLION dollars establishing a grant program through the USDA to educate and grant access to weed farming opportunities to those who have had previous marijuana convictions or come from adversely impacted communities.
Also, Bernie’s platform further states that:
“Corporations and police departments rake in billions in fines and fees from disadvantaged communities.”
Therefore, he will eradicate the practice of posting bail for future offenders of crimes not even related to marijuana use.
What do Bernie’s plans mean for law enforcement? While his website gives a brief statement of appreciation towards law enforcement, detailed outlines for future plans under the possible Sanders administration tell a different story.
While Sanders initially expressed empathy for law enforcement officers and cited the heavy burden on departments, he reserved some stinging words for those currently tasked with upholding the sentences passed down from the courts. He says on his official website:
“No more private prisons and detention centers. No more profiteering from locking people up. No more “war on drugs.” No more keeping people in jail because they’re too poor to afford cash bail.”
He further alludes that the high rate of incarceration among minorities is solely due to racism, citing no other reason. His website claims:
“Due to the historical legacy of institutional racism in this country, mass incarceration disproportionately falls on the shoulders of black and brown people in America… Black Americans, and especially young black men, are more likely to be stopped by the police, subjected to excessive force, arrested, and jailed than whites. When Bernie is president, we will finally make the deep and structural investments to rebuild the communities that mass incarceration continues to decimate.”
Sanders further claims that:
“All too often, people with disabilities, especially people of color with disabilities, face violence from law enforcement.”
He continues to state that under his administration:
“We must hold our police and sheriff’s departments to a higher standard… use of excessive force, including deadly shootings of unarmed civilians, undermine the integrity of and public trust in the police. Violence and brutality of any kind, particularly at the hands of the police meant to protect and serve our communities, must not be tolerated.”
So, while Bernie plans to reverse sentences for those already convicted of breaking our current laws, he slanders the men and women of law enforcement who have served to make our communities safer and worked tirelessly to keep drugs off of our streets.
Despite the increase in more minority police officers in America and unprecedented training within departments, Sanders’ platform openly labels law enforcement as racist and brutal. Meanwhile, in Sanders’ America, convicted offenders will be released and billions in funding will be spent on empowering urban communities to grow and distribute marijuana.
Over the weekend, Sanders made his feelings about law enforcement perfectly clear. That’s when he and another Democratic presidential candidates attacked police officers nationwide as being racist on Saturday at the Second Step Presidential Justice Forum.
Video surfaced shortly after the event that should have every police officer thinking twice about which candidate they’ll be supporting in the 2020 election.
At the event, a black student asked Sanders how he should handle getting pulled over by a cop.
.@BernieSanders to black student on how to handle getting pulled over by the police: “Identify who the police officer is – respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”
— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) October 26, 2019
“Respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head.”
The question-and-answer session took place at the forum at Benedict College, which is a historically black college.
The student posed to Sanders:
“If I’m your son, what advice would you give me next time I’m pulled over by a police officer?”
Sanders said to identify the police officer “in a polite way.”
“I would respect what they are doing so that you don’t get shot in the back of the head, but I would also be very mindful of the fact that as a nation, we have got to hold police officers accountable for the actions that they commit,” he said.
And make sure it’s being recorded, he said.
“I would be very cautious if you were my son in terms of dealing with that police officer, but I would also defend my rights and know my rights and make sure if possible that police officer’s camera is on what goes on.”
According to CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell, the question seemed to “stump” Sanders and he struggled to answer it, ultimately not getting much applause or crowd approval when he did, she said.
Later in the forum, former Vice President Joe Biden was asked a similar question by a black female student.
“If you were my daughter, you’d be a Caucasian girl and you wouldn’t be pulled over,” Biden said. “That’s what’s wrong.”
Biden double down by tweeting out a clip of his answer, letting America know that cops are racist and he’ll put an end to it.
“Institutional racism should no longer exist. As president, I’ll put forward change to help put an end to it,” he said in the clip.
Institutional racism should no longer exist. As president, I'll put forward change to help put an end to it. pic.twitter.com/DQtPzGIfNq
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 27, 2019
Sanders came under attack for his response.
One of those people coming after him was Morehouse College adjunct professor David Dennis Jr., who said:
“Bernie Sanders does not understand race in America.”
Unlike Biden, Sanders didn’t post his reponse on Twitter… instead sharing a clip of him commenting on the criminal justice system.
“If you are wealthy and powerful, or maybe the president, you are above the law. But if you are poor, if you’re black, if you’re Hispanic, it’s a different story,” he said in the clip.
If you are wealthy and powerful, or maybe the president, you are above the law. But if you are poor, if you're Black, if you're Hispanic, it's a different story. Maybe I'm old fashioned but I happen to believe in equal justice for all people. pic.twitter.com/GLLgI3KBVc
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 27, 2019
Sanders hasn’t held back on his feelings about law enforcement recently.
His campaign has hired those in the country illegally and flaunted it. He’s against the use of private prisons, a war on drugs, the death penalty and, well, police. Why? Because they’re all racist, he insinuates.
The policing of minority communities is a “huge issue“, he says.
“We are beginning to pay attention to what happened in South Carolina, what happened in Baltimore, what happened in New York,” Sanders said. “Clearly we do need police reform, we need better training. When police officers break the law they have got to be held accountable. It is no longer acceptable to turn away from that reality.”
He’s demanding “major police reform”. Here’s some more on his police perspectives.
Bernie Sanders: The Way The Justice System Treats Black Men and Women Is A National Disgrace
The African-American situation with regard to criminal justice was a national disgrace. Jails from coast to coast were filled with African-Americans, many of whom lacked decent education or job skills appropriate for the twenty-first century. Unbelievably, if present trends continued, one out of four black males born today would end up in jail.
During the campaign, I met frequently with members of the Black Lives Matter movement. This loosely knit organization was successfully educating the nation that in many black communities the police were not there protecting the people, but intimidating them.
And time and time again, tragically, cell phone video cameras were recording horrific examples of extreme police brutality, the taking of innocent lives by overly aggressive police action.
There was no question that, as a nation, we had made great advances in civil rights. But there was also no doubt in my mind that much, much more needed to be done.
Bernie Sanders: Black Lives Matter Nails It On Police Brutality
[It’s time to] end the absurdity of the US having more people in jail than any other country on earth. As the Black Lives Matter movement was pointing out, there were too many victims.
Many American, and not just African-Americans and Latinos, are becoming increasingly outraged by police brutality. They are rightfully tired of turning on the television and seeing videos of unarmed blacks being shot & killed by police officers. They want criminal justice reform. They want police department reform. And I agree.
The vast majority of police officers are honest and hardworking. But when a police officer breaks the law, that officer must be held accountable. Further, police officers must be trained to understand that lethal force is the last response, not, as is too often the case, the first response.
I promised that I would make sure that all killings that took place when people were in police custody or being arrested would prompt a Department of Justice investigation.
Bernie Sanders: Fix The Police And You Fight Racism
In the U.S. today we have more people in jail than any other country on earth. We are spending $80 billion a year to lock up 2.2 million Americans, disproportionately African-American, Latino, and Native American. To my mind, it makes a lot more sense to invest in education and jobs than in jails and incarceration. It’s time for real criminal justice reform.
Among many other struggles we must engage in to combat racism in this country, we must stop police brutality and the killing of unarmed African-Americans. This has emerged as one of the great civil rights issue of the early twenty-first century.
Too many African-Americans and other minorities find themselves subjected to a system that treats citizens who have not committed crimes like criminals. Because of over-policing in minority communities and racial profiling, African-Americans are twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police than whites.
Bernie Sanders: Train Police To De-escalate Lethal Force
We must come together with a sense of shared purpose and demand policies to transform this country into a nation that affirms the value of all our people, regardless of race, income, or national origin. We need a criminal justice system that not only protects our people from crime, but is based on justice for all, nondiscriminatory policies, and the understanding that the prevention of crime is a much worthier approach than punishment.
We must reexamine honestly how we police America, and the federal government can play an important role in establishing a new model police training program that reorients us in the way we do law enforcement. First and foremost, we must develop new rules on the allowable use of force.
Police officers need to be trained to de-escalate confrontations and to humanely interact with people, especially people who have mental illnesses. Lethal force should be the last response, not the first.
Bernie Sanders: Get Rid Of The Death Penalty
It is long past time for the United States of America to join almost every other advanced country on earth in abolishing the death penalty.
The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. It is applied disproportionately to people of color. It has been proven to not deter violent crime.
The inevitable endless judicial appeals tie up the courts for years, at the taxpayer’s expense. And far too many people are now thought, after they were put to death by the state, to have been innocent.
Bernie Sanders Buddies Up With Hillary Clinton On Police Reform
Hillary Clinton: We have to restore policing that will actually protect the communities that police officers are sworn to protect. But, I would also add this. There are other racial discrepancies.
Really systemic racism in this state, as in others, education, in employment, in the kinds of factors that too often lead from a position where young people, particularly young men, are pushed out of school early, are denied employment opportunities. So, when we talk about criminal justice reform and ending the era of mass incarceration, we also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities.
Bernie Sanders: We need fundamental police reform. I would hope that we could all agree that we are sick and tired of seeing videos on television of unarmed people, often African-Americans, shot by police officers.
Bernie Sanders: Police Bust More Black Men And Women
What we have to do is end over-policing in African- American neighborhoods. The African-American community and the white community do marijuana at about equal rates.
The reality is four times as many blacks get arrested for marijuana. Far more blacks get stopped for traffic violations.
We need fundamental police reform when we talk about a criminal justice system. What we have got to do is make it clear that any police officer who breaks the law will be held accountable.
Bernie Sanders: De-militarize Police And Investigate Them
Question: I believe there’s a huge conflict of interest when local prosecutors investigate cases of police violence within their communities. Most recently, we saw this with a non-indictment of the officers involved in the case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. How would you presidency ensure incidents of police violence are investigated and prosecuted fairly?
Bernie Sanders: This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved:
- Whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. attorney general’s investigation.
- Second of all, if a police officer breaks the law, like any public official, that officer must be held accountable.
- And thirdly, we have got to de-militarize our police departments so they don’t look like occupying armies. We’ve got to move toward community policing.
- And fourthly, we have got to make our police departments look like the communities they serve in their diversity.
Bernie Sanders: Police Are Part Of Institutional Racism
Today we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic. We are spending $80 billion a year locking up Americans. I think we need a major effort to come together and end institutional racism.
We need major reforms of a broken criminal justice system. What does that mean? Well, for a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans.
Bernie Sanders: Police Are Jailing And Killing Blacks
Black Americans are disproportionately overrepresented and overcharged in our current justice system. According to a 2013 report by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group, one out of three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime, as compared to only one out of 17 whites.
Isn’t the justice system meant to protect all citizens? It should. But while black people make up only 13% of the population, they account for 31% of all victims killed by police.
Blacks make up nearly 40% of unarmed individuals killed by police with a gun and 42% of unarmed individuals that are killed by police by means other than a gun. (And remember: statistics on police shootings are self-reported, so this data probably underestimates this depressing state of affairs.)
Study destroys argument that white cops are shooting black men
While Sanders doubles down on attacking law enforcement, a new study that was just dropped in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences absolutely destroys the Democrat narrative regarding race and police shootings. It completely rejects the argument that white officers are engaged in an epidemic of racially biased shootings of black men.
Turns out, according to the study, that white officers are no more likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot black civilians.
And as we’ve long known, it reinforces the fact that it is a racial group’s rate of violent crime that determines police shootings, not the race of the officer.
Here’s what it comes down to – the more frequently officers encounter violent suspects – no matter what that racial group is – the greater the chances that members of that racial group will be shot by a police officer.
It gets even more interesting. The study found if there is a bias in police shootings after crime rates are taken into account, it is against white civilians.
The authors are faculty at Michigan State University and the University of Maryland at College Park. They completed the study by creating a database of 917 officer-involved fatal shootings in 2015 from more than 650 police departments.
When examining those shootings, 55 percent of the victims were white, 27 percent were black, and 19 percent were Hispanic.
Between 90 and 95 percent of the civilians shot by officers in 2015 were attacking police or other citizens and 90 percent were armed with a weapon.
There were very rare cases of what’s called threat-misperception shootings, in which an officer shoots an unarmed civilian after mistaking something for a gun.
It’s not the first study to shoot down the idea that white officers are biased in shooting black citizens.
There’s also a shift underway right now thanks to political pressure for police departments to hire on race, based on the theory that doing so will decrease police shootings of minorities.
Buttigieg, for example, was attacked by his presidential rivals for not having more black officers on the South Bend force after a white officer killed a black suspect this June.
In that case, the officer had responded to a 911 call about a possible car-theft suspect, saw a man leaning into a car, and shot off two rounds after the man threatened him with a knife.
Back in 2016, the Obama administration pushed for police departments to lower their entry standards in order to be able to qualify more minorities for recruitment.
By that point, departments had already been deemphasizing written exams or eliminating requirements that recruits have a clean criminal record – it’s a trend that significantly intensified after.
Take, for example, the Baltimore Police Department.
They actually changed their exam to such an extent that the director of legal instruction in the Baltimore Police Academy complained in 2018. He said rookie officers were being let out onto the street with little understanding of the law.
Biden’s criminal-justice plan would take that a step further. It would require police hiring to “mirror the racial diversity” of the local community or not get federal funding.
The PNAS study concluded that this effort to increase minority representation will not reduce racial disparities in shootings. Why? Because it found white officers are not responsible for those disparities; black crime rates are.
To make matters worse, dropping hiring standards can lead to bad police work and corruption.
Just look at the 2015 Justice Department study of the Philadelphia Police Department.
It found black officers were 67 percent more likely than white officers to mistakenly shoot an unarmed black suspect.
It also found that Hispanic officers were 145 percent more likely than white officers to mistakenly shoot an unarmed black suspect.
The study didn’t address whether lowered hiring standards are responsible for those disparities.
So what’s causing the belief that we’re living through an epidemic of racially biased police shootings?
Simple – selective reporting.
Look at the year the PNAS study focused on – 2015.
That was the same year the white victims of fatal police shootings included a 50-year-old suspect in a domestic assault in Tuscaloosa, Ala., who ran at the officer with a spoon; a 28-year-old driver in Des Moines, Iowa, who exited his car and walked quickly toward an officer after a car chase; and a 21-year-old suspect in a grocery-store robbery in Akron, Ohio, who had escaped on a bike and who did not remove his hand from his waistband when ordered to do so.
Because they were white, their stories never hit the mainstream media – which tends to focus only on stories that they can spin to be race-centric.
This whole idea that “police are racists” is simply increasing anti-cop tensions in minority communities. It also makes cops unwilling to engage in the proactive policing that can save lives.
Just look at the viral videos last month in Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn as people assaulted passive New York Police Department officers. The videos demonstrate that hostility toward the police in inner-city neighborhoods remains at dangerous levels.
It also pulls away from discussing real solutions to criminal justice problems, which includes high rates of black-on-black victimization.
Black men are murdered at eight times the rate of non-Hispanic white men.
But they aren’t being killed by cops – they are being killed by other black men.
If we’re going to really have a conversation about racial justice, we need to start there.
Let’s talk about police use of force. It’s time to systematically destroy the argument that cops are racist killers. And I’ll break this down pretty simply so everyone can understand.
- The U.S. population is about 314,000,000 people.
- There are approximately 670,439 police officers.
- That means there are less than 2.2 police officers per 1,000, or 2,133 officers per million.
- Police officers are less than .22 % of population.
- Officers come into contact with 17% of the population annually.
- That means 53,380,000 contacts …
- Which led to 26,000 excessive force complaints against officers.
- That’s 0.049% of contacts.
- Only 8% of those complaints were sustained.
- That’s 2,080 out of 53,380,000 contacts, or .0039%
A good friend of mine who is a Chief of Police put that into perspective:
- You are seven times more likely to be murdered …
- 15 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident …
- 42 times more likely to be raped …
… than to have a police officer use excessive force on you.
But we’re just warming up. Let’s look at 2015 police shootings – a time during which some argue police “brutality” spiked.
990 people were shot by police in 2015. Here’s the demographic breakdown of those “victims”:
- White — 494, 50%
- Black — 258, 26%
- Hispanic – 172, 17%
- Other — 66, 7%
- Mental illness played a role in 25%.
- 25% involved fleeing suspects.
- In 75% of the incidents, the officer was under attack or defending someone that was.
- Indictments of police officers tripled from previous years.
Listen. I’m not suggesting racism doesn’t exist in law enforcement. It exists everywhere – that’s the sad truth of it.
And yes, black people in the United States are more likely to be victims of violent confrontations with police officers (per capita) than their white counterparts. But let’s dive deeper into why this is.
Statistically, minorities come to police attention far more than their population would suggest.
- Black Americans make up about 13% of the population.
- But according to the FBI, they account for about 50% of murders, and about 38% of all violent crime overall.
Chicago gives us some great examples. And let’s not forget the insanely strict gun laws there, by the way. For example, during the first eight months of 2016 (the most recent period for which the numbers are available), 2,818 people were shot — only 12 by police. (That’s one-half of 1 percent).
In cities with large black populations, homicide rates have skyrocketed during that same period:
- In Washington D.C., homicides are up 54%. In Cleveland, up 90%. Overall, homicide is up 17%.
- The U.S. Department of Justice says that Black people make up 15% of the population in the 75 largest counties in the United States, yet account for 62% of all robberies, 57% of murders, 45% of all assaults.
So what’s going on here? Are we confusing the color of one’s skin with poverty or inequality? It’s a fair argument. Black people tend to be greater offenders, statistically speaking, because they tend to be more disadvantaged, living in poorer urban areas with less access to public services.
Then of course there’s the argument about the “violent subculture theory.” This is the idea that some black communities have developed cultural values that are more tolerant of crime and violence.
I want to leave you with a few recent studies.
First, a 2016 study by Roland G. Fryer Jr., who is an economics professor at Harvard. He found that no racial bias could be detected in police shootings, in either the raw data or when accounting for controls. He also found racial bias was detected in lesser use of police force, but not deadly encounters. His recommendation?
“Black Lives Matter should seek solutions within their own communities rather than changing the behaviors of police and other external forces.”
Second, there were 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014 according to FBI Data — the most recent year for which such data are available — compared with 5,397 homicide deaths for whites and Hispanics combined. Almost all of those black homicide victims had black killers.
Finally, police officers — of all races — are also disproportionately endangered by black assailants. Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.
Seems to me like the real problem here is socioeconomic disparities along with a public perception issue thanks to biased reporting. And let’s not forget the huge role that social media plays in disseminating false narratives and creating emotional, knee-jerk reactions.
It’s important to have very real conversations about racism in America and accountability among those who hold the thin blue line. Let’s just make sure we’re basing those conversations on facts and not feelings.