It has been more than a year since the killing of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer Darren Wilson ignited weeks of protest in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. In the ensuing months, the Black Lives Matter movement has swept the entire nation, demanding, among many things, an end to racist police violence. The movement’s impact is unquestioned. Regular reporting on police violence in the mainstream media has changed the misperception that police brutality is rare and perpetrated by rogue officers. In late October, President Barack Obama said of police violence, “It’s real. We … have to take it seriously.”
There is less consensus when it comes to reforming police practices. The 100-page report released in March by Obama’s commission on police reform has had little impact, as the federal government can’t force local police to accept its recommendations. And local calls for reform often founder when they run up against the entrenched power of police departments and police unions. City officials also cite a disconnect within the black community: Some working-class black residents of high-crime neighborhoods want more police.
To discuss what police reform would look like and how we can get it, In These Times hosted a roundtable discussion with Asiaha Butler, president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) in Chicago; Cameron Simmons, a trainer and speaker with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth in California; and Jasson Perez, national co-chair of Black Youth Project 100 in Chicago.