Stories of Justice
The ERUUF Justice Ministry Council makes this statement out of concerns about local Police Policies, Procedures, and Practices. Our statement is founded upon our Unitarian Universalist Principles to include our commitment to peace, liberty, and justice; the worth and dignity of every person; equity and compassion in human relations; interdependence; and a commitment the democratic process. Our goal is to develop and support a vibrant local community based upon diversity, opportunity, equity, support and protection.
The realization of these goals and principles depends, to a considerable extent, on the qualities of our police and judicial systems because it is these institutions that either support or destroy public perceptions of trust, fairness, equity, and respect --- the things that are the glue that hold us together as a society and community.
It is the day-to-day behavior of our police officers in carrying out their duties that are closely linked to our community's well-being. This is especially true for those of us who are poor, foreign, African American, immigrants, or who are marginalized in other ways. We therefor advocate the adoption of policies and practices that fall under the concept of "community policing". These include:
-strategies that focus on building ties and working closely with the community
-increased use of foot and bicycle patrols
-robust police oversight boards and procedures
-support for crime prevention including neighborhood watch, school outreach, and community conversations about police objectives and strategies
-the deployment of neighborhood policing teams to build trust and communication
-creation of a police culture of service and protection as opposed to control and intimidation
-clear policies and guidelines against racial profiling, selective enforcement, stop-and-frisk, and other forms of bias
-clear policies and supervision that prohibit the use of excessive, unnecessary, and inappropriate use of force
Of particular concern is the increasing militarization of police forces. These practices include training in military tactics, and the provision of military style assault rifles, combat dress, and military equipment such as Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Mine Resistant and Ambush Protection (MRAP) vehicles. A recent study (ACLU, 2017) estimated that police SWAT teams (Special Weapons and Tactics) are deployed between 50,000 to 80,000 times per year and that the vast majority are for low-level drug offenses or to serve warrants. The minority of SWAT team use was for what they were designed for: hostage and active shooter situations. The evidence is also clear that the use of this militarized tactic increases the potential for injury or death and creates increases anger and resentment in the community. Militarization often causes police officers to adopt a "warrior mentality" and to treat ordinary citizens as "the enemy" as opposed to community residents who are to be protected and served. It is for these reasons that we advocate:
-the adoption of policies that prohibit the militarization of the local police force
-policies that prohibit the police force from applying to the Pentagon for military equipment
-policies that prohibit the provision of foreign training for police officers in military-style procedures and tactics