The Manifesto is a series of legislative policies to urge for the end of police brutality and targeting of African Americans throughout the nation.
“Our nation has witnessed a horrific week of events that has left communities mourning. After more than 400 years of oppression in America, Black men continue to be targeted, Latino families continue to be separated, and all persons of color continue to be marginalized,” said Rep. Espaillat (NY-13). “More than 100,000 individuals have died during a pandemic that continues to wreak havoc on communities of color at far greater magnitudes. It’s time for action and effort from each of us, together and united to ensure that the change we see happening around the country today is different. There has to be urgent resolve and healing because we cannot afford to go back to business as usual in the face of such challenges.
“I am introducing the Harlem Manifesto, a 10-point plan and series of legislative proposals to demand an end to police brutality and the targeting of African Americans and Latinos in my district and communities around the nation, and I urge my congressional colleagues to join me in this effort to call for immediate action and reform to help heal our nation.”
THE HARLEM MANIFESTO AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY AND SYSTEMIC INJUSTICE
1. CURB EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE BY LAW ENFORCEMENT
First and foremost, we must change the laws governing law enforcement and the ability and tendency of police officers to use force without consequence. From Eric Garner to George Floyd and many more, we must put an end to murders by police in purported attempts to subdue someone resisting arrest. Resisting death is not resisting arrest. The Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act would prohibit any police officer from suffocating an individual in any way and make it a punishable offence. The PEACE Act would elevate the use of force requirements for federal officers to ensure that force can only be used as a true last resort. I strongly support both of these proposals and they must get considered in Congress. Additionally, I will introduce legislation that ensures police officers can be held criminally accountable for depriving someone of their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in this country by requiring that knowing or reckless police abuse be prosecuted and punished.
2. DEMILITARIZE POLICE DEPARTMENTS
Law enforcement should exist to protect the communities they serve, not to stand against them. There is no need for police to have military-grade weapons or equipment, and we have seen how their use only escalates tension and stokes violence. The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, a measure I strongly support, would prohibit the Defense Department from transferring military weapons to state and local law enforcement agencies. There are many ways the federal government can help state and local law enforcement but militarizing them is not one of them.
3. PROVIDE TRANSPARENCY
Transparency means standards and accountability. All law enforcement agencies must be open with their communities and should welcome transparency. The Police CAMERA Act would require all law enforcement officers to wear body cameras and prohibit the seizure of cell phones or other recording devices used to document police interactions without a person’s consent or a warrant. The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act would create accreditation standards to ensure compliance with approved practices and transparency within the community. Furthermore, we must continue to push for the release of granular data on police interactions so that we know where and how best to address problems.
4. PROMOTE DE-ESCALATION AND AWARENESS TRAINING FOR OFFICERS
Policing must be wholly transformed away from hard tactics and use of force. We ought to invest in social services, mental health support, and training to ensure that law enforcement and associated services can best help communities they serve. The Police Training and Independent Review Act would require all law enforcement academy enrollees to receive thorough training, including ethics, racial bias, cultural diversity, and police interaction with the disabled, mentally ill, and new immigrants. It would also require independent investigations and prosecutions of use of deadly force. The Preventing Tragedies Between Police and Communities Act would require law enforcement agencies to train officers in de-escalation techniques and require the prioritization of such techniques over use of force. Non-compliance would be met with reduction in federal funding. If we do not invest in training new officers to act in ways we believe is appropriate, we will not be able to put an end to police brutality.
5. ESTABLISH ONGOING DIALOG AND DEEPEN RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE COMMUNITIES THEY SERVE
Police must be part of the communities they serve and work hand in hand with the community to promote peace and safety. Officers ought to be from and live in the communities they help to protect. Law enforcement agencies must seek input, feedback, suggestions and constructive criticism from the communities they serve, and community members ought to be known and heard by those whose job it is to protect them. While many departments and precincts have community affairs officers and work with community leaders, beat officers should be encouraged by their superiors to get to know local community members and participate in community events.
6. ELIMINATE INEQUITIES IN ENFORCEMENT
The history of law enforcement is intrinsically tied in with the history of slavery and racism in America. Racial profiling by the police builds upon this history and must be ended so that everyone is truly equal under the law. The End Racial Profiling Act would prohibit racial profiling and allow individuals to take law enforcement to court of such acts. Training on racial profiling and collection of data nationwide would allow for study and better understanding of the use and impacts of profiling. Furthermore, the bill would fund the development and implementation of best policing practices that discourage profiling. We must also ensure that new technologies, such as facial recognition, do not perpetuate intrinsic bias before they are deployed by law enforcement.
7. REMOVE PROFIT-INCENTIVES FOR POLICING AND INCARCERATION
We must stop funding police and prisons that in ways that create incentives to lock people up. The Justice is Not For Sale Act would put an end to privately-run prisons, jails and detention centers, and we also must end the use of private contractors local law enforcement. The justice system is not a business, it is a pillar of our democratic society and must remain free of even the perception of ulterior motives.
8. END MASS INCARCERATION AND TRANSITION TO RESTORATIVE JUSTICE
Police brutality is only one end of an unjust system. Mass incarceration, over-criminalization, and inhumane punishment are inherent in are legal system and must be changed. A transformation to restorative justice, a focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and an end to antiquated practices are necessary to transform American society. I introduced the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act to put an end to this unconscionable practice that disproportionately affects people of color. I will also introduce legislation to put an end to the overuse of solitary confinement, which has been proven torturous and inhumane to those who are unnecessarily subjected to extended isolation. We must also pursue policies that put an end to mandatory minimums, decriminalize low-level drug offenses that disproportionately put people of color behind bars, and create justice for individuals wrongly oppressed by the war on drugs. Finally, we must invest in those who re-enter society after incarceration. That means we have to make sure the proper systems and safety-net services are in place to help former prisoners find stable housing, work and physical and mental health care so they are on the path to success.
9. RECOGNIZE AND ACCOUNT FOR PAST INJUSTICES
The systems of oppression in America are deeply rooted in our history of slavery and racism. We must work to understand how America’s legacy of oppression continues to affect minority communities today and what anti-racism actions we can take to right these wrongs. The Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, which received a historic hearing in the House of Representatives in 2019, and the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Resolution would establish commissions to undertake an exhaustive study of slavery, segregation and racism and recommend policies to remedy America’s historic wrongs against its own people, including reparations. The People’s Justice Guarantee Resolution states that the United States has a moral obligation to meet its foundational promise of guaranteed justice for all and that there must be a people-led process to reform our legal system. We must come to terms with our past and forge a way forward for a society built on true reconciliation.
10. TRANSITION AWAY FROM A POLICING-FIRST MODEL
The best anti-crime policies are anti-poverty policies. By investing in our communities, we can direct the right resources to the situations that warrant them. We have seen time and time again that a police response is often not what a situation calls for or a community needs, and that often leads to unnecessarily violent outcomes. Long-term, structural reform is necessary to reshape how our communities interact, care for one another, and respond to problems. Investing in social services, dispatching social workers when a 9-1-1 call involves a mental health emergency, investing in community improvement and police relations with community services and support networks. There are many ways that we can rethink and reshape what law enforcement can and should be.
First elected to Congress in 2016, Rep. Adriano Espaillat is serving his second term in Congress where he serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the House Small Business Committee. He serves as a Senior Whip of the House Democratic Caucus and is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) where he also serves in a leadership role as CHC Whip. He is also chairman of the CHC Task Force for Transportation, Infrastructure and Housing. Rep. Espaillat’s Congressional District includes Harlem, East Harlem, northern Manhattan and the north-west Bronx. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.