7 Essential Criminal Justice and Policing Reforms

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If we want to make lasting changes to our criminal justice and policing systems, then we cannot settle for anything less than these 7 essential reforms:

  • Demilitarize the police
  • Decriminalize all drugs
  • End occupational licensing
  • Ban no-knock raids
  • End qualified immunity
  • Stop using taxpayers funds to pay victims of police brutality
  • End civil asset forfeiture

For the past five years I’ve worked to shine a light on the rampant injustice in the United States criminal justice system. During that time, I’ve hosted a show called Felony Friday on the Lions of Liberty podcast. I’ve interviewed hundreds of previously incarcerated individuals who have shared stories of injustice that will bring tears to your eyes and cause you to cry out for change. These individuals have also shared the triumphs they’ve achieved as they navigated the obstacles in front of them, striving to find success after the world turned its back on them.

I have also interviewed former law enforcement officers who have shared the broken culture in policing and the systemic racism built into the system. They’ve spoken about a system focused on filling prisons, rather than helping to keep communities safe. 

Until recently police reform was a fringe topic and one that the vast majority of Americans put zero thought into it. Believe it or not, I’ve had people ask me why I chose to create a podcast focused on such controversial topics as criminal justice and police reform! They implied that I was wasting my time!

The reason why I continue to dedicate so much time and energy to this cause is because it’s worth it. This isn’t a game! We are dealing with people’s lives here. Families are being ripped apart. The broken nature of the system takes aim at the most sacred and important part of the human existence: the family unit.   

With that being said, due to recent events it seems that everyone suddenly has a heart for criminal justice reform. So I’d like to welcome everyone to the policing and justice reform conversation. It’s important to point out that in order to make a difference you’re going to need to commit to do more than post a black screen on your Instagram or post to your two thousand Facebook friends that you “get it” now.

In order to make the permanent, structural changes that are needed, you’re going to need to get educated on the reasons why the current system is broken. You’re going to need to learn how to persuade others to our side. And you’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that some people will hate you for your views. It’s easy to virtue signal empty platitudes on social media now, but when the rubber meets the road and we start pushing for the changes outlined below. Are you willing to stick your neck out? 

It’s going to take action. We need structural change in the system. You cannot correct a systemic problem, without changing the system!

With that said. Here’s my seven point plan to de-escalate the current situation and set up a scenario where we can begin to get the boot off the neck of citizens.

1. Demilitarize the police

Stop programs that transfer military equipment used in foreign wars to local communities. The Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which began in the early 90s during the height of the War on Drugs, created the pipeline for local law enforcement agencies to begin to build a cache of military-grade equipment. On top of that, President Trump signed an Executive Order in 2017 that made it easier for police departments to access this equipment.  

2. Decriminalize all drugs

Ending the War on Drugs will significantly decrease police interactions. There is no reason for police to be intervening in consensual transactions. Furthermore, we should treat drug abuse and addiction as a health issue rather than one to be criminalized. The Drug War was founded in racism and it has done more damage to the black community than any other government initiative.

3. End mandatory occupational licensing

Allow insurance and the market to regulate. This will minimize police intervention in consensual transactions. With occupational licensing, individuals are forced to pay the State to get a license to cut hair, do tattoos, paint nails, be a handy man, etc. Police often set up stings to catch people operating without a license. As long as they aren’t committing fraud and falsifying certifications that they do not have, then there is no reason to put government officials between two adults who consented to the transaction. 

4. Ban no-knock raids

They escalate tensions and create an unsafe environment for all parties. The risk far exceeds any reward. The recent police killings of Breonna Taylor and Duncan Lemp reveal the barbaric nature of this tactic. It has to stop now. 

5. End qualified immunity

Government officials should not be placed in a tier above citizens. It is ridiculous that we have a federal law that shields government officials from being sued for discretionary actions performed within their official capacity. Under qualified immunity, police can only be sued if their actions violated “clearly established” federal law or constitutional rights. We need equality under the law and a level playing field. 

6. Stop using taxpayers funds to pay victims of police brutality

Mandate that lawsuits filed against police departments or officers are paid out by either police-held insurance policies or police pension funds. There is no reason for the taxpayer to be held responsible for paying the victims of police brutality.

7. End civil asset forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture allows police to confiscate any property they allege to be involved in a crime. The owner of the property does not even need to be charged or convicted of a crime! Cash, cars, or even real estate can be be taken away permanently by the government. The government can then decide to keep the property or sell it! 

People are upset right now. The protests are totally justified. But we need practical solutions that will lead to structural change in the system to go along with the protests. These seven essential criminal justice and policing reforms would be a good start. 

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John Odermatt

John Odermatt is a fierce advocate for reforming the criminal justice system. He is the host of Felony Friday, a weekly podcast that airs on the Lions of Liberty Network. Felony Friday focuses on exposing injustice in the broken criminal justice system and highlights those who are working to change the system. Over the course of the past 5 years John has published more than 230 episodes, interviews with formerly incarcerated, former law enforcement, lawyers, forensic experts, activists, social entrepreneurs and many more.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Diving in headfirst here:

    1. Demilitarize the police – any weapon not available to the general population should also be illegal for law enforcement.

    4. Ban no-knock raids – ending the drug war would go a long way towards the abandonment of this tactic, and if not, altogether remove the reason they exist in the first place.

    5. End qualified immunity – for prosecutors too!

    …and a few of my own:

    8. Require every jury hearing a criminal trial to be informed of their duty to judge the law as well as the facts. This is commonly known as ‘Jury Nullification.’

    9. Ban the practice of prosecutors requiring a plea deal for a suspect getting a pre-trial release. The mere offer of a plea deal *alone* should serve as bail and must still be good right up to the point when jury voir dire begins.

    10. Ban police unions. This would make it a lot easier to flush the sociopaths that are naturally attracted to law enforcement.

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