“Meaningful change needs to come from within the criminal justice system. I call on all law enforcement partners — police and prosecutors — to start dealing with this problem head-on in an open, honest, and transparent way.”
WESTCHESTER, NY — Mimi Rocah, the 16-year federal prosecutor running for Westchester District Attorney, today released a comprehensive plan to address police misconduct and proactively build stronger relations between the police and the communities they serve.
As the nation grapples with the horrific murder of George Floyd, the latest police killing of an unarmed person of color, Rocah said that real reform is needed to address the systemic problems exposed by the killings.
“As someone who served as a prosecutor for 16 years, I have had the privilege of working with many good officers who truly believe in the work they do to keep our communities safe,” said Rocah. “But every time even one officer commits an act of unjustified violence, it tears at the moral fabric of our society, it makes communities of color feel threatened and unprotected, and it harms law enforcement by ratcheting up distrust and anger toward our criminal justice system. There needs to be meaningful change and the change needs to come from within the criminal justice system. I call on all law enforcement partners — police and prosecutors — to start dealing with this problem head-on in an open, honest, and transparent way. To me, the biggest sign of hope since Mr. Floyd’s killing has been the unprecedented number of police and prosecutors around the country who are together speaking out, taking a knee, or marching peacefully with protesters in unity.”
The delayed arrest of one of the officers who murdered George Floyd, no action taken against the other officers, and a charging document full of unnecessary prejudicial information about the victim, have made an already volatile situation worse, Rocah said. Acknowledging racial disparities within our criminal justice system and creating real systems to hold police accountable are important steps toward a longer mission of rebuilding community trust.
“African Americans make up just 14% of Westchester County, but 59% of those sentenced to prison. Is it any surprise that people of color feel targeted by our criminal justice system instead of protected by it?” said Rocah. “No one can be above the law, especially those entrusted and empowered to enforce the law with lethal force. We must have systems of oversight that work for everyone, from the police to the communities they serve.”
Rocah’s “Right Side of Justice” Agenda, which was developed after multiple conversations with community members, faith leaders, police officers, criminal justice reform advocates, and elected leaders, includes:
- Independent investigations of all police-involved fatalities and injuries, and independent prosecutions when laws have been broken.
- Zero tolerance for police brutality of any kind, with perpetrators being prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
- Working with local police departments to develop comprehensive policies on the use of force that include training, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and information sharing.
- Support a county-wide independent oversight structure to identify and track officers with a history of misconduct allegations, to be applied across all local police agencies so that officers credibly accused of misconduct are not re-hired by another department.
- Require all police officers to wear body cameras and promptly release body camera footage to the degree possible.
- Work with police to include better training on de-escalation and alternatives to arrest when appropriate.
- Partner with police departments to reinstate and prioritize community policing programs that involve partnerships with and working with community-based groups.
- Refuse campaign donations from police unions.
- Explore alternative first-responder programs in cases where individuals are experiencing mental health crises that can be better addressed by medical professionals.
- Full transparency of policies, protocols, and agreements regarding officer-involved incidents available for public review, and public reporting on all investigations, prosecutions, and dispositions of misconduct allegations.
- Routine release of list of officers found to have Adverse Credibility determinations.
- Mandatory and regular implicit and explicit bias training for all police officers and ADAs.
- Implementation of victim-driven restorative justice, which prioritizes the needs of victims and holds offenders accountable.
- Establish the county’s first Conviction Integrity Unit that will independently conduct internal audits of evidence and department procedures to reveal mistakes or misconduct that warrant a review of all cases affected.
- Partner with police agencies across the County to establish higher training standards for police.
“Police officers are an essential part of our criminal justice system. But we need them to do their job as professionals, to be active partners in de-escalating violence and conflict, and to build trust with the communities they serve. We need law enforcement to be leaders in the solution to the crisis of confidence we currently have,” said Rocah.