Target: John Boehner, Speaker of the House
Goal: Ban police from targeting citizens in low-income neighborhoods.
Since the Broken Windows style of policing was enforced in 1994, countless citizens, mainly those of color, have purposelessly lost their lives to police brutality. The most recent examples are those of Freddie Gray, whose severe spinal cord injury and subsequent death occurred after being thrown into a police van for carrying an allegedly illegal switchblade, and Eric Garner, who was choked to death after suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. These casualties resulted from a system shaped by the Broken Windows policy, an ineffective strategy that has institutionalized racism within law enforcement.
Broken Windows works off the assumption that if cops arrest people in troubled neighborhoods for minor infractions, it will deter more serious crimes from occurring. It has become a form of social control. It tells cops to go into low-income neighborhoods assuming every one is a criminal and arrest them for a crime before it’s committed, off an “articulable” suspicion. There is no standard set as to what qualifies as an “articulable” suspicion, giving police a free-for-all in making arrests.
A popular charge under Broken Windows is “loitering,” or standing around idly or without apparent purpose, which police can charge you with as long as you’re not standing in front of your own house. Broken Windows is only implemented in low-income neighborhoods, which is why a large population of America that is not affected by it may assume a person who’s been arrested must have done something wrong to annoy the cop.
At best, the Broken Windows style of policing is lazy, arresting in large quantities in the hopes that some of the charges will stick. At its worst, it’s a Freddie Gray or Eric Garner story. Thanks to Broken Windows, cigarettes and an allegedly illegal switchblade are the causes for two mens’ deaths. Gray and Garner aren’t isolated incidents; they just happened to be the ones to catch media attention because cameras were involved. In most cases, if a faulty arrest or police misconduct occurs, the victim must sign a waiver of their release, which forfeits their right to sue and expunges the case.
Urge Congress to rid law enforcement of the policy that targets minorities and structures police to control and instill fear in low-income neighborhoods instead of protecting them.
Dear Mr. Boehner,
Broken Windows is an ineffective policy that has resulted in decades of police brutality in low-income neighborhoods and the recent riots surrounding the death of Freddie Gray and other unarmed black men.
There is no proof that Broken Windows policing curbs crime, and studies that examined data relating to Broken Windows arrests have concluded they had little to no impact on crime rates. There is, however, much evidence to suggest Broken Windows is the reason for a biased criminal justice system, unnecessary deaths, and the current volatile relationship between police and those in low-income neighborhoods.
Broken windows was an attempt to curb all crime through contact and fear. The contact and fear worked, but the curbing crime part did not. Now, protests and riots are occurring across the nation because people are fed up with the authorities, who are supposed to protect them, being the cause for their fear and harm. Please pass a law to rid police forces of the Broken Windows policy so that another Eric Garner and Freddie Gray tragedy doesn’t happen again.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jagz Mario