WHAT IS THE BLACK BILL OF RIGHTS?

The Black Bill of Rights is a conceptual framework that will empower Black communities and can be applied to any facet of life in which the “two Americas” model operates. This version seeks reforms that grant the community the same rights as police in interactions with them. Future versions might address healthcare, education, the court system. The idea is to rebuild our framework of America to include Black Americans at every level. The Black Bill of Rights is designed to exist as living documents that can be codified into laws and adopted by all 50 states and to serve as a template in other areas where systemic racism has led to persistent injustice and to provide a roadmap to Black sovereignty in the justice system. Below is the Black Bill of Rights Articles with examples of the legislative measures that have already been passed in the United States.

The Black Bill of Rights

(Citizens Decree)

Article I    USE OF FORCE POLICIES THAT INCLUDE STAKEHOLDER OUTREACH

  • Right to safety from the use of deadly force in police interactions 
  • Legislation establishing a special prosecutor for police violence
  • Grand jury reforms

Tennessee’s Deadly Force law. One of the only states legally requiring police use every available alternative before shooting. Laws in most other states say police can shoot even if they clearly could’ve de-escalated or used non-lethal force instead.

https://www.lawserver.com/law/state/tennessee/tn-code/tennessee_code_39-11-620

Article II   ACCESSIBLE COMMUNITY OUTREACH

  • Right to effective and accessible community outreach  
  • Finding meaningful ways to incorporate community members into the lesson plan development process during training. 
  • Develop and implement a community outreach plan that includes regularly scheduled and broadly accessible meetings with residents. 
  • Evaluation of residency requirements to improve racial diversity in police departments.
  • Diversity and the right to a police force that reflects the makeup of the community being served.

Article III   KEY JUDICIAL AND POLICING RIGHTS GIVEN BACK TO COMMUNITY

  • Right to legislation and subpoena power: Civilian Oversight
  • The right to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances and to be tried by a jury of peers. 
  • In order to assure that just and effective services are provided to all Black people of the state, the development and implementation of a community-based policing and court system is necessary. 
  • The community judicial system will include regularly scheduled and broadly accessible meetings with community residents, access to community courts, and record expungement. 
  • Juries and community police forces will be composed exclusively of community residents.

Article IV   COMMUNITY INPUT FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT EXPENDITURES

  • Right to community determined expenditures 
  • An officer suspended as a result of an investigation involving the death of an unarmed Black citizen shall not continue to receive full pay and benefits until the case is resolved. 
  • Right to community input, disbursement, and allocation of funds of the police department on city and county level.
  • Banning of campaign finance donations to local political races
  • End for-profit policing
  • Structuring of fines based on ability to pay
  • Transparency of civil forfeiture of cash seizures
  • Defunding of police settlements via taxes

HB 330. Signed into law in Montana in 2015. Bans police from receiving military weapons from the federal government including tanks, armored vehicles, drones, grenade launchers, aircraft. Goes further than Obama’s executive order (which Trump repealed).

https://legiscan.com/MT/text/HB330/id/1198338

Article V   SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTS FREE OF CRIMINALIZATION 

  • Right to be Free of Police & SRO Harassment and Abuse of Discretion

Article VI   USE OF FORCE REPORTING AND INVESTIGATION  

  • Right to police commission with subpoena power for investigating uses of force.
  • Establish a use of force review board charged with reviewing all Level 3 Reportable Uses of Force, all uses of force otherwise investigated by FIT, and any other matters referred to them by Internal Affairs or the Chief of Police.
  • Collection of national use of force data
  • Analysis of underreported police killing data via use of force
  • Analysis of police shootings involving moving vehicles
  • Shooting from moving vehicles prohibited
  • Shooting from behind is prohibited

Article VII   MANDATORY TRANSPARENCY OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

Right to Transparency of All Law Enforcement Policies and Procedures

  • If an officer is cleared of wrongdoing or the charges are dropped departments must publicly acknowledge that the officer is under investigation.
  • Conducting formal after-action reviews with officers, supervisors, and command staff, following officer-involved shootings.
  • Independent investigations – conflict of interest when these cases are prosecuted locally.
  • An appointed community outside council used in instances of unarmed citizens killed by the police
  • Criminal investigations should be launched before or during an internal investigation.
  • If the deceased family members in any way witnessed the death of the said family member, it is the department’s responsibility to create and maintain a fund to provide mental health resources to all trauma victims.
  • Any officer suspended as a result of an investigation involving the death of an unarmed Black citizen forfeits their rights to continue serving as an officer of the law and will be relieved of their duties.
  • Any officer caught in the premeditated planting of substances on community members shall result in being relieved of their duties.
  • The undoing of official immunity or “qualified immunity”
  • Critical policy issues reform to make body cameras effective (the turning off of body cameras will be considered obstruction of justice).
  • Policy to make bodycam footage accessible

Connecticut HB 7103. Signed into law in 2015. It makes it illegal for police departments to hire officers who were previously fired or who resigned while being investigated for serious misconduct and/or excessive force. 

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2015/ACT/PA/2015PA-00004-R00HB-07103SS1-PA.htm

Article VIII   USE OF FORCE TRAINING AND DATABASE ACCESS  

  • Right to Community Stakeholder involvement in developing Use of Force Curriculum       
  • Establish a curriculum design committee that reviews and approves all curricula, lesson plans, and training materials. Teaching officers to have a guardian mindset.  
  • Prohibiting certain problematic uses of force, including needlessly high-risk force, such as chokeholds, and shooting at or from moving vehicles
  • Requiring annual use of force training for all staff, regardless of rank
  • De-escalation training 
  • Require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
  • Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor 
  • Restrict officers from shooting at moving vehicles, which is regarded as a particularly dangerous and ineffective tactic
  • Develop a Force Continuum that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance
  • Require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force
  • Require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before shooting at a civilian
  • Require officers to report each time they use force or threaten to use force against civilians
  • Procedural justice training (includes implicit bias training)
  • Demilitarization

Re-Engineering Training On Police Use of Force

https://www.policeforum.org/assets/reengineeringtraining1.pdf

http://useofforceproject.org/#project

Colorado HB 12-64. Signed law 2016. The original version made it a crime for officers to use chokeholds *or* any other neck restraint, except if a person posed an imminent threat of death/serious injury. This is the original: 

http://www.leg.state.co.us/clics/clics2016a/csl.nsf/billcontainers/F5A2A727B31083DD87257F45007EDDCE/$FILE/1264_01.pdf

Article IX   MANDATORY MENTAL HEALTH EVALUATION OF OFFICERS

  • Right to direct access to alternatives to Law Enforcement for mental health crises
  • Tiered responses 
  • Right to mentally competent Law Enforcement Officers
  • For Officers: Mental health professional protocol should be in place (annual mandatory procedure) and routine drug testing of police.
  • For Community: Mental health professional protocol put in place to assist in all 5150 calls. Additional creation and access to an alternative citywide system in place that would include an additional hotline that can be accessed as an alternative to involving the police.
  • Community-based response to the local emergencies, including:
    • Public health crises
    • Unhoused people in crisis
    • People experiencing mental health crises
    • People exposed to intimate partner or community violence
    • People with a substance use disorder
    • People impacted by natural or climate disasters.

Illinois HB58. Signed into law in 2017. Requires any officer who shoots someone to submit to mandatory drug and alcohol testing within one hour of the shooting.

http://ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=10000SB0058&GA=100&SessionId=91&DocTypeId=SB&LegID=99371&DocNum=58&GAID=14&Session=&print=true

Act AB 2054 aka The C.R.I.S.E.S. (Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems): https://allianceforbmoc.org/crises-act

Article X   REVISION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER BILL OF RIGHTS

  • Right to the safety of person by Law Enforcement and all related government agencies
  • 15 states have “police bill of rights” laws that impose ADDITIONAL legal restrictions that make it even harder to hold police accountable. But 35 states don’t do this. There is no reason these police bill of rights laws can’t be repealed entirely or be replaced with the Black Bill of Rights Administrative Document.

POLICE OFFICERS BILL OF RIGHTS 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2015/04/24/the-police-officers-bill-of-rights/

POLICE UNION CONTRACT DATABASE

https://www.checkthepolice.org/database