Can Ethnic Coalitions Replicate WA Police Reform?

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After a Vietnamese American man was shot to death by a sheriff’s deputy near Seattle in 2017, Asian Americans in Washington state joined a coalition of Native American tribes, black leaders and nearly 20 other ethnically and ideologically diverse groups that successfully pushed a 2018 ballot initiative on police reform. It requires police to undergo more de-escalation and mental health training, administer first aid after a use of deadly force, and cooperate with an independent investigation into the use of deadly force, Stateline reports. Since the Black Lives Matter movement gained prominence, much of the public focus has been on African Americans. Broader racial and ethnic coalitions pushed changes in policing practices in a handful of states, said Juan Cartagena of LatinoJustice, a New York-based civil rights group.

Ethnically diverse coalitions also advocated changes to New York’s policy on independent police investigations, Florida’s policy on felon voting rights and New Jersey’s policy on independent police investigations, In other parts of the U.S., it is still challenging to get police to work with activists to implement new policing policies, says former U.S. Justice Department civil-rights lawyer Christy Lopez. in Washington state, the Criminal Justice Training Commission, with the input of community groups, is working this summer to rewrite the rules for de-escalation and mental health training. What happened in Washington state is “leaps and bounds above what’s happened in other states,” said Alison Holcomb of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. What’s important to see now, she said, is whether the community and law enforcement can continue talking to each other.

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