New Haven Deserves A Strong, Effective All Civilian Review Board

The community led effort to win an All Civilian Review Board is not new. After more than 20 years of struggle, community members have organized support for the M.A.L.I.K All Civilian Review Board Proposal. Meanwhile, the City is trying to pass a watered down, toothless proposal in an effort to block the hard won community victory. If you can't prevent the creation of a Civilian Review Board, make sure it is as powerless as possible.

NHPD block’s Mayor Toni Harp’s office.

NHPD block’s Mayor Toni Harp’s office.

The M.A.L.I.K. proposal on the other hand was written by Ms. Emma Jones in honor of her son Malik (who was murdered by East Haven Police).  This proposal has been developed and vetted for years in a collaborative, community based process dedicated to creating the system that New Haven Community members want and deserve.  This proposal is informed by research, experience, and community.  It has been through the very process that the city has desperately been trying to avoid and includes the voices the city has ignored thus far.  This is the proposal we want.  This is the proposal New Haven deserves.

It is telling that the city's proposal begins by emphasizing the importance of police and how difficult and demanding their job is.  Many of us have difficult and demanding jobs.  None of us would be permitted to use this as justification for violence. 

The proposal goes on to offer an abbreviated history of policing starting in 1861 when the city abolished the "Old Watch" system and created its first police force.  Anyone with knowledge of historical dates can tell you what else happened in 1861 and anyone with knowledge of the history of police in this country can tell you that most police forces in this country were established during this time.  The history of policing in the United States cannot be separated from this nations' history with chattel slavery or from the abolishment, adaptation, and evolution of that system into our current mass incarceration reality.

Somehow, the city plan goes through 157 years of history without the mention of the many flash points of police violence in New Haven that have happened even just in recent years.  To read this, one is left to believe that we are having this conversation because the city has benevolently taken it upon itself to make the department more accountable.  For no particular reason whatsoever.  Not only is this plan lacking the power to hold the department accountable in any meaningful way, it is also attempting to rewrite history into law.  This is an insult to everyone who has taken a role in this fight.  It is an insult to the memory of all of those we have lost and to everyone who has been harmed by violent policing in this city.

We have come this far.  Together this community changed the city charter.  We can win the Civilian Review Board our city deserves.  We call on the City of New Haven, Mayor Harp, and the Board of Aldermen to delay a vote and to adopt the M.A.L.I.K All Civilian Review Board Proposal.  We will not be silent and we will not be ignored.  Our fight will continue until we win.

If we don't get it?

Shut it down.

Community members conduct impromptu sit after being blocked from entering city hall and Mayor Toni Harp’s office by New Haven Police.

Community members conduct impromptu sit after being blocked from entering city hall and Mayor Toni Harp’s office by New Haven Police.

Even this important work is just one piece of a larger struggle to reimagine community safety. The question of how we keep ourselves and each other safe is too important to file under "That's just how we've always done it." It's time to ask deep questions, to take measures like these that reduce harm while envisioning a transformed future where the "security" of one group isn't upheld by the oppression of another. 

We have come this far together. Together we can build the future we deserve.