Police Brutality: Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States
Guest Contributor: Rev. Neal Christie, former Assistant General Secretary of The General Board of Church and Society
Police brutality continues unabated. More than 120 people were killed by police officers during routine traffic stops in 2020 alone. Black people have also been pulled over at disproportionate rates with deadly consequences.
We call on enforcement and protection of international human rights law central to criminal justice and immigration policy; requires police departments to publicly establish standards of police conduct and policies for promotion that incorporate training in peacekeeping, life-protecting, other service roles, and law enforcement. We encourage congregations to be in open dialogue with impacted communities and work to ensure a culture of trust and transparency. The Charter for Racial Justice calls us to challenge institutional racism. Also, The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles (¶ 164H) calls United Methodists to practice restorative justice, seeking alternatives to retribution and restoration of right relationships among all God’s people.
So, The United Methodist Church calls on local and national governments to:
- Stop the criminalization of communities of color and the cacophony of “wars” being waged against these communities.
- Make the enforcement and protection of international human rights law central to criminal justice and immigration policy.
- End racial/ethnic/religious profiling by law enforcement officers and end “zero tolerance” policies in schools.
- Suspend ICE raids, end family detention and ALL incarceration of children in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Keep families together.
- End local police involvement in immigration enforcement (2012 Book of Resolutions, #3281).
- End mandatory sentencing laws and mandatory detention policies, and affirm judicial discretion in sentencing and deportation rulings.
- Restore the full citizenship rights, including the vote, to U.S. citizens with felony convictions; remove barriers to their employment and ability to secure housing and supportive services. Provide education and job creation so they can rejoin society.
- Repeal employer sanctions and other measures that criminalize undocumented migrants seeking work. The United Methodist Task Force on Immigration, representing the Council of Bishops, agencies, and racial/ethnic caucuses should work to:
- Affirm the humanity and inherent dignity of all who are under correctional control and examine links between criminal justice and immigrant enforcement policies as they impact communities of color.
- Challenge the criminalization of migrants in the United States and globally by engaging annual and central conferences in advocacy. Build alliances with ecumenical and secular groups. General Board of Church and Society, General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Board of Global Ministries, and United Methodist Women should:
- Develop local church resources on this issue with U.S. and international groups.
- Work with central conferences to deepen research, analysis, and action on global migration policies.
- Mobilize congregations to challenge private prisons and detention centers, and to advocate the release of prisoners held for nonviolent offenses. Annual conferences and local congregations should:
- Challenge police engagement in immigration enforcement.
- Call United Methodists to discernment on these issues through use of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, as well as the frameworks of human rights, racial justice, and restorative justice. Use a critical lens regarding mass media. (See Resolution #8016, “Proper Use of Information Communication Technologies.”)
- Engage with churches and local communities in speaking out publicly for police accountability regarding racial profiling, misconduct, abuse, and killings.
- Work to end the use of solitary confinement.
- Provide reentry ministries for people released from prison.
- We have witnessed an exponential increase in mass shootings with 147+ this year alone, with the most recent mass murder of eight persons in Indianapolis less than one week ago.
- UM Resolution 3379: Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the US
- UM Resolution 5031: Humanizing Criminal Justice
- United Methodist Women’s Statement, United Methodist Women Reiterates the "Call to Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States"
- USA: UN experts urge far-reaching reforms on policing and racism
- Pathways to Police Reform Community Mobilization Toolkit - NAACP