Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Monday morning released a plan to overhaul policing in the United States, with an eye on preventing the police shootings of unarmed people of color that have prompted national outrage in recent years.
In the third policy proposal of his campaign, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor outlined three goals: end “over-aggressive policing” that disproportionately targets racial minorities, do more to hold cops accountable in such cases and begin to bridge the divide between communities and law enforcement.
Castro previewed the plan Saturday in San Francisco while appearing at the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum. Echoing an argument he has made since launching his campaign, Castro questioned why Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who killed nine people in the 2015 Charleston church shooting, can be arrested without incident but people like Stephon Clark cannot. Last year, Sacramento police shot and killed Clark, a young black man, while responding to a vandalism complaint.
“How many of these videos do we have to watch to understand that even though we have some great police officers, this is not a case of bad apples?” Castro said. “The system is broken. The system is broken. The system is broken."
Castro's proposal would set up national standards for police departments that receive federal funding. To combat "over-aggressive policing," the plan would limit the use of deadly force to when "there is an imminent threat to the life of another person, and all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted." The plan also calls for things like body cameras, anti-bias training and legislation to prohibit "stop and frisk" policies that let police officers stop and search people they deem suspicious.
On the accountability front, Castro would create a public national database of officers who have been decertified and collect better data on police stops, bolstering existing reporting programs. He also would push for legislation that would lower the threshold at which cops can face prosecution for misconduct.
And to build more trust between law enforcement and the community, Castro says he would “demilitarize the police” by issuing an executive order to prevent them from obtaining items including tracked and wheeled armored vehicles and high-caliber rifles. His plan also takes on the idea of "broken windows policing" by calling for police to put less of a priority on pursuing low-level crime that does not impact public safety.
Castro’s police reform proposal follows previous policy announcements on immigration and education, all branded under Castro's "People First" mantra. Like with his immigration plan, Castro’s policing overhaul makes him the first 2020 contender to address the issue with a detailed platform.
Castro remains low in the polls but hopes to stand out by tackling policy areas most of his rivals have tread lightly on or ignored altogether. Castro has said he will put out a plan on another topic — housing — prior to the first primary debate, which is from June 26-27 in Miami.