Brown School’s Race and Opportunity Lab recommends specific policing reforms

In the St. Louis region, Black males account for 13.2% of the population but 76.9% of all individuals killed by police from 2013 through 2019. In comparison, white males comprised 9.6% of police killings in that period.

As the nation struggles with police violence, a new report from HomeGrown StL in the Race and Opportunity Lab at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis recommends reforms to build an equitable, transparent and accountable public safety approach that will include lawsuit liability, a police misconduct database and federal funding mandates.

Accountable Policing: Policies to Advance the Personal Safety of Black Boys and Young Men” proposes five changes to federal policy:

  • permitting private lawsuits against police officers;
  • creating a national database on police misconduct and mandated reporting;
  • establishing a federally mandated continuum that specifies the types and amounts of force appropriate for given situations;
  • instituting model policies and best practices on policies; and
  • making federal funding to states and municipalities conditional on adoption of those policies and practices.
Motley Jr.

The report is authored by Robert O. Motley Jr., the Race and Opportunity Lab manager and a doctoral student at the Brown School; Alyssa Finner, the lab’s community engagement manager; Marah Walker, a graduate research assistant at the lab; and Sean Joe, the Benjamin Youngdahl Professor of Social Development at the Brown School.

The report offers proposals for federal policy as well as new guidelines for statewide and local policy changes.

Specifically for Missouri, the report recommends banning the use of chokeholds and strangleholds; establishing a public database on police misconduct; mandating external, independent investigation and prosecution in cases involving excessive use of force by police; and requiring that police departments bear the costs of misconduct with no additional funding for the costs of legal judgments against officers.

The report identifies 10 reforms for the St. Louis region, including a policy requiring officers to intervene if they witness excessive use of force, a mandate to use body cameras, a public “Equity in Policing” analysis, a new prosecutorial standard for police misconduct and a new standard of liability for civil rights violations.

“It is time for policymakers to join together in actualizing legislation focused on police accountability and an end to police violence — the avoidable killing of Black Americans, particularly Black boys and young men, is not a partisan issue,” Motley said.

“HomeGrown StL calls upon all local, state and federal legislators to stand up for the country’s rule of law, and Black boys and young men, by implementing policies that bring accountability, transparency and ‘equitable justice’ to the justice system,” he said.

As a member of President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, HomeGrown StL works on behalf of Black boys and young men ages 12 to 29 in St. Louis. The aim of its Healing Policy Initiative is to provide data and resources to inform local policy decisions, advocacy efforts and the development of collective impact strategies to improve outcomes for Black boys and young men.

“Progress is no longer sufficient — we need real change, and we need it now,” Joe said in the report.

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