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‘8 Can’t Wait’ Police Reforms: What You Need To Know

Courtesy of #8Can'tWait
The eight policies that the #8Can'tWait campaign says can reduce fatal police encounters.

Lawmakers in New York dealt with police reform legislation this week. And Connecticut lawmakers will consider a special legislative session to examine police accountability. Many groups that call for police reform look to the national #8Can’tWait project as a guide — a reform agenda aimed directly at local police departments. 

#8Can’tWait is a set of policy modifications that governs when and how the police can use force, policies like banning chokeholds and requiring officers to use de-escalation techniques before resorting to force. They also want to break down the so-called blue wall of silence by requiring officers to report, and intervene, when they witness police misconduct.

DeRay Mckesson, a co-founder of Campaign Zero, the activist network behind #8Can’tWait, told NBC New York that the campaign is about reducing the power of the police to do harm. 

“When these eight policies are in play, when you go from a department that has zero of them to 8 of them, there’s a 70% decrease in police violence,” McKesson said. 

“These policies matter.” 

Supporters say police departments or mayors can implement these changes quickly. They don’t require additional funding, and the departments that have adopted all eight report fewer violent interactions with the public. 

Christopher Lyddy, chief of police in Fairfield, Connecticut, says the #8Can’tWait reforms have been part of his department’s policy for years. He says Fairfield PD received 45,000 calls for service last year — force was used 12 times. That includes situations where an officer threatened, but did not actually use force.  

“If an officer in Fairfield even pulls out their taser, and says to the person, ‘Comply or I'm going to fire a taser at you,’ that’s a use of force, and it’s required to be reported,” Lyddy said.

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik says all eight reforms are already part of police policy in his city, too. 

“If it works, we’ll do it,” Kulhawik said. "We’re looking for best practices all the time.” 

New York lawmakers passed a first wave of police reforms, including the #8Can’tWait proposal to ban chokeholds. The legislature also voted to make police disciplinary records more transparent

Credit Hans Pennink / AP
New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, speaks in favor of police reform in Albany on Monday. On Tuesday, the legislature voted to repeal a provision in the state’s civil rights law that shielded police disciplinary records from the public.

Some police unions have blasted the legislative proposals as anti-police. Richard Wells is president of the Police Conference of New York, which represents more than 200 police unions across the state.

“The message has been sent very clearly to police officers by our elected officials: we don’t like you, we don’t respect you, we will not support you, we want you to go away,” Wells said at a news conference on Tuesday.  

Marie Graham was one of thousands of people who came out to protest the killing of George Floyd this weekend on Long Island. She says it’s wrong to label all police reform advocates as anti-police.  

“It’s not that we’re against cops,” Graham said. 

“That’s wrong to use that as a tool. We’re here, I believe everybody’s here, because we’re tired. This is America. We shouldn’t be treated differently than anybody else.” 

Credit J.D. Allen / WSHU
Protestors listen to speakers at a rally against police brutality in Suffolk County on Sunday.

Graham supports the efforts to increase transparency for police disciplinary records, because she thinks it could help restore faith in the police. 

“In order to get respect for the system, the people that the system is designed to protect must believe that the system will protect them,” Graham said. But she views the reforms as a first step. 

“Once you have laws it’s good and well, but you also need to have people that are willing to execute the laws with fairness for everybody.” 

She says the global protests over the death of George Floyd give her hope that this time, meaningful change is possible.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.
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