Policing Reform Campaign

Date Filed: 01/01/2015


The United States is undeniably in a national policing crisis.  Recently, many unarmed African Americans, including Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, and Natasha McKenna of Fairfax, Virginia, have lost their lives at the hands of police officers.  In most cases, the officers were not prosecuted – sending a message that those who have taken an oath to protect and serve may kill civilians with impunity.  These recent, relentless police-involved assaults and killings of people of color – with several incidents captured in graphic detail on bystanders’ cell phone videos – has inspired a movement of young activists, captured the attention of the media and elected officials, and generated calls for a fundamental change in policing. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has responded by launching its Race and Policing Reform Campaign.

In 2015, the Institute launched its Policing Reform Campaign to transform policing culture and practices, eliminate racial bias and profiling in policing, and end police violence against citizens. The Race and Policing Reform campaign seeks to promote unbiased and responsible policing policies and practices at the national, state and local levels.


Change—especially, culture change—is difficult.  Policing, like education, is a uniquely local function and has a culture informed by history, environment, and social custom. Influencing decision makers to embrace change in law enforcement will require multiple strategies. Therefore, we work:

  • at the national level to incentivize best practices in policing, such as anti-bias and de-escalation training and enforcement, to impact over 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.
  • in targeted communities to build the capacity of communities to change and monitor policing practices. 



We use research, public education, policy and legislative advocacy, litigation, community organizing and communications strategies to advance reforms at the local, state, and national levels. With the support of the Thurgood Marshall Institute, we continue to work on the following policy fronts.

  • Utilize litigation to eliminate racially discriminatory policing and policies such as “Broken Windows” and  zero tolerance (Davis v. City of New York)
  • Advocate for national data reporting
    • Advocate for national annual reporting of use-of-force and traffic and pedestrian stops data disaggregated by race ethnicity, and gender with recommendations on how to eliminate racial disparities (Letter to Attorney General Holder and LDF’s testimony to President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing);
  • Promote the expanded role of prosecutors
    • Promote and realize the expanded role of prosecutors in eliminating racial bias in the criminal justice system, and the appointment of special prosecutors to investigate police misconduct and excessive use of force (St. Louis county letter to Judge McShane and the court’s response;  ABA and LDF joint statement)
  • Link federal funding to data collection and training
  • Support demands for federal civil rights investigations
    • Support local communities’ demand for federal civil rights investigations of police departments to address long-standing racially-discriminatory policing practices in certain cities and counties (Clergy letter to President Obama regarding death of Freddie Gray; North Charleston letter to DOJ)
  • Advocate for police body-worn camera programs that protect privacy rights and do not exacerbate racial disparities in law enforcement (Civil rights principles on body-worn cameras)
  • Demilitarize and limit the role of police in schools
  • Create governance structures that allow African Americans and other persons of color to participate in decisions relating to policing (Letter to Florissant, University City, etc )
  • Build capacity for grassroots organizing


Each person can make a contribution. With our increased capacity, we look forward to working with you to ensure safe communities for all.



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