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Thorough Reformation of Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights

WHEREAS, from 2013 to 2016, at least 4,024 people were killed by police officers, and only 85 of these cases led to a police officer being charged with a crime; and

WHEREAS, black individuals are three times more likely to be killed by police officers than white individuals, but from 2013-2020 only 1.7% of these uses of lethal force resulted in police officers being charged with a crime; and

WHEREAS, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) seeks to promote and ensure accountability for police misconduct against communities of color; and

WHEREAS, law enforcement officers in 16 states are shielded by statutes called the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), which provide law enforcement officers facing investigations and disciplinary action for alleged instances of misconduct with procedural privileges and protections that are not afforded to civilians accused of crimes; and

WHEREAS, LEOBORs include a "cool-off" period in which the officer may not be interviewed regarding the alleged instance of misconduct until the officer obtains representation, who then may be present during the interview; and

WHEREAS, LEOBORs provide officers, along with their lawyers, prior access to every piece of evidence including witness statements, video and audio recordings and photographs, collected during the investigation before the officer is even interviewed; and

WHEREAS, officers are shielded from interview tactics used on civilians accused of crimes such as lengthy interrogation periods, the use of aggressive or threatening questioning and from the use of promises or rewards to induce cooperation; and

WHEREAS, officers are also given the privilege to a hearing before a punishment or sanction is imposed that is held before a complaint hearing board composed only of fellow officers, including one officer of the same rank as the officer under investigation; and

WHEREAS, the LEOBOR laws also allow for the dismissal of complaints if investigations are not completed within a certain statutory time frame; and

WHEREAS, LEOBORs also limit the authority of civilian review boards to   review determinations regarding complaints filed against police officers by only granting the boards an advisory role without the ability to issue subpoenas or actually impose punitive action; and

WHEREAS, permitting officers to have a "cool-off" period or to have access to all evidence before the start of an interrogation allows officers to "speak to witnesses or victims, visit the crime scene, or take other actions that could frustrate the investigation," and affords officers the privilege to "collude to create a consistent, exculpatory story;" and

WHEREAS, because of their status as members of the police force, officers are treated differently than civilians accused of crimes, who are not guaranteed the same degree of protection and are routinely subjected to unreasonable and lengthy interrogation periods and the use of aggressive interrogation tactics that include threats of punitive action, abusive language, or inducement through threats or rewards; and

WHEREAS, according to Walker, restricting the composition of hearing boards to only include fellow officers allows the "norms of police subculture to shape the standards of discipline," which include police solidarity and a tendency to "cover-up" for another officer's alleged misconduct; and

WHEREAS, law enforcement officers should not be able to escape discipline as a result of statutory time limits placed on the completion of investigations because delays in completing investigations, and resolving complaints is a national problem that results in most complaints not being resolved within one (1) year; and

WHEREAS, LEOBORs shields officers from accountability for police misconduct, which is particularly rampant in Black and Latino communities, where there is a frequent use of force and over-policing.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP calls for legislative bodies to eliminate Law Enforcement Officer's Bill Of Rights statutes and any similar laws currently in existence; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP also calls for the state legislative bodies to grant the statutory authority to create civilian review boards and that local governing bodies create and empower these boards with subpoena power and authority to investigate complaints, to review patterns and practices of misconduct, to review departmental investigations of officers, to recommend improvements in policies and procedures, and to impose sanctions for misconduct.