The job of law enforcement is to protect and serve all of us but years of overpolicing and racism in policing show that white Nebraskans and Nebraskans of color too often have drastically different experiences. Across the state, Black, Latinx and Native drivers are far more likely to be stopped, searched or arrested. We have seen the tragic aftermath of these kind of practices in the deaths of Kenneth Jones, Zachary Bear Heels and too many others before them.
It’s this simple: overpolicing, racism in policing and police brutality have harmed communities of color and created relationships of fear and mistrust. That’s why we saw historic turnout in the streets during 2020’s racial justice demonstrations. Nebraskans know there’s a crisis and they want Nebraska to be safe for everyone.
We can get closer to that goal with reforms currently in front of the Nebraska Legislature.
PUBLIC HEALTH, NOT PRISON
People experiencing a mental health crisis should never be met with violence or incarceration, but with well-trained and compassionate responders. Let’s start meeting public health needs with a public health response, instead of criminalization. We shouldn’t ask cops to be mental health experts or addiction specialists, but we should support legislation that directs funding to programs and people who are specialists.
TRANSPARENCY AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
We are in the middle of a collective demand for change around one of the most powerful and least accountable arms of our government. Nebraskans have the opportunity to support legislation that promotes transparency and oversight as a well as community input. It’s past time we put some guardrails on basic oversight and accountability measures.
State senators should implement a statewide ban on chokeholds and a statewide duty to intervene in cases of excessive force. They should also pass measures that will strengthen accountability and transparency, such as ensuring the public can access police body cam footage and creating publicly accessible records of police misconduct. As we support legislation that aims to protect all Nebraskans we must also keep eyes on legislation that removes power from vulnerable populations (LB537) and promotes fear around holding those in law enforcement accountable (LB259).
About this series
2021 holds the promise for meaningful change. At the start of it all is Nebraska's long 90-day legislative session. As our state senators face key issues, we need them to make the right choices. Your advocacy can help. We analyzed the hundreds of new bills that have been introduced and sorted civil rights priorities into eight categories. We call it the ACLU 8. These lists are not exhaustive and only reflect bills we've identified as top priorities or top threats. We encourage you to find your senator and tell them your priorities.