Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Monday released a proposal to lessen wrongful police shootings that would use the power of the federal government to change the way local law enforcement is conducted.
Castro’s policing plan would set a federal standard for use of deadly force, requiring de-escalation tactics and the use of lethal means only as a last resort. He’d create one database of police departments’ use of stops and detentions and another to track officers who’ve been removed from one agency for cause to prevent them from being hired by another.
Castro, a former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development secretary, also would end a program that lets local authorities enforce federal immigration law, would pursue changes in statute to remove protections for officers from being sued for performing their jobs and would end the transfer of military-style weapons and vehicles to local agencies.
“It’s important that people understand that these videos that we keep seeing over and over again of police violence and mistreatment, especially of young black men, is not an accident,” Castro told reporters Sunday after drawing cheers from the California Democratic Party convention for reciting the names of unarmed minorities killed by police. “The system is broken. We need to fix it.”
In California, Castro named multiple unarmed victims of police but spent the most time on the case of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, who was shot to death by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard last year. No charges were filed in Clark’s shooting.
Policing is largely a local matter, and it’s unclear how Castro would enforce parts of his many-faceted plan. On Sunday, he told reporters the federal government would withhold grants from agencies that don’t follow the new national standards on deadly force. It’s unclear how he’d enforce other standards he outlines in the plan such as requiring officers to give people time to comply with verbal commands, restricting shooting at moving vehicles and requiring written consent for vehicle searches.
Castro, a former San Antonio mayor who announced his 2020 presidential campaign in January, has said he’d step up Department of Justice investigations of local agencies for violating people’s rights.
Some of Castro’s proposals would require sweeping changes in law enforcement. For example, he proposes using federal grants to push agencies to require officers to live in communities they serve. He wants a law banning the “stop-and-frisk” practice, under which officers quickly search people they’ve stopped. He also proposes ending the “broken windows” approach to policing, a theory popularized in the 1990s that calls for enforcing small quality-of-life violations to cut down overall crime. He’d also prevent agencies from seizing assets they suspect were bought with money from criminal acts, instead requiring a conviction before the material could be seized.
Castro said his database of officers dismissed from departments would help cut down on a persistent phenomenon in which an officer fired from one agency moves elsewhere and gets a job at another department that may be unaware of the officer’s disciplinary history.