Mass incarceration and aggressive policing are failed tools to address violent crime, and undermine the proven efficacy of community violence intervention programming. We can’t afford to take one step forward and two steps back.
New York, NY — Today, as President Biden meets with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to discuss the Mayor’s newly released Blueprint to End Gun Violence and to announce a series of federal actions to combat gun violence, young people across the country are calling on the President to leave aggressive, racist policing tactics in the past and instead invest in evidence-based solutions like community violence intervention. As we’ve done since the President was inaugurated a year ago, we continue to plead with the President to announce a comprehensive plan to end gun violence rather than politically convenient piecemeal solutions. Today, he has disappointed us once again.
We’re glad that the President’s visit points to a renewed energy to end the gun violence epidemic, but we don’t believe his plan or Mayor Adams’ plan has its priorities straight. We can’t criminalize our way out of gun violence, and we worry that their approaches return us to a dark era of policing and mass incarceration as a tool to stop violent crime.
Young people can see through the window dressing: While the Mayor has proposed some sensible solutions that prevent gun violence from happening in the first place, like community violence intervention, he is attempting to placate activists as he steamrolls our concerns and promotes a dangerous step back in criminal justice reform. His emphasis on policing, reviving a disbanded and deadly police unit, and incarceration as key tools indicate a sinister return to the “tough-on-crime” era of Rudy Giuliani’s New York. The President’s plan echoes this, and we’re deeply concerned that the President’s plan mimics these violent tactics, and commits a significant amount of funding to policing over community violence intervention funding.
We know that policing and incarceration is not an effective tool to end gun violence, and evidence suggests that it may actually increase violence. Aggressive policing tactics erode trust, and subject Black and brown men to racist police violence. Inviting violence to solve violence simply breeds more violence. The Mayor’s promises of reforms to the police department, echoing promises Mayors have made across the country, are cold comfort. Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner weren’t murdered by the NYPD because officers weren’t wearing body cameras or uniforms. The President cannot rely on this as a framework.
“We’re glad to see the President commit to funding community violence intervention,” said Trevon Bosley, a youth activist from Chicago and a member of March For Our Lives Board. “But all the good in this announcement does not cancel out the bad. You can’t just say you’ll invest in community violence intervention, and in the same breath add even more money to ineffective and dangerous policing tactics. We can’t afford to take one step forward and two steps backward.”
“What we need from the President is a comprehensive plan to end gun violence and one that doesn’t rely on introducing even more violence by adding to bloated police departments,” said Alexis Confer, Executive Director of March For Our Lives. “We’ve been asking for a year now: What is your plan? How will the agencies work together? What are your benchmarks? Once again the President has outlined steps, but not a plan, and we need him to finally commit to formulating a plan and appointing a cabinet-level director to be laser-focused on carrying it out and ending gun violence.”
The simple truth is this: The President can invest in policing as a solution and condemn another generation of young Black and brown men to a regime of mass incarceration we’re only just now digging out of, and hope against reason that maybe this time will be different. Or, he can rely on evidence-based solutions that work now and that treat every human person with dignity; that stop violence in its tracks before it happens, and that will bring down gun violence quickly and measurably.
A year after your inauguration, we are still waiting for your answer Mr. President.