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Feel free to use as much of this drafted communication as you would like, and customize it to fit your needs and intended audience.

Dear _________,

Thank you for your service to our city/county/state/district/country. I’m reaching out to you regarding the disproportionate impact of excessive use of police force on some of my most vulnerable fellow constituents.

According to Mapping Police Violence, as June 30 U.S. police officers have killed 598 people during 2020. Annual data reveals that approximately 1,000 people are killed by police year over year, and nearly 60 percent of those victims do not have a gun and aren’t involved in activities that typically necessitate police involvement. Furthermore, Black people have been 28% of those killed by police since 2013 despite being only 13% of the population.

Across the U.S., policies governing police department operations often fail to include common-sense limits on police use of force. The impact of these policy shortcomings is, as we’ve seen, loss of life, severe injuries, families shattered, futures ended, and an ongoing, widening trust delta between police and communities–especially impoverished communities and those predominantly Black or Latinx.

To address these injustices, I’m requesting that you please do all you can on two fronts.

First, the defunding of the police department. There’s widespread misperception regarding what “defunding” actually means. It means restructuring local and state budgets to reinvest in healthcare, employment, education, and housing. It does not mean stripping police departments of all their funding. Please examine how much of your municipality’s budget goes toward police, compared to the other areas listed above that need more support.

Second, while defunding is the most thorough and sustainable solution to a culture of excessive police force, there are numerous, immediate steps that “traditional” police departments must take. These include:

  • Requiring officers to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.
  • Using a Force Continuum or Matrix that define/limit the types of force and specific weapons that can be used to respond to specific levels of resistance.
  • Restricting chokeholds and strangleholds (including carotid restraints) to situations where deadly force is authorized or prohibiting them altogether.
  • Requiring officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using deadly force.
  • Prohibiting officers from shooting at people in moving vehicles unless the person poses a deadly threat by means other than the vehicle (for example, shooting at people from the vehicle).
  • Requiring officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to using deadly force.
  • Requiring officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force.
  • Requiring officers to report both uses of force and threats/attempted uses of force (for example, reporting instances where an officer intentionally points a firearm at a civilian)

Tragedies such as George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s deaths will continue to make news until there is across the board police defunding and immediate, meaningful policy changes, which requires a critical mass of Americans–including white Americans–influencing leaders at all levels of government. That’s one of the main reasons that I’ve chosen to share my perspectives and requests with you today.

Thank you for your time and consideration on these matters. Feel free to contact me if I can provide additional clarity on my requests.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Your City and State

John M. DeMarco is a writer, executive coach, and activist based in Nashville, Tennessee.