Marian Tolan with Robbie Tolan and Benjamin Crump

With 2020 awakening millions of Americans to the longstanding reality of police violence inflicted upon Blacks, a long-overdue national conversation arose on how to fix a broken criminal justice system. To go beyond presenting Defender readers with a rehash of the problem, the 90-year-old publication, in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network(SJN), launched the Redesign of Public Safety Series.

“Thanks to support from the SJN, we were able to engage in discussions with local police, a national law enforcement leader, state senators and family members of victims of police violence, to get their takes on what that redesign should look in terms of police reform,” said the series’ project manager and lead writer Aswad Walker. “Our goal was to extract answers and solutions from every group impacted by the issue. Let’s hear from family members who wear the scars of this violence; legislators working in Austin to shape policies that reflect equal justice; and the police themselves to get their take.

“Telling the story of how law enforcement, community members and policy makers are responding to reform is an act of journalism that seeks to tell the whole story and not just highlight the problems,” said Holly Wise, SJN’s Texas regional manager. “This is a powerful form of public service, and we were eager to partner with the journalists in the Defender Network who are dedicated to bringing these stories to life.”

Walker added, the hope was to produce articles that allowed readers to take away something tangible that can help in redesigning “a system that recognizes Black Lives Matter.”

Focusing on the SJN mission, Allie Shah, a reporter with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said, Solutions Journalism means “not just looking at the problem but also exploring ways to solve the problem.”


 

 

 

 


 

TAKEAWAYS

  • Make use of bodycams a statewide requirement, with stiff penalties for turning them off while responding to an incident.
  • Enact legislation that ends Qualified Immunity and allows for greater officer accountability for wrongdoings.
  • Permanently ban officers guilty of wrongdoings from working in law enforcement, and levy stiff penalties to police departments that hire such officers.
  • Make officer drug testing standard after violent incidents, and make their work history records public for more transparency.