On the Road

ABA Annual Meeting 2016: The Militarization of Law Enforcement

After the last year, many if not all Americans are focused on the relationship between law enforcement officials and the public, particularly in communities of color. A panel at the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting addressed the increasing militarization of law enforcement and considered forward-thinking proposals to address the problem. This time On The Road, Legal Talk Network producer Laurence Colletti and ABA Law Student Division Chair Kareem Aref sit down with the panelists to further dive into this controversial issue. Rashidah Grinage from the Coalition of Police Accountability, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi, former sheriff Dub Lawrence, and ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice Vice Chair Cathleen Yonahara discuss congressional involvement in local police departments’ access to military equipment and why they must legally use it (or lose it). They question police force training and suggest a bigger focus on de-escalation of life-threatening situations. Dub Lawrence then goes on to talk about changes in his 50 years of experience with law enforcement and the documentary made about the death of his son-in-law. The guests finish the interview by discussing the importance of discourse and Congress’ reform in reducing the problem of increased police militarization and public mistrust.

Kareem Aref is a law student at the University of California, Davis – School of Law. He is also chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Rashidah Grinage lives in Oakland, California, and is coordinator for the Coalition of Police Accountability. Previously, she was the director of PUEBLO: People United for a Better Life in Oakland. Rashidah has worked on police accountability since the mid 1990s.

Dub Lawrence is the former sheriff for Davis County, Utah. He founded the first SWAT team in Davis County in 1975 and has observed the things that have occurred in law enforcement since then from a civilian perspective, an elected official perspective, as a county sheriff, and as a law enforcement officer. In 2015, a documentary was released about the death of his son-in-law and other shootings related to an increase in violent SWAT team raids.

Jeff Adachi is the elected public defender of San Francisco, a pension reform advocate, and a former candidate for Mayor of San Francisco. As the only elected public defender in the state of California, Mr. Adachi oversees an office of 93 lawyers and 60 support staff who represent over 23,000 people each year charged with misdemeanor and felony offenses.

Cathleen Yonahara is an employment partner at Freeland Cooper & Foreman. She is also vice chair of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, the civil rights and equal opportunity committee of the ABA which sponsored this panel.