To Top

10 ways Black Lives Matter is already winning

Disruption works.

In August, Black Lives Matter activists launched Campaign Zero, a comprehensive policy platform outlining specific proposals for police reform, ranging from body cameras to ending broken windows policing.


Many of their proposals have or had already been adopted in cities and states across the country, with some even specifically crediting protests as their motivation for the changes.

Here is a sampling of some of the changes to policing we have seen in recent time that have Campaign Zero’s proposals in action.

1. Broken Windows Policing

Broken Windows Policing is a style of policing which heavily targets minor crimes and infractions based on the idea that smaller crimes will lead to bigger crimes in a city. This has led to major problems with racial profiling and disproportionate targeting of people of color.

Campaign Zero proposes ending this by decriminalizing or deprioritizing minor offenses such as loitering, disturbing the peace, and spitting, and ending racial profiling.

Wins: In May, the Cleveland police department agreed to train all officers to minimize racial bias as well as develop strategies to avoid biased policing and avoid implicit biases.

In September, Maryland became the first state to ban all law enforcement from engaging in discriminatory decisions regarding the appearance of an individual as guidance when interacting with citizens.

2. Community Oversight

Generally, when police commit an act of misconduct, the police department is left to investigate themselves, in an alarming conflict of interest.  

Campaign Zero proposes that community oversight boards be created to help write policy at police departments and make recommendations for discipline following a civilian complaint.

Wins: As of September, 2015, over 120 communities nationwide have some form of civilian review board, according to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

In May, it was announced that Cleveland Police will have a civilian head the department’s internal affairs division.

3. Limit Use of Force

Police departments are currently allowed to use deadly force at a perceived threat – even if a threat is not actually present.  Police departments are also not required to report use of force to the federal government.  

Campaign Zero proposes allowing deadly force only when there is an imminent threat and that all use of force be reported.

Win: Cleveland agreed to limit use-of-force following days of protests in May after a judge acquitted a white police officer of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of an unarmed black couple in 2012.

4. Independently Investigate and Prosecute

Investigations into police abuse are typically headed by the police department and the local prosecutor’s office, who work closely with the departments – creating a double conflict of interest.  

Campaign Zero calls for independent prosecutors at the state level for cases in which police seriously injure or kill someone, and require investigations.

Wins: The state of Wisconsin requires investigators with the Wisconsin Department of Justice to handle separate inquiries into police killings. Investigators assigned to a case are not allowed to be employed by the same law enforcement agency that is under investigation.

Connecticut also requires the state’s Division of Criminal Justice to investigate any deadly force by law enforcement to prevent police department from investigating themselves.  The state’s chief attorney can also appoint a special prosecutor, and the law allows anyone to make a written request to them to do so.

Currently, they are the only two states with such laws.

In August, however, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure which bars grand juries from hearing cases that involve excessive or deadly force by police.

“One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB 227 makes sense,” Senator Holly Mitchell said in a statement regarding the measure which she proposed. “The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system.”

We have also seen a sharp rise in police officers being charged for their crimes. The rate of indictments has increased by 5 times over the course of the last 5 months, according to data compiled by criminal justice professor Philip Stinson.

In August, there were six indictments of police for murder over the course of one week!

5. Community Representation

In many communities, officers policing communities are not representative of the communities they are working in.  For example, Ferguson is approximately two-thirds black, but only three of 53 officers were black when they killed Michael Brown.

Campaign Zero wants police to achieve representative proportion of women and people of color through outreach, recruitment, and changes to policies.

Wins: Police officials in Omaha, Nebraska, acknowledged in August that the department’s percentage of black officers (7.5 percent) fell short of the 12.4 percent of the city’s population that is black, and is actively trying to even out the number by creating a more strategic approach to seeking black recruits.

“You want to be reflective of the community,” Deputy Chief Greg Gonzalez told the Associated Press. “We didn’t feel like we were.”

In Kansas City, Missouri, which is approximately 30 percent black, black officers make up about 11.5 percent of the police department, in an attempt to have more diversity, recruiters have started using Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites to seek out potential recruits from the black community.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, recruitment officers are working to find qualified Hispanic officers to keep up with Tulsa’s growing Hispanic population.

6. Body cameras

Most police departments still are not equipped with body cameras.

Campaign Zero wants to see body cameras on all officers as well as banning cops from interfering with people’s right to film the police.

Wins: In August, Los Angeles became the largest US city to outfit police officers with body cameras.  While this was originally supported by the ACLU, the LAPD has voted to allow officers to review body camera footage before writing reports, they are also concerned the cameras wil be used for surveillance.

The mayor of Baltimore has also promised to start a body-camera pilot program by the end of the year. On Wednesday, she pledged a two-month test “as soon as possible” in the Western District where Freddie Gray was killed.

A survey conducted by Vocativ found that out of the 100 most populated US cities, police departments in 41 of them have body cameras for at least some of the officers and 25 of the cities have plans to implement them.

In August, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a measure reaffirming the public’s right to film police.

“With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Brown reinforces our 1st Amendment right and ensures transparency, accountability and justice for all Californians,” Senator Ricardo Lara wrote in a statement after the measure he proposed was signed into law. “At a time when cell phone and video footage is helping steer important national civil rights conversations, passage of the Right to Record Act sets an example for the rest of the nation to follow.”

7. Training

Many departments only provide training for their officers annually, some only once in their careers.  The training tends to focus on using force instead of deescalation.

Campaign Zero would like to see training on a quarterly basis with more focus on subconscious racial biases and other prejudices.


Wins: The deeply-troubled Seattle Police Department has began training officers in de-escalation; so has the state of Connecticut

8. End For-Profit Policing

In many jurisdictions across the country, police are used as a means for generating revenue for their local government.

Campaign Zero proposes ending police department quotas for tickets and arrests, limiting fines and fees on low-income people, and ending civil forfeiture.

Wins: In August, a California Assembly Committee passed SB 443,  setting additional restrictions on the state to prevent abuses from civil asset forfeiture.  It requires officials “to seek or obtain a criminal conviction for the unlawful manufacture or cultivation of any controlled substance or its precursors” before they can seize someone’s assets, and requires the officers to give notices explaining how to have the items returned.

The bill also contained provisions to stop transfers of seized property to the federal government.

The state of New Mexico also enacted a law this year prohibiting the confiscation of property from suspects of a crime until after they are convicted and Montana passed a reform plan that now places the burden of proof on the government instead of the property owner.

9. Demilitarization

We repeatedly see militarized SWAT being deployed for minor drug raids as well as being used against protesters.  The Department of Defense currently runs the 1033 program which provides military weaponry and supplies to local police.

Campaign Zero aims to end the DOD 1033 program as well as limit when these items can be purchased and how they may be used.

Wins: In April, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed the strongest reform on police militarization of any state yet. The law prohibits any department in the state from receiving drones that are armored or weaponized (or both), military aircraft, grenades or grenade launchers, silencers and militarized armored vehicles.

A month prior, New Jersey Chris Christie signed into law prohibiting used war weapons and supplies without express approval from the local governments involved.

In May, President Barack Obama banned police departments from obtaining certain military equipment from the program, such as tracked armored vehicles.

The state of Utah has also become the first state to track and limit SWAT style tactics.

10. Fair Police Union Contracts

Police unions have negotiated such strong contracts that even the chief of the Albuquerque Police Department went on record last year blaming them for limiting him from being able to fire officers who do not belong on the police force.

Campaign Zero proposes making officer’s disciplinary history accessible to the public as well as ending paid vacation for officers who are being investigated for killing or seriously injuring someone.

Win: In July, Supreme Court Justice Alice Schlesinger ruled that the prior disciplinary records of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who’s chokehold killed Eric Garner last year, must be released to the public.

“Any adverse reactions expressed toward Mr. Pantaleo have their roots in the video of the incident, which speaks for itself, and … in the Staten Island Grand Jury’s subsequent decision not to indict him.” Judge Schlesinger responded to Pantaleo’s attorney arguing that it would cause more scrutiny and embarrassment to his client.

While there is still a long way to go, as 26 people have been killed by police in the month of September alone, the awareness brought about by Black Lives Matter protesters will continue to grow and continue to force change- because one thing is for sure, they have proved they will not back down or forget.

Feel free to comment and let us know of any other victories we may have missed!

More in Black Lives Matter