A Year After George Floyd’s Murder, Human Rights First Continues Work to Demilitarize Law Enforcement

NEW YORK – The murder of George Floyd a year ago was not a unique event, but it was a catalyst for some qualified progress on issues of diversity, accountability, and human rights. Profound systemic injustice remains part of American life and culture; the work of Human Rights First targets some of the policies that allow it to fester.

“In the past year and moving forward, Human Rights First has made the elimination of systemic injustice a core goal of the organization,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “As an organization focused on activating Americans around human rights, helping to bring justice into our own communities must be an important part of our work. Given our experience and expertise, one focus of that effort is addressing the imbalances between law enforcement and the communities they are meant to serve.”

To that end, Human Rights First is working to roll back police militarization in the United States, advocating for Congress to reform of the 1033 program to stem the flow of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

Our project on demilitarization created a toolkit that helps local governments create legislation to demilitarize their police forces. It is currently being used in Seattle; broader national trainings will start in June.

We have also devised digital tools to provide journalists, researchers, allied organizations, and the public information about how law enforcement behaves across society and in individual situations. Blue Witness collects and visualizes incidents of police use-of-force across the United States; SurvAI identifies force-related objects (i.e. nightstick, batons, guns) and the use of force by individual police officers in video data.

“It is clear that far more needs to be done to fight racism in the United States,” added Breen. “Human Rights First will continue to use all its tools and expertise to create a just world in which every person’s intrinsic human rights are respected and protected.”


Published on May 25, 2021


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