Online Petition Calls for Sentencing Minimum in Police Shootings
By Jackie Ourada , Morning Edition Host & Reporter Nebraska Public Media
July 15, 2021, midnight ·
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An online petition created by an educator in Nebraska is racking up millions of signatures online. Travis Washington is calling for a 15-year sentencing minimum for law enforcement officers who shoot unarmed civilians.
His idea for the ‘Hands Up Act’ sprouted before 2018, but it was in December of that year when he officially drafted his online proposal through Change.org.
“A professor, Father Brown, told me, ‘Why are you waiting to be in a position of power to do this?’ And I was like, I don’t have to be a congressman or senator. I can just do this now, and that’s what I did,” Washington said.
More than 2.7 million people have signed the ‘Hands Up Act’ petition so far, making it one of the most-signed petitions on Change.org.
The proposed legislation calls for a mandatory 15-year sentence for police officers who shoot an unarmed civilian. Washington, an Illinois native and now an educator in Lincoln, said having a strict sentencing minimum would hold law enforcement agencies accountable.
“I guarantee if we had that type of protection, more people would feel comfortable with the police," Washington said. "If I feel like you can murder me without any justification, without any punishment, of course I’m going to feel uncomfortable around you. Of course I’m not going to be so supportive of you. And I support police officers. I do. It’s the individuals that poison the department, that makes it corrupt.”
Washington’s petition coincides with a growing movement to implement more police training and police reform. He said families of unarmed police shooting victims have given his sentencing proposal their support.
“I chose this, because deep down in my heart, it’s a significant amount of years. And not only that, once you receive validation from Antwon Rose’s mother and Michael Brown’s mother, what else is there to be questioned? The mothers who lost somebody unarmed. If they’re OK with it, I’m OK with it.”
Washington said accountable legislation and these conversations could benefit relations between police departments and communities of color.
“I’m going to be honest with you. I had a very colonized mind. I thought I was inferior. And a lot of Black people still think that. It’s just, I’m brave enough to admit I used to be that, but I went onto learn that there’s more, and if you want to change the situation, you change the situation.”
Washington has a goal of accumulating three million signatures.
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