WASHINGTON — A coalition of unions, members of Congress, progressive groups and others wrote a joint letter to President Barack Obama calling for drastic changes to local police forces around the country after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The letter, which was distributed via an ad in the Washington Post, calls for a demilitarization of police forces, an effort to increase diversity, and the establishment of a "federal czar" to promote "the professionalization of local law enforcement."
"The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not bode well for police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country," the letter said.
Demilitarization advocates have already been calling for swift action in Washington, but this letter goes much further than what they were asking for.
The letter is signed by more than 100 individuals. Several members of Congress signed the letter, including Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Rep. John Lewis.
Other notable names who signed on include AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, ACLU Executive Directory Anthony Romero, and co-founder of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Ben Cohen.
One prominent progressive name missing from the list is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But actress Cynthia Nixon, who has close ties to the de Blasio administration, does appear on the list.
"Youth of color, black boys and men especially, who should be growing up in supportive, affirming environments are instead presumed to be criminals and relentlessly subjected to aggressive police tactics that result in unnecessary fear, arrests, injuries, and deaths," the coalition writes in the letter.
Jacob Fischler is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C.
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