This letter features reporting from "Will Algeria Move Toward or Further Away from Transitional Justice?" by Maggie Manson, a Pulitzer Center reporting project
Dear Honorable Representative Katie Porter,
Crowds filled the sidewalks and spilled into the streets. The footsteps and shouts of the people were as united as their desire for justice and accountability regarding their nation’s violent past.
These are scenes that Maggie Manson paints in her article, “Will Algeria Move Toward or Further Away from Transitional Justice?” The Algerian civil war began with a military coup and reinstatement of the oppressive and totalitarian National Liberation Front, causing a decade of bloody warfare to follow. Subsisting in the shadows of war violence, Algeria now stands at a conflicting crossroad between historically militarized identity and its civilians’ desires for political change. Despite advocacy efforts for war victims to receive justice and accountability, the Algerian government is determined to keep its authoritative position by “manipulating national memory” of the war and using threats of bloodshed towards its protesting citizens.
Algeria is over 6,000 miles away from us residents of California’s 45th Congressional District. However, I am sure these images of the protesting crowds and the crossroad between violence and peace are not unfamiliar, as this is a microcosm of a global issue. The Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements emerged in response to America’s law enforcement system, which simultaneously suppresses marginalized voices while not holding the privileged accountable for their wrongdoings. Orange County is no stranger to this inequitable system. Do you remember 42-year-old Kurt Andras Reinhold who was killed by San Clemente officers for jaywalking? How about the innocent Korean man beaten at The Source mall last year, whose assailants have yet to be penalized? Despite such acts of injustice, people protesting police brutality across Orange County and Los Angeles have continuously faced tear gas, rubber bullets, and, like the dissenters of Algeria, the risk of death.
Our current law enforcement system is even more harmful to impoverished and marginalized communities. Federal data shows that Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts, and the majority of deaths due to nonviolent offenses were people of color and lower income. These statistics are dangerous to Orange County, where 340,000 people live in poverty and 58% of its 3.1 million residents are people of color. There is a sad irony here that the people who are meant to protect our communities are a source of much harm. As our county’s representative, I implore that you advocate for restorative justice in our law enforcement system. Lives are on the line, so I urge you to be a representative for the people who need you the most.
As a legislator, public policy is one of the most profound ways you can create change. Just as Algeria’s lack of justice for its war victims and the brutality of America’s police are unfair, it is also unfair to employ punitive measures and expect change within our law enforcement system. Police officers must be educated and held responsible in order to prevent the further preservation of unjust systems. Please voice your support for bills within California’s legislature such as the CRISES Act, which would require nonviolent mental health and de-escalation tactic training for all California police. In Congress, please pass laws requiring all police to wear body cameras, and include guidelines to prevent tampering with camera footage. Additionally, I encourage passing legislation to require background checks for misconduct when hiring police. Within the 45th congressional district, oversight of the police department can be increased by establishing a Police Oversight Board with citizens of all backgrounds, just as the city of Berkeley has done. For increased transparency, police departments can release public data about all the instances of misconduct their officers have handled, because the refining of internal procedures is an effective way to decrease prejudice within the law enforcement system.
Representative Porter, as a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I hope you can become a trailblazer of progress towards an equitable law enforcement system for our district and our nation. I thank you for your time and consideration of this pressing issue.
Kaitlyn Cui is a high school senior from Southern California. From creative writing to essays and journalism, Kaitlyn enjoys trying out various writing styles as ways to amplify pressing social issues and tell stories about her community. Outside of academics, Kaitlyn spends the majority of her time working in her school's Yearbook program, writing poetry, and in political and community organizing. She also enjoys trying new restaurants, listening to music, visiting museums, and hanging out with her friends.