One of the most important aspects of a proposed new national agenda for police reform is the context in which it is presented.
"We can end police violence in America" is the opening salvo of Campaign Zero, a movement organized by prominent Ferguson protesters Brittany Packnett, DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie and Samuel Sinyangwe. The website lists 10 broad categories of reform to modern police practices to increase trust between police officers and the communities they serve, and ultimately reduce the number of victims of police shootings.
Campaign Zero could be just another list of demands made by various activists who have played a role in the new civil rights movement known colloquially as Black Lives Matter. But Campaign Zero aims to be more than that. It's a call to action for those interested in pursuing change to get involved in the politics of change.
Change doesn't respond to demand unless there's political clout behind the demand. Real, lasting change -- think the Voting Rights Act -- happens when the political system is engaged by voters. As the organizers of Campaign Zero say on their new website (joincampaignzero.org): "It will take deliberate action from policy makers at all levels to implement these policy solutions."
Of course, the ideas proposed by Campaign Zero will go nowhere if they don't resonate with a broad public. But that's the best thing about their proposals. Most of them have widespread support, even among many police organizations. In fact, many of the proposals, such as increasing police training, making police forces more diverse, adding civilian review boards, installing body cameras and having police shootings investigated by outside bodies, mirror proposals being made in the St. Louis region by the Ferguson Commission.
That's no coincidence, as Ms. Packnett serves on the body that was appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon last year to examine the root causes of the unrest that took place in Ferguson after the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown at the hands of police. The commission also has police representation.
For all the division that exists between the loudest of protesters and the loudest of police union representatives, among many protesters, rank-and-file police officers and civic leaders, there is much agreement on the need to make changes to America's policing culture.
The potential for lasting, positive change as a result of what we have learned in the past year grows exponentially if the discussion catches the attention of the nation's political class. These days it's hard to catch the attention of a politician unless you're writing him (or his super PAC) a big check. What Campaign Zero lacks in financial clout will have to be offset by organizational clout.
Campaign Zero is starting by informing voters about positions held by 2016 presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike. It is helping voters identify which candidates are most likely to push for reform. Getting those potential voters to become actual voters will be a crucial step.
The site notes, for instance, that Sen. Rand Paul, the Republican presidential candidate from Kentucky, shares the belief with the protesters that laws should not allow police to so easily seize assets of people suspected of being involved with crimes. Campaign Zero points out that Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley have taken positions much more in line with the anti-police-brutality agenda than has presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton.
None of this matters, of course, if people don't vote, but it is a necessary precursor to getting people excited about voting. It is the move that is necessary so that Ferguson truly is remembered in U.S. history as the start of a new civil rights movement and not just a hashtag.