Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton invoked Wednesday the names of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott -- black males who have recently died at the hands of police -- while calling for criminal justice reforms to help end patterns in policing and punishment that contribute to distrust and anger in communities of color. During a speech to the David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum at Columbia University in New York City, Clinton said the police-involved deaths of unarmed black men, like that of Gray in Baltimore, "should tear at our souls."
In her proposal for reforms, Clinton called for national, state and local lawmakers to consider policies that promote the best practices for rebuilding community trust. She also said reforms were needed to reduce the rate at which Americans are sent to prison. The proposal came in her first public remarks since violent unrest broke out in Baltimore over Gray's death, and as peaceful demonstrations over the deaths of black men grow in cities across the country.
"As a citizen, a human being, my heart breaks for these young men and their families," Clinton said. "We have to come to terms with some hard truth about race and justice in this country."
In her first major policy speech since officially launching her campaign, Clinton said every U.S. police department should deploy officer-worn body cameras. "It will help protect good people on both sides of the lens," she said, while granting that the cameras would not be a panacea to police-community relations.
Clinton also called for an end to policies promoting mass incarceration, citing recent statistics that show men of color are disproportionately jailed for crimes committed by all races. Despite historic lows in crime, the U.S. has 25 percent of the world's total prison population even though it is less than 5 percent of the global population, Clinton said.
"Think about what that means," she said. "We’re talking about missing husbands, missing fathers, and missing brothers. The consequences are profound." Clinton advocated emphasizing treatment instead of prison for nonviolent drug offenders and people with mental health issues.
Clinton's remarks Wednesday were a shift from her tough-on-crime views as a U.S. senator and the former first lady, when she supported policies such as the "three strikes" prison sentencing guidelines. The new policy positions are in line with a nationwide trend in community policing and criminal prosecution.
View the video of Clinton's speech below: