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New Issue Brief Highlights Urgent Need for AAPI Communities to Actively Participate in Police Reform

LOS ANGELES –  The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Civic Engagement Fund released a new report today that draws attention to the critical role AAPI communities must play in uniting around systemic change for police reform. The report, “Beyond the Hashtags and Slogans: The Role of AAPIs in Police Reform,” explores the responsibility AAPI communities have to participate in meaningful police reform.

“There is a lack of informed analysis on policing and the role AAPIs have in uniting towards reform,” said EunSook Lee, Executive Director of AAPI Civic Engagement Fund. “This issue brief is offered as a resource to organizers, advocates, and community members who are calling for meaningful examination of policing to ensure real safety and to address the systemic racism embedded into the current system.”

Je Yon Jung, a civil rights attorney with an extensive background in police misconduct cases, authored the brief. It delves into the history of policing, its roots in slavery and how systemic discrimination impacts the criminal justice system, from what happens in courtrooms to police practices and oversized law enforcement budgets. Grounded in data, facts, and stories, Jung examines police shooting fatalities, demystifies the “defund the police” movement, and provides examples of how AAPIs are not immune to police violence. She highlights specific cases of police violence against AAPI communities (with pending civil rights lawsuits),  including the 2019 killing of Hmong American Chiasher Vue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the 2020 killing of Angelo Quinto in Antioch, California.   

“Dismantling systemic discrimination will not happen overnight, with one movement, or with one community,” said Jung.  “Police reform and progress cannot happen around the edges. The foundational underpinnings of why law enforcement came to be, how it evolved, and its future trajectory are critical to dismantling toxic components, if not a wholesale refresh.”  

Jung challenges false media narratives about violence against Asian Americans as perpetrated predominantly by Black people and points out that Black people are 3.5 times more likely to die as a result of police violence than White people.  She writes,  “AAPIs, in particular, have a role in ensuring that we are not used as pawns and impermissible scapegoats for avoiding these difficult conversations and reforms.” 

AAPI groups across the country are leading community engagement efforts to redefine policing.  AAPI Civic Engagement Fund grantees such as Providence Youth Student Movement in Rhode Island, Freedom, Inc. in Wisconsin, and the Coalition of Asian American Leaders in Minnesota are examples of groups participating in efforts to reduce police budgets and reroute funding to health care, education, substance and mental health services, housing, and employment.

Jung states that police reform will take a paradigm shift and that “reacting to one injustice without examining the repercussions to other communities undermines the need for wide-reaching systemic reforms.” She concludes with an invitation to AAPI communities to join police reform efforts: “It is imperative that AAPIs actively participate in fundamentally changing our society’s approach to policing and safety. Failing to do so is at our peril.”

Cover of report: Beyond the Hashtags and Slogans: The Role of AAPIs in Police Reform

Visit the Fund’s new Movement Hub website to read the brief HERE.

About the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund:
The AAPI Civic Engagement Fund was established in 2013 with the mission to foster a culture of civic participation within AAPI communities by supporting the growth of AAPI groups as organizational-movement and power-building leaders that achieve specific policy, systems, and transformational change. It holds the vision that AAPIs must be an integral part of strengthening America’s democracy, in advocating for improving the quality of life for all, and in creating vibrant multiracial communities. www.aapifund.org. On Twitter: @AAPIFund.

About Je Yon Jung:
Je Yon Jung is a civil rights attorney with more than 25 years of experience. She served as a senior trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, for 14 years enforcing federal civil rights statutes in police misconduct, housing, and jail and prison conditions. s. Her work included the investigation of numerous patterns or practices involving the LAPD, IPD, VIPD, and Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for its constitutional violations as part of its 287(g) participation. She also served six years with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as the West Region Fair Lending Counsel, enforcing federal statues in the areas of consumer-lending discrimination. She is currently in private practice as a civil rights attorney representing individuals and families who have been killed or seriously injured by police and law enforcement personnel throughout the country.