Julian Castro visits Phoenix, touts plan for police reform

June 13, 2019
Presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks to a group of young people about climate change following a campaign event in Phoenix, Wednesday, June 12, 2019. The former housing secretary and San Antonio mayor touted his plans for police reform to a mostly Latino audience in Phoenix, a metro area that saw a record number of police shootings last year. (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)

PHOENIX (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said Wednesday that he’ll push for national standards on when police can use deadly force and will seek to restrict immunity that protects officers from civil lawsuits.

The former housing secretary and San Antonio mayor touted his plans for police reform to a mostly Latino audience in Phoenix. Maricopa County, which includes the city, saw 82 police shootings last year.

“What we’re trying to get at here is to ensure that police officers have to give due regard for the human life that they’re dealing with,” Castro told a crowd of several dozen people at the headquarters of Living United for Change in Arizona, a Latino organizing group.

Officers have a difficult job and many do it well, Castro said, “but I don’t think enough attention is paid to the many times that especially black and brown people in our country are mistreated by police.”

Cellphone cameras have captured some confrontations between police and people of color, but many incidents escape public scrutiny, he said.

Criminal justice reform has been a common refrain in the Democratic contest, but Castro has been the most specific in his proposals to reform policing.

His plan, released earlier this month, looks to end what Castro calls over-aggressive and racially discriminatory policing, hold officers accountable and begin a healing process between police and communities.

His plan would restrict qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects officers from being sued in many instances.

Castro wants to set a national standard allowing officers to use deadly force only when “there is an imminent threat to the life of another person, and all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.”

Castro also wants to legalize marijuana, decriminalize low-level offenses that he says trap people in the criminal justice system, and allocate more money for public defenders.

His comments touched on health care, education and housing, but questions from the audience focused heavily on police and criminal justice.

Castro, a longshot for the Democratic nomination, appeared in Phoenix a day before he’s scheduled to speak at a Fox News town hall broadcast from neighboring Tempe.

Castro said he wants to speak to all voters even if they disagree with him.

Arizona’s March 17 presidential primary will follow a series of much larger states.

While it’s likely to be a battleground in the general election, it’s gotten little attention from the large field of Democratic candidates who’ve been focused on early voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

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