For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”—instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.

We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. … They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

—Dissent of Justice Sonia Sotamayor in Utah v. Strieff

Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Sam DuBose, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, . . . . The litany of Black people who have lost their lives at the hands of the police or in police custody seems endless. People are killed and brutalized, but the legal system gives us no relief. Police officer after police officer is either not charged or acquitted. Police who kill are given paid vacation instead of being held accountable.

In the face of this situation, the future can seem bleak. However, the NAACP has been tackling seemingly intractable issues from its inception. Many of our victories would have seemed unattainable before members devoted years of hard work and attention to the issues of their day.

The goal of this toolkit is to assist in the mobilization of our state conferences and local units. This guide seeks to provide information useful for a long-term strategy of police reform. After reading this toolkit, members should be empowered to advocate for change in their local communities.