by Hazel Trice Edney
(TriceEdneyWire.com) — Calling it a “Unified Statement of Action to Promote Reform and Stop Police Abuse,” civil rights leaders have released a statement in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The statement calls for a string of actions, including a federal review of police abuse of black people.
The strongest statement yet from the civil rights community, the statement looks beyond the unrest currently raging in Ferguson.
“As national civil and human rights organizations and leaders committed to the protection of the rights of African-Americans and all Americans, we come together as a unified collective to urgently impress upon elected officials, law enforcement, the legal profession, businesses and all those in this nation interested in social justice, that we must not allow the killing of Michael Brown and other unarmed individuals across this nation to be in vain.”
The statement calls for “ mutual respect from law enforcement and elected officials toward … communities where lives have been tragically lost and endangered,” and urges “ … systemic change throughout this nation in the implicit and explicit bias against people of color and particularly African American youth who are routinely targeted by law enforcement even within their own communities.”
Leaders signing the statement include Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who led the effort; Marc Morial of the National Urban League; Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Clayola Brown of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute; Judith Browne Dianis of the Advancement Project; Laura Murphy of the American Civil Liberties Union; Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus; Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network; Cornell William Brooks of the NAACP; Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund; Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Pamela Meanes of the National Bar Association.
The statement offers 14 recommendations:
- An independent and comprehensive federal investigation by the Department of Justice of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown;
- A comprehensive federal review and reporting of all police killings, accompanied by immediate action to address the unjustified use of lethal and excessive force by police officers in jurisdictions throughout this country against unarmed people of color;
- A comprehensive federal review and reporting of excessive use of force generally against youth and people of color and the development of national use of force standards;
- A comprehensive federal review and reporting of racially disproportionate policing, examining rates of stops, frisks, searches, and arrests by race, including a federal review of police departments’ data collection practices and capabilities;
- A comprehensive federal review and reporting of police departments’ racial profiling and racially bias practices, as well as any related policies and trainings;
- A final update and release of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) June 2003 Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (hereinafter “Guidance”), with substantive reforms including updates that would 1) make the Guidance enforceable 2) apply the Guidance to state and local law enforcement who work in partnership with the federal government or receive federal funding; 3) close the loopholes for the border and national security; 4) cover surveillance activities; 5) prohibit profiling based on religion, national origin, and sexual orientation;
- Required racial bias training and guidance against the use of force for state and local law enforcement that receive grants,
- The required use of police officer Body-Worn Cameras (BWC) to record every police-civilian encounter in accordance with and policy requiring civilian notification and applicable laws, including during SWAT deployments, along with rigorous standards regarding the retention, use, access, and disclosure of data captured by such systems;
- The universal use of dash cameras in police vehicles;
- Concrete steps to ensure that federal military weapons do not end up in the hands of local law enforcement and, if they do, to prevent the misuse of those weapons in communities of color;
- On the ground community training to educate residents of their rights when dealing with law enforcement;
- The elimination of the “broken windows” policing policy initiated in the 1980’s which encourages overly aggressive police encounters for minor offenses and the promotion of community-based policing;
- Greater and more effective community oversight over the local law enforcement and policing tactics;
- and The establishment of a law enforcement commission to review policing tactics that would include in its composition leaders/experts from civil rights advocacy groups who represent the most impacted communities.
The statement also encourages African-Americans to “work toward immediate and long-term change” by voting and ensuring that “our elected officials are responsive to our demands”.
It concludes, “African-Americans, like so many in this country, have suffered, bled and died for this country. Not only do we deserve and demand that we be respected in the communities in which we live, we will not be silent, and instead encourage every concerned citizen to work with us to fulfill the promise of this nation – LIFE, Liberty and the Equality of opportunity for all.”