York last month, I had the chance to attend two protests against police
brutality and racial bias. I wanted to explain why I attended them, and
what the purpose was behind them.
attended the marches because I believe that there is a pervasive
pattern of overreaction and brutality against people of color. This does
not mean that I think every cop is bad. My sister was a cop for many
years, as was my brother-in-law. I understand the heavy and real risk of
being in this line of work, and that it is a daily sacrifice of
personal safety. I don’t think all cops are bad. In fact, I think many
of them are good. I am not protesting those cops.
am protesting is the idea that a crime is punishable by death in the
streets if the criminal resides in a black body. What I am protesting is
the bias and resulting overreaction that leads to a man (or a child) being shot dead for holding a toy gun.
also protesting the micro-aggressions that don’t always make the news,
but that foster the environment that leads to life-threatening violence.
I’m protesting the black producer being detained as a robbery subject because he fit the description, the black mother being pulled over and having her children be forced to exit the car at gunpoint. I’m protesting the black college professor who was arrested and thrown to the ground for jaywalking on a closed-off street as white men cross the street during the arrest. I’m protesting an arrest of a black woman that involves beating her in the face repeatedly.
protesting the fact that my nephew has been pulled over and had his car
searched numerous times since getting his license last year, simply for
driving while black.
And of course, I’m protesting those whose
lives were cut short unjustly. I’m protesting Eric Garner. Tamir Rice.
Mike Brown. Yvette Smith. John Crawford. Kimani Gray. Aiyana Stanley
Jones. Reka Boyd. Sean Bell. Ezell Ford. Alex Nieto. Oscar Grant.
Anthony Baez. Akai Gurley. They are the why.
to the how . . . the first protest I attended was organized by Faith In
New York. It was a rally for clergy and people of faith. I was invited
by Shane Clairborne as a part of the Red Letter Christians movement. We heard from several faith leaders in the black community, as well as Muslim leaders and Native American leaders.
This protest, held outside City Hall, had a very specific agenda that was thoughtfully outlined by Faith in New York.
I am including it here, because I think it is the most comprehensive
task list I’ve seen for making lasting and impacting changes.
Faith and New York Policy Priorities
people of faith who are deeply troubled by the state of police and
community relations in New York City and abroad, we are calling for the
Restoring Broken Trust: Steps to Improve Police and Community Relations
Proposed policy: On-going training for all police officers that includes training on implicit bias and cultural sensitivity
“othering” of community members in non-white communities and the
history of racism, classism and bias in this country undergirds many of
the acts of violence committed in our communities. Asking police
officers to both learn about and address these issues can led to more
productive relationships between cops and the communities they police.
Obama can mandate this on a federal level by tying it to federal
funding for police departments. New York city could also develop its own
End the militarization of police departments across the country by passing the bipartisan “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”
scenes of tanks and automatic machine guns in Ferguson have shocked the
world, it is essential that America ends the militarization of its
police through a military surplus give away known as the “1033 program”.
The federal government should discontinue its supply of military
weaponry and equipment to local law enforcement. And though Congress
seems to finally be considering measures in this regard, it remains
essential to monitor the demilitarization processes and the corporate
sectors that financially benefit from the sale of military tools to
police. In NY, we should create a mechanism for city administration and
police to have a public review process for all 1033 purchases and
Police Accountability to End Brutality and Racial Profiling
Proposed policy: Require police to wear voice activated body cameras with cloud data storage
the Eric Garner case has proven that a video is not enough to
prosecute, there is strong evidence that show that police are less
likely to commit acts of violence or abuse if they know they are being
filmed. This technique proved to reduce instances of police abuse by as much as 88% in one year in Rialto,
a heavily Latino city of Southern California with a history of tension
between police and the non-white community. Voice activated with full
Mayor de Blasio has authority over the New York City
Police Department which has already implemented a pilot program that he
can mandate and expand. President Obama can also enact this change by
requiring it off all departments that take any federal funding
Pass the “Right to Know Act” in NYC
to reduce excessive and abusive stop and frisk tactics in the city that
lead to disproportionate incarceration of young men and boys of color.
The legislation would allow people interacting with police to demand
name, badge number and officer’s rank for any interaction that doesn’t
end with an arrest or summons. It would also require that officers
inform people that a stop and frisk search is voluntary before beginning
any voluntary search.
Comprehensive and mandatory reporting of all incidents of police brutality across the country and locally
the scope and scale of police abuse and violence is difficult to
determine because it is not centrally tracked or required of law
enforcement departments. By creating a centralized data base and
mandatory reporting of police brutality and racial profiling, we can not
only begin to understand the scope and scale of this problem but also
begin to find best practices and solutions.
President Obama can make
this a reality by tying federal funding for police departments to the
collection and timely reporting of this data. At a local level, the NYPD
should publish quarterly and annual reports of summons and misdemeanor arrests, as well as use of force, to include demographic data.
Fixing Our Broken Judicial System
Proposed policy: Develop a policy that appoints a special prosecutor to hear all cases of police brutality or misconduct
is important because of the close working relationship between police
departments and district prosecutors. There is widespread perception by
the public that it is nearly impossible for prosecutor who
overwhelmingly rely on police testimony and evidence to perform their
jobs to prosecute these same police without bias. The evidence supports
these concerns, with only X indictments after X of cases of police
brutality in New York City alone. See this NY Times Op-ed
for more information. This change can come about by executive action
by Gov. Cuomo. He can empower the current elected Attorney General to
serve as special prosecutor in cases of police brutality. We also
encourage the Department of Justice to launch its own grand jury to
indict officers responsible for murder of victims of police brutality
across the country.
Creating Violence Free Neighborhoods
Proposed policy: Provide funding for Ceasefire violence prevention activities
is a nationally tested and data driven method of identifying the small
number of community members that are the most high risk for committing
acts of violence against other community members and creating pathways
out of that lifestyle. It involves close collaboration between clergy,
community members and police departments and has been proven to
dramatically reduce instances of shootings and killings in cities across
PICO National is calling on President Obama to create a funding mechanism to support this important work.
really appreciate the practical ideas outlined here, and I think they
are reasonable and achievable. I’m hopeful that they can be implemented.
The second protest I attended was the Millions March.
This was a larger-scale protest with the aim of demonstrating the
solidarity and sheer numbers of people who are outraged with what is
going on, and from my perspective it was incredibly effective in that
volume of people who showed up was astounding, and the diversity was
encouraging too. I saw people of all races and ages, bound together in
their determination to see things change. It was peaceful and hopeful.
To learn more about how you can lend your voice on these issues, check out the resources at Black Lives Matter.