What’s Our Strategy?
The only good that has come from a chaotic year in race relations is that it has caused the African-American community to wake up from the false notion that we live in a post-racial America and end its years of apathy pertaining to social issues.
Peaceful protests are necessary and the violence that has erupted, while detrimental to our ultimate goal is understandable, but what are we trying to achieve?
The Civil Rights Movement used nonviolence to force White America to be empathetic to our cause and to paint abusive police officers and citizens in a negative light.
They were able to change public perception while also changing the laws.
The recent acquittal of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo is just another example to show us that while protesting is cool, we need to have a clear strategy to end the cycle of police brutality.
On Nov. 29, 2012, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams sped away from an undercover officer in Cleveland.
When the car backfired, police thought the two had fired shots at them and a 22-mile chase ensued.
Thirteen officers fired 137 bullets at Russell and Williams, according to CNN, and Michael Brelo climbed on the hood of their car and “fired at least 15 shots…downward through the windshield into the victims at close range as he stood on the hood of Mr. Russell’s car,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGlinty explained.
The judge acquitted Michael Brelo because they could not determine if his shots were the fatal shots.
With the Michael Brelo acquittal it is clear that the protests alone are not working. More unarmed African-Americans are dying at the hands of those charged with protecting us. And likewise, more and more officers are being acquitted or not charged even if the killings are caught on camera like in the Eric Garner death.
In 2009, NewsOne.com wrote an article on the strategies the African-American community needed to embrace to end police brutality.
While the list, which includes videotaping police encounters, protesting, voting out politicians who condone police brutality, engaging in dialogue with police officers and taking legal action against officers is a great start, none of those things seem to be decreasing police brutality.
We need a complete overhaul of the legal system.
As crazy as it sounds, judges should not make courtroom decisions involving other members of the legal field.
A conflict of interest exists because law enforcement and the judicial system work too closely together to come to objective decisions.
A citizen review board should be in place to decide cases of police brutality.
Having judges decide the fate of police officers is like having my father decide my fate if I make a legal mistake.
Of course he is going to rule in my favor because he is on my side.
Unfortunately for African-Americans, very few of us are on the other side of the legal system to give us a fair shake in instances like the 2012 killings in Cleveland.
African-Americans need to participate in jury duty whenever they are summoned.
We seldom get a jury of our peers because our peers do not show up enough for jury duty.
In a 2006 study in Kankakee County, Ill. results revealed, “that 20 percent of Blacks eligible to serve on juries didn’t show up,” according to The Daily Journal.
Furthermore, we need more African-Americans in law enforcement who do not abuse their power but use their power to change the way other police officers view our community.
The city of Cleveland and the Department of Justice (DOJ) made a great first step in attempting to reduce police brutality this week.
According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, “The court-enforceable agreement requires the Division of Police to adopt a number of reforms including de-escalation techniques; bias-free principles for policing; and improved officer training.”
I, like The Executive Leadership Council, believe the new DOJ rules are a good first step to end police brutality.
According to The Executive Leadership Council the rules will include: “Greater oversight by the DOJ over the utilization of its law enforcement grant programs, to determine how such programs can be used to provide and support increased training for police officers in key areas.”
Furthermore it will include, “Increased funding and resources for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to help strengthen its effort to conduct thorough reviews of any police department believed to be engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination,” according to The Executive Leadership Council, an organization dedicated to the development of global Black business leaders.
Only when police officers are held accountable for their crimes like regular citizens will anything about their behavior change.