WASHINGTON, DC — On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 the National Bar Association (NBA) held a “Town Hall” meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, to address the issues of police brutality and specific cases such as the “Eric Garner” case from Staten Island, New York. Under the leadership of NBA President Pamela Meanes, the NBA vowed to lead a “War Against Police Brutality.” The National Bar Association has seen progress from the fruits of our labor in the following areas:
FEDERAL ACTION AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY
NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION DEMANDS: In July, the National Bar Association demanded that the federal government cease and decease from sending military equipment to local governments and pass a law requiring local police officers to wear body cameras and to allocate funding for the same. The National Bar Association encourages President Obama to enact these demands.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PROPOSED EXECUTIVE ORDER: Since the demands from the National Bar Association that the U.S Government cease the distribution of military equipment to local law enforcement and set aside funds for body and dash cameras, President Obama has proposed a three-year $263 million investment package with $75 million set aside to purchase body-worn cameras. The investment package will allow expanded training for law enforcement agencies (LEAs), add more resources for police department reform, and multiply the number of cities where the Department of Justice facilitates community and local LEA engagement. As part of this initiative, a new “Body Worn Camera Partnership Program” would provide a 50 percent match to states/localities who purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage. Overall, the proposed $75 million investment over three years could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras. The initiative as a whole will help the federal government’s efforts to be a full partner with state and local LEAs in order to build and sustain trust between communities and those who serve and protect these communities.
ACTION AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY IN STATES TARGETED BY THE NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION
NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION DEMAND: In September 2014, the National Bar Association sent open records requests to the following 25 cities that have been identified as having an alleged history of police misconduct and brutality cases: Birmingham, AL; Little Rock, AR; Phoenix, AZ; Los Angeles, CA; San Jose, CA; Washington, DC; Jacksonville, FL; Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Louisville, KY; Baltimore, MD; Detroit, MI; Kanas City, MO; St. Louis, MO; Charlotte, NC; Las Vegas, NV; New York City, NY; Cleveland, OH; Memphis, TN; Philadelphia, PA; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; San Antonio, TX and Milwaukee, WI. The open records requests sought information regarding the number of individuals who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while pursued or in police custody. The purpose of these request was to determine how pervasive the problem of racial profiling, and officer involved shootings of unarmed individuals exists in these aforementioned cities. The NBA will submit results of our inquiries to the Department of Justice and demand that it launch a full investigation and request a federal oversight of the cities that have been identified with problems. Since filing these request, several police departments who were served with our open records requests have made some key changes:
STILL WORK TO BE DONE: “While the NBA is hopeful for the newly evolving steps taken by a few law enforcement departments to increase transparency, open dialogue between police departments and community residents, and to honestly investigate incidents involving the use of force, statistics show much progress remains to be seen, particularly in large cities such as New York, Oakland, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles,” stated President Meanes, President of the National Bar Association. “Often unarmed black men (and women) mere existence is threat enough to draw deadly force, if not to justify it. Too often police officers first instinct is to escalate instead of de-escalate force in African-American communities. There remains an imbalance in our criminal justice system. The relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve have left many of these communities in fear of law enforcement. This has created a deep rooted sense of resentment and mistrust of law enforcement.
Demanding the Implementation of New State and Local Laws How to Implement: Require your councilperson and state legislators to implement the following laws:
LOCAL LAW Mandating Independent Investigations: Visit your City Hall to locate the following:
• Contact information for all council members.
• The expiration date of council members terms.
• Scheduled council meetings and citizens should attend and demand that the above laws are implemented immediately.
• Local attorneys (at least two) are asked to attend each council meeting.
• Demand higher standards for individuals to become police officers (local & state)
STATE LAW: Mandating Independent Investigations: Check your State Legislature website for the following:
• State Senate and Congressional representative’s contact information.
• The expiration date of the legislative member’s term.
• Legislature sessions.
• Write letters, attend congressional sessions and demand that the above laws are implemented immediately.
STATE AND LOCAL LAW: Mandating Diversity Training
• Require a standard training program for police officers in every state.
• Show up on the steps of your state legislative and/or your local municipal building and demand that the above laws are implemented immediately. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEMAND CONGRESSIONAL ACTION BEFORE DEMOCRATS LEAVE SENATE
• Congress Pass laws related to:
• Body Video Cameras
• Use of Force
• Elevation of Force
• Permanent Suspension
• Felony Police Brutality
• End the “School to Prison Pipeline”