NAACP Renews Demands for Police Reform

Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The family of Alton Sterling, the African-American father of five who was killed by police in 2016—the family called Wednesday for the state’s attorney general to bring criminal charges against his killers. The call came after the Justice Department declined to bring federal charges against officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake. Sterling family lawyer Chris Stewart said the U.S. Attorney’s Office provided new details about the killing, including how officer Salamoni shot Sterling six times.

In a statement, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry promised a thorough investigation into whether to charge officers Lake and Salamoni. Alton Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, said she was devastated after learning new details about how her nephew was killed.

Alton Sterling’s killing on July 5th, 2016, sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.

Cornell William Brooks talking:

We’re calling for the attorney general of the state of Louisiana to conduct a thorough investigation and to vigorously pursue charges against these police officers. The fact that Mr. Salamoni put a gun to Alton Sterling’s head, referred to him with a slur, cursed him, if you will, those actions suggest his propensity to use violence, and those actions also put into context any actions by Mr. Sterling. This whole encounter, from beginning to end, was less than a few minutes. So, in other words, from the time Mr. Sterling was confronted by these police officers, having a gun put to his head and being shot less than 30 seconds after he was pinned to the ground, took place in a matter of minutes. This is not standard operating procedure. This is not standard community policing.

And so, we’re asking that the attorney general conduct a thorough investigation, that he consider the full range of the officers’ conduct during the encounter, but also the kind of officer he was and is. This happens with a brutal regularity, as you know quite well. Between 950 and a thousand people lose their lives at the hands of the police every year. A young black man is 21 times more likely to lose his at hands of the police than his white counterpart. This occurs with a brutal normalcy that we cannot countenance, we cannot put up with. And so, yes, the state investigation should continue, because the state standard, as opposed to the federal standard, is broader and lower, therefore not easy to meet, but easier to meet than the federal standard that the Department of Justice declined to pursue charges under.

– the only people arrested in this case, in the death of Alton Sterling, were two men. One was Abdullah Muflahi. He owned the Triple S convenient store. They took his video, because, of course, he had video at the store, surveillance video. And the other person was Chris LeDay, who works at a military base here in Georgia, saw video from bystanders, posted it online. Before he knew it, at the military base, he was handcuffed.

Three in the chest, three in—three bullets in the chest, three in the back. And what’s so frightening here is that these investigations, state and federal, are being conducted in an atmosphere of dangerous silence and dangerous presumption, dangerous silence in the sense that this—this code of blue prevents people from coming forward. It inhibits a free and frank discussion and testimony with respect to what’s happened in so many instances, but also a code of dangerous presumption. Namely, the conduct of officers is presumed to be reasonable, assumed to be reasonable, in the face of godawful facts.

The fact this man lost his life in a matter of moments—in a matter of moments—after being accosted by a police officer, spoken to in the most vile way, with a gun pointed to his head, this says everything, not only about the value or lack of value of Alton Sterling’s life, but the value of black lives across the country and the lack of humanity that black lives are accorded in this country. And I would say that that extends to the lives of others—members of the Muslim community, LGBTQ community, folks who are Latino. But we’ve got rogue policing going on. And we, in fact, have far too many prosecutors, far too many police chiefs, and certainly an attorney general who does not appreciate the breadth and the reality of this.

– 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Texas. He was killed on Saturday in the Dallas suburb of Balch Springs by police officer Roy Oliver, who shot the black teen in the head while he was in a car leaving a party. Oliver was fired Tuesday.

What’s happening is you have a funeral—I should say, you have a family that requested that marches and demonstrations not be done until after the funeral. They are grappling with most incomprehensible grief. And yet you have a larger community, beyond the family, also grieving. Schoolmates are grieving. We conducted a prayer vigil with the family’s attorney present, an interfaith coalition—imams, a rabbi, Christian clergy—present, and millenials. And we conducted this prayer vigil to train young people in civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action, but also to pray for the family and pray for the community.

What we know is this: Where we have seen young black and brown lives taken at will and at whim of the police, in case after case after case across this country, it is only because of public pressure that these cases get any attention and any pretense of investigation, anywhere in the country. So we have to keep the pressure up. We have to continue to make these cases and these names known.

What we notice in the community, obviously, is the fact that people are grieving. But beyond that, we also notice that family—we notice that community members are demanding that we not go through this same cycle of lives lost, hashtags created, police offering explanations that don’t explain, and investigations don’t lead to anywhere, or charges that don’t lead to convictions. We’ve got to break this ugly and vicious do-loop.

And so what the NAACP has done is that we went to this prayer vigil, but we are also talking about considering pursuing an independent investigation, hiring our own investigators, looking into this matter ourselves. This has been done before. It is an option. It is a way of bringing evidence forward. In Ferguson, we worked with the prosecutors to encourage people to come forward. But perhaps we need to conduct our own investigation to get people to come forward, to get them to speak about what happened here.

The point being here, Amy, is that we cannot continue doing business as usual, when business as usual is resulting in the death and destruction of black lives all across this country. And the fact of the matter is, in the last century, the NAACP brought an end to lynching. This lynching by those in blue with gold badges can be brought to an end in this century, if we, as a country, decide to do so.

Now, this decision to do so has to begin at the top. And that means our attorney general acknowledging—the Department of Justice acknowledging—the reality of this. You cannot add a blessing and a benediction to bad policing by saying you’re not going to use consent decrees, by saying you’re going to open up, re-examine consent decrees that have been agreed upon by the previous administration. You cannot say that consent decrees and holding police officers accountable leads to crime, as opposed to to decreasing crime and making both police officers and communities safer. This we know.

This is a moment in our democracy where we have got to not only call for reform, but demand reform. And that means not only lawyers in the courts pursuing charges, pursuing prosecution of bad police officers, but also means activists in the streets engaging in serious civil disobedience, serious disruption of business as usual and literally bringing this system of police misconduct and brutality to a grinding halt. It has to happen.

Cornell William Brooks
president and CEO of the NAACP.

— source


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