The federal government must hold police departments accountable for violence against African Americans
Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were not the only African-American men killed by police last week. Delrawn Small was killed in New York and Alva Braziel was killed in Houston.1,2,3
At Tuesday’s memorial service for the police officers killed in Dallas last week, President Obama called on Americans to join together to mourn, and to join together to fight racism and end gun violence. But there is more that the president himself can do to stop police violence against African-Americans, and more that Congress can do as well.
The federal government is spending billions of dollars every year giving grants to the same police departments that are killing, harassing and over-incarcerating Black people, including the departments that killed Sterling, Castile, Smalls and Braziel.4 It has to stop.
Politicians can’t keep promising the change we need in local police departments while quietly maintaining the status quo by failing to take real action. That’s why CREDO, Democracy for America and other progressive organizations are joining with our friends at ColorOfChange to demand that President Obama and Congress use their power to divest federal grant funds from police departments that don’t value Black lives. Can you add your voice today?
Tell President Obama and Congress: Stop funding police departments that fail to make critical reforms for Black lives.
Baton Rouge PD, the police department that killed Alton Sterling, has twice been under investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for civil rights violations — including for its harassment of Black people following Hurricane Katrina.5,6 Yet federal officials continue to give it money — in fact, Baton Rouge PD has received $3 million from the DOJ over the past five years.7
In the aftermath of his death, it was revealed that Philando Castile had been stopped by police 52 times in 14 years8 — and subject to the same profiling, criminalization, and extraction of wealth detailed in the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson police and replicated everywhere in the United States.9
The federal government knows exactly how police departments are terrorizing Black communities — it’s past time they do something about it and hold police departments accountable.
The president has taken executive action for police reform before. Following the highly militarized brutalization of Ferguson protesters, tens of thousands of CREDO members joined other activists in speaking out against the militarization of the police by the Defense Department. President Obama signed an executive order banning the federal government from providing certain kinds of military gear to local and state police.10 We're calling on President Obama and Congress to take action again and pull all federal grant funds from any police department that doesn't make reforms to protect Black lives.
Tell President Obama and Congress: Withhold all federal funds from police departments that don’t adhere to simple reforms.
The president’s own 21st Century Policing Task Force has made simple recommendations that would help ensure transparency and accountability.11 But the president has not done all he can to ensure that police departments actually implement these changes. It’s time for him to step up and ensure that police departments implement these critical reforms by withholding funds from departments who fail to make change, and encouraging Congress to follow his lead. The reforms include:
- Make all department policies available for public review, and publish demographic data on all stops, frisks, summonses and arrests.
- Collect, maintain, and analyze demographic data on all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.
- Adopt policies that require all officers to seek written consent before any search and provide their name, reason for the stop or search, and contact information for the civilian complaint board.
- Require independent criminal investigations into all officer-involved fatalities and in-custody deaths.
- Enforce policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, housing status, occupation and/or language fluency.
The tragedies of the last week in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, New York, Houston and Dallas prove that systemic racism has put our criminal justice system in a state of emergency. It’s time for President Obama to take real leadership and use every bit of his executive power to make systemic change to protect the Black lives.
The more of us who add our voices, the greater the pressure on the president and Congress to act.
With many people trying to use the tragic killings in Dallas to undermine and discredit the movement for Black lives, it’s more important than ever that progressives take a powerful stand in support of Black people’s fight for freedom and equality.
Thanks for taking action today.
- Kai Wright, "Why Alton Sterling and Philando Castile Are Dead," The Nation, 7/07/2016.
- “Review: Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition, Executive Office of the President, 12/2014.
- Shawn Cohen, Lorena Mongelli and Danika Fears, "Video surfaces of NYPD cop's road rage shooting," New York Post, 7/08/2016.
- Aviva Shen, "Police Said They Shot A Man Because He Pointed A Gun At Them, Video Shows He Had His Hands Up," ThinkProgress, 7/10/2016.
- A.C. Thompson, "Feds: We're Investigating Baton Rouge Police Too," Pro Publica, 3/26/2010
- Trymaine Lee, "Alton Sterling Shooting Exposes Racial Fractures in Baton Rouge," NBC News, 7/7/2016.
- "Audit of the Office of Justice Programs Justice Assistance Grants Awarded to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office," Office of the Inspector General, 11/1/2014.
- Larry McShane, "Philando Castile stopped by cops in Minnesota 52 times in past 14 years for a slew of misdemeanors," NY Daily News, 7/9/2016.
- Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery, "The 12 key highlights from the DOJ's scathing Ferguson report," The Washington Post, 3/4/2015.
- Gregory Korte, "Obama bans some military equipment sales to police," USA Today, 5/18/2015.
- "Final Report of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing," U.S. Department of Justice, 5/1/2015.