By Marc H. Morial
“…a country’s conscience sometimes has to be triggered by some inconvenience, because I think a lot of people who saw the Eric Garner video are troubled, even if they haven’t had that same experience themselves, even if they’re not African American or Latino.” – President Barack Obama in an interview with BET Networks
The phenomenon we have seen in America since the announcement of the non-indictments of officers in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is new to a generation, but not to the nation. Young people have always helped to fuel historic social change. We must not forget – 50 years ago, it was young people on that bridge in Selma, Ala. young people sitting-in in Greensboro, N.C.; young people riding Freedom buses all over this nation, challenging conventional laws and the status quo; and young people like Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney losing their lives in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A multicultural band of young people, united with historic civil rights organizations, legislators, clergy, and everyday Americans who decided that it was time for our country to do better and be better, have been the impetus for so many of the changes we’ve witnessed as a nation through the decades.
Millions of Americans have now taken to the streets and to social media not because the problems that have caused the outrage just began yesterday, but because sometimes difficult circumstances present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about historic change. Now is that time. Now is our time.
This conversation and the subsequent action that will result from it will continue because we remain committed to the idea that these cases – Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Marlene Pinnock and others – do not end where they are. In addition to the opportunity for the Justice Department to conduct independent investigations, we each have an opportunity to participate in our great democracy by helping to ensure that the America of tomorrow is better than who we are today.
For our part, the National Urban League has developed the following 10-Point Justice Plan for Police Reform and Accountability. We believe that these action steps will be a major step forward in helping to repair police-community relations in cities across America, in significantly reducing inappropriate use of excessive force by law enforcement, particularly against unarmed citizens and in holding police accountable for misconduct:
1. Widespread Use of Body Cameras and Dashboard Cameras
2. Broken Windows Reform and Implementation of 21st Century Community Policing Model
3. Review and Revision of Police Use of Deadly Force Policies
4. Comprehensive Retraining of All Police Officers
5. Comprehensive Review and Strengthening of Police Hiring Standards
6. Appointment of Special Prosecutors to Investigate Police Misconduct
7. Mandatory, Uniform FBI Reporting and Audit of Lethal Force Incidents Involving All Law Enforcement
8. Creation and Audit of National Database of Citizen Complaints against Police
9. Revision of National Police Accreditation System for Mandatory Use by Law Enforcement to Be Eligible for Federal Funds
10. National Comprehensive Anti-Racial Profiling Law
We know the problems before us – now let’s work towards solutions.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.