By Linh Nguyen
The NAACP is addressing the recent acts of police brutality against Black lives, and has called for justice for the Black lives lost to police brutality and shared the means by how racial justice is attainable.
And, Wednesday, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People —formed in 1909, the oldest civil rights organization in the United State, dedicated to fighting for justice for African Americans—hosted a poignant round table to discuss racial justice in the U.S.
Keith Boykin, a political commentator from CNN; Val Demings, a US Representative from Florida; Dr. Cedric Alexander, a retired public safety director from Georgia; and US Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey joined Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, in a discussion on “holding police departments accountable for terrorizing our neighborhoods, bringing an end to the criminalization of Black skin, and dismantling the systems that perpetuate racism, domestic terrorism, and unjust policing.”
“This panel will discuss where we are today,” said Johnson, “and all of the energies that we’re seeing with protestors, […] who are concerned for the stability of this country, who are concerned with the injustice, who are concerned and looking for a way forward. For the NAACP, we understand that the way forward is structural change through public policy, and public policy can only be impacted as a result of those who get elected in November.”
Boykin served as a moderator for this discussion. Boykin is a current CNN political commentator and served as a White House aide during the Clinton administration.
“It took nine days of protest, millions of marchers, thousands of arrests, the tear gassing of thousands of peaceful demonstrators, and a progressive Black state attorney general just to get the four police officers who killed George Floyd in broad daylight on video to be charged with a crime,” Boykin said.
Boykin introduced Demings, the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Prior to that, Demings was the police chief in Orlando (the first female chief of police in the Orlando Police Department).
“Accountability is everything,” Demings said. “Not just accountability for those who break the law but accountability for those who enforce the law. […] Police departments have to change from the inside out.”
There are over 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the nation, said Demings, who proposed that in order to change the police system, these agencies can begin with changing hiring practices and issues of diversity within their hiring practices to ensure that officers represent the diversity of the community in which they serve.
She said the next step would be re-evaluating training, including diversity training, use-of-force policies and de-escalation policies. Furthermore, Demings said law enforcement agencies should ban all neck restraint policies.
Senator Cory Booker asked, “How will we respond?” to the events that occurred.
To suggest answers to his question, Booker said, “We have work to do, to make sure this moment does not go past a sustained movement where we are actively fighting for specific legislative changes around policing, [which] to me, would be tragic.”
Booker announced that he and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California are partnering in the Congressional Black Caucus to work on legislation that would give law enforcement departments nationwide policing guidelines.
“That includes everything from critical data collection, noting “you can’t have accountability without transparency and data.” The plan “includes holding officers to new levels of accountability in civil law and criminal law, the federal level; it involves certain practices of police: implicit bias training, a banning on chokehold and other practices,” said Booker.
Dr. Cedric Alexander stressed that the seemingly unique struggles that African Americans endure are actually not unique, as these are the issues they have faced since the founding of this country, but in this unprecedented time these issues are more important to combat than ever.
In 2015, former President Obama created an 11-member task force, including Dr. Alexander, that would come up with a document which would advance law enforcement and would build relations between the community and police.
Former President Obama implemented the task force’s recommendation, including officers wearing body cameras. The Trump administration rescinded many of the policies implemented by the Obama administration.
As the protests and movement continues, the panelists maintained that there is hope as long as people keep fighting for police reform and social and racial justice.
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