We need transformational change to cure the virus of racism infecting police | Opinion

June 15, 2020 9:07 am
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Harrisburg police chief Thomas Carter kneels in front of angry protesters on June 1, 2020, who riddled him with criticisms of a police conduct during a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday (Capital-Star photo).

By Marc H. Morial

Black Americans in 2020 are contending with the devastating impact of two viruses — coronavirus and racism.

Five years ago, in the wake of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri, police, the National Urban League called for comprehensive reform of police recruitment, training and use-of-force policies.

Since then, at least 122 unarmed African Americans have been killed by police, according to a Washington Post database.

We called for the mandatory use of body cameras and dashboard cameras.

Only 23 of the 122 killings were captured by body cameras.

The fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor was not captured by body cameras. The 26-year-old EMT was killed by Louisville police executing a no-knock warrant that allegedly was based on a lie.

In the affidavit supporting the warrant, a detective claimed to have consulted with a postal inspector, who confirmed that Glover had been “receiving packages” at Taylor’s address. But the Louisville postal inspector has since said that he was never consulted by the officers and that there was nothing suspicious about the packages.

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The fatal assault of George Floyd in Minneapolis was not captured by body cameras. It was, however, captured by a nearby security camera and the mobile phones of bystanders. That’s how we know that the officers, as well, apparently filed false reports. The initial police statement claimed Floyd “physically resisted officers.” Video shows that he did not.

One of the men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery was a retired investigator who worked in local law enforcement for 30 years.

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Gregory McMichael’s account of the killing and claims of justification appear to have been accepted without question by George Barnhill, the prosecutor who recommended no charges be filed in the case before recusing himself. McMichael wasn’t wearing a body camera, but one of the men charged as his accomplice recorded the shooting.

As the fatally wounded Arbery fell to the ground, the man who fired the fatal shots, Gregory McMichael’s son, Travis McMichael, uttered the words “f—king n—-r,” the alleged accomplice told police.

These incidents, and countless others, show that much of our police culture in the United States is infected, but with racism.

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Among the measures the National Urban League has proposed:

• Widespread use of body cameras and dashboard cameras.

• Review and revision of policies related to police hiring, training and use of force.

• Revising the “qualified immunity” doctrine that shields rogue officers from accountability, changing the standard from “willful” to “reckless.”

• A federal police accreditation system tied to eligibility for federal funds.

• Ending the militarization of local police departments.

• Strictly limiting the use of no-knock warrants.

We look forward to working on a bipartisan basis with members of Congress to advance these and other important reform measures.

Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League. This piece first appeared in the Philadelphia Tribune, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. It is republished here by permission.

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