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Study says a Black person killed by police every 36 hours

17th September 2012   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

N.O. Consent Decree angers activists

Using government documents and direct investigations a group has issued a call to action, citing that in the first six (6) months of 2012 a Black person was killed by a police officer, security guard or vigilante.

“The Report on Black People Executed without Trial by Police, Security Guards and Self-Appointed Law Enforcers January 1 – June 30, 2012”, was produced by Arlene Eisen and Kali Akuno for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM). Special assistance was given by Ajamu Baraka. It is available online at mxgm.org

The report comes at a time when the extrajudicial killings of Blacks is on the increase nationally, raising concerns that this is a systemic trend. From California to Florida the killings of mostly unarmed Black males has become a frequent occurrence. In most cases the officers are cleared of any wrongdoing, further heightening racial tensions.

The report and the trend raise the question regarding the safety of innocent Black people who in many cases already have to beware of dangers from the criminal element in their neighborhoods. The notion that one has to expect abuse or violence from those who are hired, paid, trained, armed and sworn to protect communities is a source of anger and discontent from North to South.

Louisiana is no stranger to this trend.

Across the nation there have been high-profile executions of unarmed Blacks and numerous complaints regarding police abuse and misconduct. Internal Affairs Bureaus have little credibility in most cities. Their reputation is for declaring that its officers acted appropriately or “within guidelines” no matter what the behavior or how many witnesses, or other evidence may be presented. Unwarranted beatings, tasings, and other abuse often go unreported because citizens have no confidence in the ability of police to police themselves.

Nationally, leaders are openly questioning the sincerity of police and other officials at resolving the problem.

In New Orleans things have come to a head, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Romell Madison, brother of one of those killed and one wounded in the infamous post-Katrina Danziger Bridge killings.

According to New Orleans ac­tivist, Wesley Johnson, one of the leaders of Community United for Change, “Madison made numerous trips to Washington to the Department of Justice asking them to investigate the problem. His pleas were ignored until the Obama administration took over and sent someone to investigate. The investigators met with CUC who urged them to go beyond the Danziger Bridge shootings, which they did. The community held its own hearings in five neighborhoods where residents were able to come and testify, on video, regarding their treatment at the hands of police on a regular basis. The information from these hearings plus DOJ’s own investigations resulted in a Consent Decree mandating a new process to review complaints against police.”

The community thought progress had been made, however, they are extremely upset because the Department of Justice is now trying to leave the community out of the review process.

New Orleans civil rights attorney Tracie Washington told the Sun, “The disappointment here is that the U.S. Department of Justice, the City and the Independent Police Monitor have hijacked this process from the people. The I.P.M. is not getting beat up; the DOJ is not getting beat up by cops. It’s the run-of-the-mill Black folks, particularly Black males on the street who are suffering from police misconduct who need to be involved in this process and they are being removed. I’m hoping that the judge will find a place for a monitor who can balance police responsibility and rights and community responsibility and rights.”

According to Johnson four entities sought to be involved in the intervention process, they were: the Police Association of New Orleans (PANO), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) the Independent Police Monitor (IPM) and Community United for Change (CUC). All but one of those entities consist of city employees and that one will be excluded from the process if officials have their way.

“CUC was initially denied a place in the intervention process because they said our intervention would pose a hardship on the process and would slow the process down. They gave all four interveners 30 minutes to address an open hearing, which will be held in New Orleans on Friday, September 21,” says Johnson. “We are opposing that the Consent Decree be put into effect because there was no inclusion of not only the community but of any agency that this work is going to fall on if the Consent Decree is accepted.”

“If the decree goes through without including the public, it’s going to be a flawed process. You won’t get the results this could be historic. I hope the judge will look at this as an opportunity to do something really huge,” says Washington.

Some of the disturbing statistics gathered in the report on the 120 extrajudicial killings include:

• 55 (or 46%) had no weapon at all at the time they were executed.

• 43 (or 36%) were alleged by police to have weapons (including a cane, toy gun and bb gun) but this allegation is disputed by witnesses or later investigation.

• 22 (or 18%) were likely armed.

• In the first half of 2012, police alleged that 42 of the people they executed attempted to run away from them.

• 24 of the people who were killed allegedly pointed guns at officers and/or attempted to crash into them. Reports often do not mention if the officers were wearing uniforms or if the “suspects had any way of knowing their assailants were not civilians.

• 48 (40% of 120) of police accounts explicitly cite “suspicious behavior or appearance” or traffic violations as the reason for their attempt to detain the person who they eventually killed.

This article was originally published in the September 17, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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