As an African-American mother with a grown son, I realize that any day I could get the call that my son was shot for driving while black (his classic Mercedes must be stolen), walking while black (must be casing the neighborhood) or running while black (must be running from a crime scene). Isn't skin color like eye color or hair color? We must no longer tolerate the brutalizing of people based on skin color; existing is NOT a crime. We are demanding that the Department of Justice use their power to curb the escalating violence against people of color simply because we exist. We have learned two more names (Alton and Philando) but there are thousands of other names that we do not know. Encountering law enforcement should not be a potential death sentence, yet for Black people going about their every day lives, it can be.
Please join our partners at CREDO in demanding the Department of Justice end police violence against Black People.
|The Department of Justice and police violence against Black people|
The petition to Attorney General Loretta Lynch reads:
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In the last week, we have seen, in horrific detail, the murders of two Black men at the hands of police. The murders of five police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas only compounded the tragedy.
The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile serve as a stark reminder of the ways white supremacy and systemic racism stack the deck of the criminal justice system against Black people. Police officers take Black lives. Mainstream media smears the victim. Prosecutors tip the scales in favor of police offenders. Killers face no consequences.
Eliminating the daily threat to Black lives posed by law enforcement will require systemic change, and demands action from all of us. We will each have to commit to doing our part, but there is also more that our leaders, especially the Attorney General, can and must do. The Department of Justice (DOJ) must step in to ensure the full investigation and prosecution of the police officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and any law enforcement officials who brutalize or kill Black people.
The DOJ has the authority to investigate excessive force or other actions by law enforcement officials to determine if they are civil rights violations, either against an individual or as a "pattern or practice" against a community.1,2 The FBI and the DOJ's Civil Rights Division will be leading an independent investigation into Alton Sterling's murder and Minnesota Gov. Mark Drayton has called for their intervention in Philando Castile's case.
These investigations are vital because local police and prosecutors, intent on protecting police and their own political careers, may conduct sham investigations, or actively engage in cover-ups to bury key evidence.3 These investigations can also reveal systemic problems within local police departments or prosecutors offices.
Given the DOJ's authority, Attorney General Lynch must take action to ensure the constitutional rights of Black people are protected, whether from police violence, or the prosecutorial misconduct that lets police officers go free. Rather than wait to see if local officials will do the right thing, Attorney General Lynch should immediately deploy the resources of the FBI and the DOJ's Civil Rights division to conduct a full investigation any time a Black person is brutalized or killed by police, just as she doing in the Sterling case. We're joining with our friends at ColorOfChange to demand the DOJ go even farther, and bring charges against the officers who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Tell Attorney General Loretta Lynch: Local law enforcement can't be trusted. It's up to the Justice Department to hold police officers and prosecutors accountable for failing to protect and stand up for Black lives. Click here to sign the petition.
DOJ investigations can result in charges being brought against individual officers or in consent decrees with offending police departments. Even when the DOJ does not find grounds to bring civil rights charges against officers or departments, their investigations can shine important light on the racism and misconduct endemic in police departments and prosecutors' offices, allowing local leaders to organize and demand change.4
Police violence and prosecutorial misconduct perpetuate a racist criminal justice system where Black people are constantly in danger and where those in power are able to justify and excuse their actions — avoiding consequences and blocking systemic change. Attorney General Lynch has taken many steps to help break this pattern, including advocating for national collection of use-of-force data and conducting investigations in places like Ferguson, Baltimore and Chicago.5,6
It's time for the Justice Department to take even more leadership by committing to use the full weight of its authority and resources to ensure the full investigation and prosecution of any law enforcement officials who are failing to protect and stand up for Black lives. Click the link below to urge Attorney General Lynch to act now:
Thanks for standing up for Black lives today,
Heidi Hess, Senior Campaign Manager
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