WASHINGTON, D.C., March 7, 2015 – The Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform applauds Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) denouncement of racially biased policing practices in Ferguson, Missouri. The Coalition, however, hoped for a different outcome regarding the DOJ’s decision not to criminally charge Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, but understands that reforms are needed to lower the standard of proof for federal civil rights offenses.
As stated by Michael Brown’s parents, we are encouraged that the DOJ will hold the Ferguson Police Department (FPD) accountable for the pattern of racial bias and profiling it found in the FPD racially discriminatory treatment of people of color. In addition, as Michael Brown and others wrongfully killed across the country at the hands of law enforcement officials continue to “Rest In Power,” the Coalition will continue to push for transformative and restorative policing reforms.
The DOJ’s scathing report, released this week, reveals systemic discrimination against African Americans by the Ferguson Police Department and the city’s municipal court system. According to the report, while blacks made up 67% of the population between 2012 and 2014, they were 85% of those subject to a vehicle stop, 90% of those who received a citation from police and 93% of those arrested. This reality of a criminal justice system rigged against the African American community, long recognized by residents, activists, lawyers and the greater civil rights community, underscore the reasons for the deteriorating relationship between African Americans and the FPD.
The Coalition will be carefully monitoring the Department of Justice’s engagement with the FPD pursuant to its recommendations in the report. While we hope the FPD will willingly consent to implement the changes demanded by the Department of Justice, we know the Department will do what is necessary, including prosecution to effect change in Ferguson.
As we applaud the recognition by the DOJ of the unjust debtors jails/prisons existing in Ferguson, we also call upon the DOJ to issue guidance for all federally funded policing departments regarding the use of such excessive and racially discriminatory collection practices that are creating these debtors jails/prisons. We further call upon Governor Nixon, Missouri Attorney General Koster, and the city of Ferguson to take dramatic steps to redress the injuries that people in the African American community suffered as a result of these racially discriminatory policies.
The recommendations submitted in a report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, also released this week, is a critical first step towards eradicating the untenable police violence that plagues communities of color. The Coalition released a checklist in preparation for this Task Force report, and is pleased to see that many of the checklist’s main points have been addressed. The report includes great emphasis on the need to collect more data on local policing, a definitive starting point in fulfilling several of the requirements of the Coalition’s checklist for various federal reviews. However, not all of the Coalition’s check points have been crossed off-including, for example, the explicit elimination of the “broken windows” policing policy initiated in the 1980’s which encourages overly aggressive police encounters for minor offenses and the promotion of community-based policing. Members of the Coalition also have encouraged more focus by police departments on improving their interactions with people with physical disabilities and women.
It is our hope that the recommendations submitted by the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing will, in tandem with the Justice Department’s future actions, be implemented not just in Ferguson, but in every city. We know that it does not take a federal investigation to ascertain that sweeping police reform is necessary to protect our communities of color. These recommendations are merely a starting point. The Civil Rights Coalition on Police Reform will continue to work vigorously together to ensure that all of our recommendations and reforms in the Unified Statement are adopted.
Background on Coalition
A coalition of 14 national civil and human rights organizations and leaders issued a Unified Statement of Action to Promote Reform and Stop Police Abuse on August 18th, which cited clear and necessary recommendations and reforms. We will continue to work together to ensure that all of our recommendations and reforms are adopted and justice is brought to bear in Ferguson. Seven additional groups and more than 700 independent signatories have joined the open letter which was sent to the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ).
We reiterate our call for transparency, accountability, leadership, and training, including:
- Passage of the End Racial Profiling Act expected to be re-introduced in the U.S. Senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives;
- A fullaccounting of police-involved killings of African Americans nationwide;
- The development of national standards for use of force by law enforcement;
- Mandatory racial bias and sensitivity training for all law enforcement personnel;
- The required use of police officer Body-Worn Cameras (BWC) to record every police-civilian encounter;
- Oversight and accountability for the distribution and use of federal military weapons by local law enforcement;
- Greater oversight of police officers through the formation of both national and community-based policing commissions; and
- Grand jury reform.
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
Black Women’s Roundtable
Black Youth Vote!
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
National Urban League
Rainbow PUSH Coalition
African American Policy Forum