Blacks in Law Enforcement of America Recommendations on Legislation Change for Police Oversight and Accountability
The country has come into a state of independent oversight and accountability. There is a cry for oversight and accountability for big businesses such as Wall Street, the mortgage industry and even the automotive industry.
If our voices, when united, can be heard to affect change and demand accountability from our government leaders corporate institutions, then we must voice our outrage when there is no true oversight of our local law enforcement departments that are paid by our tax dollars to properly protect and serve our families?
As a national organization of Black Law Enforcement Professionals we recognize the need for oversight of policy and procedure and accountability of law enforcement when it come to “Use of Force” policies and legislation.
The Eric Garner case proved to us that a video, the NYPD Commissioner stating that a chokehold violated Department Policy, the Medical Examiner ruling the death of Mr. Garner a Homicide and the District Attorney’s office was still incapable in bringing any charges against the officer in the result in Garner’s death.
Whether they want to admit in or not, the District Attorneys office and our local municipalities are presented with the challenge of investigating a related officer. First, the municipality has to investigate an officer who they consider to be “one of their own.” Second, the municipality has to decide how they can proceed with its investigation in a manner that will preserve its relationships with the police department and that police officer.
As a National organization of Law Enforcement Professionals, we present two logical choices in state legislation to remove the burden of District Attorneys and the assumptive bias in any investigation of a law enforcement officer’s actions that result in a death of a subject.
State Legislation must define Police Criminality.
- ALL Law Enforcement Officers that carry a weapon on and off-duty and have the powers under NYS Criminal Law section 2.10 to make a warrantless arrest and the use of deadly force must have legislation that will define what actions are criminal in nature. If any Law Enforcement Officer that is certified by New York State and has received comprehensive training by certified institutions of Law Enforcement of the state of New York then goes into a community violates policy, procedure and training while abusing the authority that they have been empowered with, is in essence, a criminal themselves. It is time for Politicians and lawmakers to define in state legislation, Police Criminality.
The Need for a State Wide Special Prosecutor for Questionable Police Actions.
- The legislation must create a Statewide Independent Investigative Unit that will investigate any incidents from the start. Evidence collection and interviewing witnesses is the most important part of any investigation. If necessary the independent unit will prosecute. The legislation must provide resources to municipalities so that they can meet the requirements of the legislation.
- NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has stated that his office can play the role in an independent investigator and prosecutor. As a national organization Law Enforcement Professionals we have a problem with his offering. AG Schneiderman is in his second term. He and his office have remained silent in the many shootings of black and brown men and women under his watch. He has had several high profile cases that have made national news before the Eric Garner with many requests for Independent Investigators from families of victims of Police Criminality. If AG Schneiderman is sincere in his offering; he should open up all cases of incidents of questionable police shootings that happen under his watch as Attorney General. If not, his offer is just political symbolism without any substance.
The need for Police to live in the Community they Serve.
- Police officers like the public should live in the community they sworn to protect and serve. Police who live in the community are considered “Stake Holders” in the community and can build a closer bond and friendship. Police management has claimed to use the Community Policing theory without having the key component, police that actually live in the community.
- Generally, residency requirements have been upheld and deemed to be constitutional by the Federal Courts so long as the employing jurisdiction has demonstrated some “rational” basis for the provision. 1 In Clinton Police Department Bargaining Unit v. City of Clinton (464 N.W.2d 875, Iowa); the court upheld a city requirement that employees live within 10 miles of their duty station. The court found that “rational” interests included such things as having employees available for emergency calls, employees having a stake in the community, enhancing the tax base, improving community attitudes and cooperation, increasing loyalty to the community, and reducing absenteeism.
Having residency requirements, especially in communities that are majority community of color will increase the chance that Police Departments can actually reflect the communities they serve.
It is the view of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America that proper representation of Black Law Enforcement Professionals is key when dealing with the issues of:
- Departmental promotions and management.
- Establishment of departmental polices and identifying the affect that the polices have on communities in New York State, especially the communities of color.
- Police Criminality, misconduct and excessive force.
- Effective community policing.
As America becomes more of a military state, law enforcement careers are more appealing in most communities. However, the number of black recruits is dramatically declining. Whereas, the number of black males with criminal records before 18 year olds is on the incline as the result of overzealous policing policies like “Stop N Frisk”, “Broken Windows”, along with the aggressive police culture against people of color.
Additionally, many African-Americans, male or female, that are eligible for law enforcement jobs do not look to law enforcement careers because of the overwhelming resentment and distrust towards the police that exists within the Black community. Where will we find young black men and women to fill the ranks after our senior black officers retire? If this pattern is allowed to continue, within the next 20 years there will be almost no Black Law Enforcement Professionals within the state of New York.
Statistics have shown that “Every 28 hours a young black man is killed by police and only 2% of police are indicted.” On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. By January 15, 2013, Governor Cuomo signed state legislation that gave New York some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. If “Black Lives Matter”, we should expect the same zeal in passing legislation for oversight and a State Wide Special Prosecutor in the 2015 legislative session.
It is our duty as peace officers and members of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America to continue the fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all citizens. We will be advocates of Law Enforcement Professionals by establishing continuous training and support. As Black Law Enforcement Professionals, we pledge our time, honor, and talent for the uplifting of our communities. We are truly the leaders of the community, in and out of our blue uniform.
Damon K. Jones
New York Representative
Blacks In Law Enforcement of America