The Lansing Clergy Forum is issuing a call to action in Lansing about lethal force, racial injustice and the justice system.
The Forum has called for a Town Hall Meeting Tuesday December 9th at 6:00pm at Union Missionary Baptist Church (500 S Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Lansing, MI 48915). I will be attending and I hope you can join me.
The group listed four suggestions to improve the system:
- body cameras
- an independent prosecutor be established especially in cases of deadly force
- demilitarization of local police departments
- increase the number of minorities employed in police departments.
Here’s why I think body cameras for police officers are so important: they will protect both the police officer and minorities. If Officer Wilson had a body camera on him during the Michael Brown tragedy, there wouldn’t be two very different sides to a story that in many ways have further divided our nation. We all could have seen what actually happened, which would have protected Wilson, Brown, as well as the entire Ferguson community. On the flip side, the tragedy of Eric Garner‘s death showed everyone how important video footage is in protecting minorities from abuse. “Abuse” is such a subjective term, but video doesn’t lie. Though the Garner video was shockingly still not enough to bring about a trial, more on that next.
The police have a very hard job to do and we all need to appreciate and respect our hard working police forces. Police forces are also huge organizations with tons of different types of officers in them. Some are the best people you will ever meet, but like any large organization (the Church is no exception), there will also be corrupt individuals sprinkled in. It’s very important that the system is not pre-established to automatically protect these corrupt individuals just because they are wearing a badge, as if that meant they never could do anything wrong. Or even if an officer isn’t corrupt at heart and just made a mistake on the job, these mistakes still need accountability, just like when a citizen makes a mistake. “Accountability” doesn’t mean life in prison if an officer kills someone, it just means that things will be looked at objectively and everyone will be given a fair shake and all elements of a case will be allowed to be observed.
It’s also important to see the need for independent prosecutors to be used in cases of deadly police force in order to determine an indictment. This is needed because again, it will protect both minorities as well as the local prosecutors. It’s not fair to require a local prosecutor to determine if the police officers they work with on a regular basis should be indicted or not. There’s too much conflict of interest and is an unfair position to put someone in. The primary reason for the riots in Ferguson and the protests in New York City (and the subsequent demonstrations across our nation) are not necessarily because the officers were found as not doing anything wrong, but because they never even went to trial.
It’s communicates a heavy statement to the black community that police can kill them under questionable circumstances and not even have to be examined in a trial for this, when public trials are the basis of our justice system in most American’s minds. We don’t want to communicate that having a badge gives you a license to kill at will and unfortunately this is what was communicated to many in these cases.
Whatever your color of skin, I believe we all want to live in peace together at the end of the day. As Christians, we want to bridge the divides that our country’s racist past have created. These are systemic divides that require systemic change. Come out Tuesday night and show your support for needed reform in our system. Reform that will protect further injustice in the future.
For more information and the full story on the Town Hall Meeting, read the City Pulse news article. (Excerpts were taken from this full City Pulse story for use in the beginning of this blog post)
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