By Cornell William Brooks, President/CEO, NAACP
How many more lives of unarmed Black men and women, tragically and senselessly killed by police, will our nation have to mourn before our country moves to fix its unjust and ineffective criminal justice system?
Freddie Gray wasn’t the only person to die at the hands of the police in April.
Before Gray suffered three broken vertebrae during the course of his arrest by Baltimore police, 17-year-old Justus Howell was fatally shot by an unidentified officer in Zion, Ill. Like the death of Gray, Howell’s death was ruled a homicide.
On the day that Gray was laid to rest and protests and demonstrations against police brutality rung out in Baltimore, a group of local and federal law enforcement officers arrived at the home of 20-year-old Terrance Kellom, who was a suspect in a robbery case.
Less than 10 minutes after police entered Terrance Kellom’s home, he was dead, shot several times by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer who was part of an inter-agency fugitive task force for reasons that remain unclear.
Then there was 37-year-old Natasha Mckenna. This 130-pound woman died after she was taser shocked four times by the Fairfax, Va. police Feb. 3, with her hands cuffed behind her back, shackled around her legs, with a hobble strap connecting both of the restraints. Police say they are still investigating.
More than 400 people have died while in police custody this year and the list keeps growing, according to an online database that compiles news reports of instances of use of deadly force.
The NAACP says no more.
One of our most recent achievements: the NAACP alongside its valiant coalition partners helped to dismantle the practice of stop and frisk in New York and leveraged a successful collaborative campaign to pass anti-racial profiling and police accountability measures.
Now the NAACP is advocating for body worn cameras, car cameras and gun and taser cameras. Additionally, we must deploy the use of independent investigation bodies and the use of civilian review boards. But we cannot do it alone. Join us in our fight.
Help us pass the End Racial Profiling Act – which comprehensively addresses the insidious practice of biased treatment by law enforcement because of who you are, or who you are perceived to be, by law enforcement. Call your U.S. senators and representative in Washington and tell them to pass the End Racial Profiling Act. The switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121.
Support America’s Journey for Justice: This year, we are continuing our work with America’s Journey for Justice – a trek along the 850-mile route from Selma, Ala., to Washington, DC – through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia – to highlight the need for criminal justice and voting reforms because our lives matter and our children deserve to live.
Every American deserves the opportunity to grow and thrive and reach their full potential. And every American child has the potential to become our nation’s leading scientists, entrepreneurs, scholars, lawmakers and law enforcement officials.
It is us who must protect them.
Cornell William Brooks is president/CEO of the Baltimore-based NAACP.