Sunday, May 24, 2009

Beyond the Speeches and Tears in Inglewood

The Inglewood Police shooting of Marcus Smith was indeed a tragic event. Our condolences go out to his family who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
Whatever the circumstances behind the incident, we all must admit that the law enforcement agencies throughout Los Angeles County have a long history of shooting, beating, and killing Black and Latino people who are often unarmed, vulnerable, and defenseless. In this respect, Inglewood Police Department is not unique or an isolated example of racist policing.
However, we must also acknowledge that the masses of our community – for better or worse – still depend on the Police for protection. In fact, many of our folks want more police patrols, timely responses by the police when called, and increased police presence at community meetings. Some of our activists even get funding from police departments or law enforcement-related agencies. In short, getting the community’s support around substantive plans to reform policing is a daunting, yet essential tasks.
However, as organizers, we must put clear tangible ideas out before the people. Even if people don’t agree. Not just speeches and empty rhetoric. This is not to disrespect anyone's work, but our people deserve more!
For instance, the Police Chief in Inglewood has the final authority to fire an officer. As organizers we must ask the people, “Should this be so?” In order for a police officer to be tried and sentenced for murdering an unarmed person the District Attorney office must file charges and put together a good case. Unfortunately, the DA office share a comrade relationship with local law enforcement. As organizers, we must expose this contradiction and ask the people “Should this be so?” All law enforcement officers in the state of California receive tremendous protections from the California Police Bill of Rights. These set of rights make it difficult to fire or otherwise discipline an officer who has a track record of abuse and misconduct. As organizers, we must ask the people “Should this be so?”
Instead of generic calls for JUSTICE, we must demand that:
· The DA Office must be more aggressive in prosecuting police officers who commit murder and abuse. If not, we should create a special prosecutor office that will.
· Community boards must be created that gives taxpayers power to hold officers who are paid by their tax dollars accountable to the fullest extent. In Inglewood, they have a Citizens Oversight Commission that has no real power or authority to effect change in policy, procedure, or personnel.
· The Police Bill of Rights must be eliminated. Police officers should be equal under the law – not above it.
I recognize that Black and Latino are not just killed by law enforcement. However, nothing is more tragic that having a loved one murdered by someone who is shielded by the law, keeps their job, and never goes to jail. This is what happens basically everytime someone is killed by law enforcement officers.

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