Urge President Obama to act now: http://plcylk.org/XNn2xC

8.25.2014
The Honorable Barack Obama
President
United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
DEAR PRESIDENT OBAMA:
In cities across America, local law enforcement units too often treat low-income neighborhoods populated by African Americans and Latinos as if they are military combat zones instead of communities where people strive to live, learn, work, play and pray in peace and harmony. Youth of color, black boys and men especially, who should be growing up in supportive, affirming environments are instead presumed to be criminals and relentlessly subjected to aggressive police tactics that result in unnecessary fear, arrests, injuries, and deaths.

Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen shot multiple times and killed by a Ferguson, Mo police officer, is only the latest in a long list of black men and boys who have died under eerily similar circumstances. Investigations into the Ferguson shooting are ongoing, and many of the specific facts remain unclear for now. However, the pattern is too obvious to be a coincidence and too frequent to be a mistake. From policing to adjudication and incarceration, it is time for the country to counter the effects of systemic racial bias, which impairs the perceptions, judgment, and behavior of too many of our law enforcement personnel and obstructs the ability of our police departments and criminal justice institutions to protect and serve all communities in a fair and just manner.

In addition, the militarization of police departments across the country is creating conditions that will further erode the trust that should exist between residents and the police who serve them. The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not bode well for police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country.

And surely neither systemic racial bias nor police department militarization serves the interests of the countless police officers who bravely place their lives at risk every day.

In light of these dangerous trends, we, the undersigned, call on the Administration to pursue the following actions:

Training: Racial bias is real. Whether implicit or explicit, it influences perceptions and behaviors and can be deadly. Law enforcement personnel in every department in the country, under guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), should be required to undergo racial bias training as a part of ongoing professional development and training.

Accountability: Police departments should not be solely responsible for investigating themselves. These departments are funded by the public and should be accountable to the public. Enforceable accountability measures must be either established or reexamined for impartiality in circumstances where police shoot unarmed victims. DOJ must set and implement national standards of investigation that are democratic (involving independent review boards broadly representative of the community served), transparent, and enforceable.

Diversity: Police department personnel should be representative of the communities they serve. Police departments must adopt personnel practices that result in the hiring and retention of diverse law enforcement professionals. Using diversity best practices established in other sectors, DOJ must set, implement, and monitor diversity hiring and retention guidelines for local police departments.

Engagement: Too often law enforcement personnel hold stereotypes about black and brown youth and vice versa. Lack of familiarity breeds lack of understanding and increased opportunities for conflict. Police departments must break through stereotypes and bias by identifying regular opportunities for constructive and quality engagement with youth living in the communities they serve. The Administration can authorize support for youth engagement activity under existing youth grants issued by DOJ.

Demilitarization: Deterring crime and protecting communities should not involve military weaponry. Effective policing strategies and community relationships will not be advanced if police departments continue to act as an occupying force in neighborhoods. The Administration must suspend programs that transfer military equipment into the hands of local police departments and create guidelines that regulate and monitor the use of military equipment that has already been distributed.

Examination and Change: It is possible to create police departments that respect, serve and protect all people in the community regardless of age, race, ethnicity, national origin, physical and mental ability, gender, faith, or class. The Administration must quickly establish a national commission to review existing police policies and practices and identify the best policies and practices that can prevent more Fergusons and vastly improve policing in communities across the nation.

Oversight: If somebody isn’t tasked with ensuring the implementation of equitable policing in cities across the country, then no one will do the job. The Administration must appoint a federal Czar, housed in the U.S. Department of Justice, who is specifically tasked with promoting the professionalization of local law enforcement, monitoring egregious law enforcement activities, and adjudicating suspicious actions of local law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding.

Maya Rockeymoore, President & CEO
Center for Global Policy Solutions

Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder & CEO
PolicyLink

The Honorable Elijah E. Cummings Member of Congress
U.S. House of Representatives

Susan Taylor, Founder
National CARES Mentoring Movement Editor Emeritus, Essence Magazine

Khephra Burns
Writer

Hugh B. Price Former President & CEO
National Urban League

The Honorable Marcia Fudge
Chair, Congressional Black Caucus Member, U.S. House of Representatives

john a. powell
Director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society University of California, Berkeley

Kevin Powell, President
BK Nation

Shuanise Washington, President & CEO
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

John H. Jackson, President & CEO
Schott Foundation for Public Education

Rashad Robinson, Executive Director
ColorOfChange

Heather Booth, Consultant
Democracy Partners

Craig Watkins
Dallas County District Attorney

Bakari Kitwana, Executive Director
Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip Hop

Ben Cohen, Co-Founder
Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

Wm. Jelani Cobb, Director
Africana Studies Institute University of Connecticut

Terry L. Lierman, Founding Partner
Summit Global Ventures

Bishop Walter S. Thomas Sr.
Pastor, New Psalmist Baptist Church

Stephen Maynard Caliendo
Professor, North Central College Co-Director, The Project on Race in Political Communication

Richard L. Trumka, President
AFL-CIO

Derek “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins
Founder Fonzworth Bentley Leadership Institute

Bruce Gordon
Retired Group President, Verizon Communications Former CEO, NAACP

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Historian
Author, Condemnation of Blackness

Lester Spence Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies
Johns Hopkins University

Howard Dodson, Director
Howard University Libraries

William Darity, Jr.
Samuel DuBois Cook Professor of Public Policy, African and African American Studies and Economics, Duke University

Manuel Pastor, Professor
University of Southern California

Kimberley C. Ellis, Ph.D.
American and Africana Studies Scholar CEO, Dr. Goddess Arts, Education, and Management

Chris Messenger, Executive Director
Boston Mobilization

Avis Jones DeWeever, President and CEO
Incite Unlimited

Thomas M. Shapiro, Director
Institute on Assets and Social Policy Brandeis University

Marcia L. Dyson, CEO
Women’s Global Initiative

Rabbi Laura Geller, Senior Rabbi
Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills

Julianne Malveaux, Founder
Economic Education

Henry A.J. Ramos, President & CEO
Insight Center for Community and Economic Development

Melinda F. Emerson “SmallBizLady”
Publisher, SucceedAsYourOwnBoss.com

David Hall, President
University of the Virgin Islands

Roberta Wallach
Actor/Artist

Larry Irving, Co-Founder
Mobile Alliance for Global Good

Roger Hickey, Co-Director
Campaign for America’s Future

Larry Cohen, Founder & Executive Director
Prevention Institute

Heather McGhee, President
Demos

Howard Pinderhughes, Associate Professor
University of California, San Francisco

Vic Rosenthal, Executive Director
Jewish Community Action

Jim Wallis, Founder & President
Sojourners

Jamal Simmons, Co-Founder
FLYCLIQUE.com

George Fraser, CEO
FraserNet, Inc.

Gary Orfield
Professor of Education, Law, Urban Planning Co-Director, Civil Rights Project UCLA

Chris Rabb
Temple University Fox School of Business Social Impact Fellow, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
Former Lt. Governor State of Maryland Former Chair Robert Kennedy Memorial

Joseph Jones, President & CEO
Center for Urban Families

The Honorable Steven Horsford
Member of Congress U.S. House of Representatives

Patricia Cruz, Executive Director
Harlem Stage

Antonio Gonzalez, President
William C. Velasquez Institute

Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President & CEO
Hip Hop Caucus

Robert Borosage, Co-Director
Campaign for America’s Future

Brad Learmonth, Director of Programming
Harlem Stage

The Honorable John Lewis
Member of Congress U.S. House of Representatives

Carrie Mae Weems
Artist

Thomas A. LaVeist, Professor
Johns Hopkins University

Steve Phillips, Chairman
PowerPAC+

Barry Scheck, Professor of Law
Cardozo Law School

Rabbi Barbara Penzner
Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, Boston

Harry E. Johnson, President/CEO
The Memorial Foundation

Maria Teresa Kumar, President
Voto Latino

Rabbi Camille Shira Angel
Congregation Sha’ar Zahav

Richard E. Fredricks, President
Maritime Solutions, Inc.

Wes Moore, CEO
BridgeEDU

Makani Themba, Executive Director
The Praxis Project

Rev. Dr. Rodney S. Sadler, Jr.
Associate Professor of Bible Union Presbyterian Seminary

Madeline McClenney-Sadler
President, ExodusFoundation.org

Catherine Muther, President
Three Guineas Fund

Russell Simmons, CEO
Rush Communications

Michael Skolnik, President
Global Grind

Angela Rye, President & CEO
IMPACT Strategies

Fred Robinson, Jr., President
Full Spectrum Enterprises

Carleen Lyden-Kluss, Co-Founder & Executive Director
NAMEPA

Fred Azcarate, Executive Director
USAction

Cynthia Nixon
Actress

Staceyann Chin
Writer

Janet Dewart Bell
Communications and Policy Consultant

The Honorable Gwen Moore
Member of Congress U.S. House of Representatives

Elsie Scott, Director
Ronald Walters Center Howard University

Clay Maitland, Managing Partner
International Registries

Ellen Stone Belic
Stone Family Foundation

Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development

William Julius Wilson, Professor
Harvard University

Gregory A. Cendana, Executive Director
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance

Myron Dean Quon, Esq., Executive Director
NAPAFASA

Rosie Abriam, President & CEO
The Center for APA Women

Ben de Guzman, Co-Director for Programs
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance

Fabian DeRozario, President
National Association of Asian American Professionals

Sherri Dunn Berry, Director of Programs
Community Partners

James Lewis, Issue Advocacy Director
Young Democrats of America

Dae J. Yoon, Executive Director
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium

Henry Chalfant, President
Public Arts Film

J. Philip Thompson, Associate Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Kathleen Chalfant
Actor

Timothy Silard, President
Rosenberg Foundation

Jamal-Harrison Bryant
Senior Pastor & Founder Empowerment Temple

Darlene Taylor, Chair
Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation

Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Professor
Brandeis University

Ann Cook, Educator

Hadar Susskind, Director
Bend the Arc Jewish Action

Stosh Cotler, CEO
Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

Bao Vang, President & CEO
Hmong National Development

Mary E. McClymont, President
Public Welfare Foundation

Wade Henderson, President & CEO
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director
Center for Community Change

C.A. Dan Gasby, Owner/Partner
B. Smith Enterprises

Dayna L. Cunningham, Esq., Executive Director
MIT Community Innovators Lab

Lori Villarosa, Executive Director
Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity

Gibor Basri, Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion
University of California, Berkeley

Mary Kay Henry, President
SEIU

Na’ilah Suad Nasir
Professor of African American Studies and Education University of California, Berkeley

Michael Omi, Professor
University of California, Berkeley

M. Starita Boyce Ansari, Chief Change Officer
MSBphilanthropy Advisors, LLC

Cedric Brown, Managing Partner
Kapor Center for Social Impact

Freada Kapor Klein, Founder & Partner
Level Playing Field Institute & Kapor Capital

Benjamin Todd Jealous, Venture Partner
Kapor Capital

Mitchell Kapor, Partner
Kapor Capital

Maya L. Harris, Senior Fellow
Center for American Progress Visiting Scholar, Harvard University

Van Jones, President
#YesWeCan & Rebuild the Dream

Lisa Thurau, Executive Director
Strategies for Youth

Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein
Bethesda, MD

The Honorable Barbara Lee
Member of Congress U.S. House of Representatives

Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director
ACLU

James Bell, Founder and Executive Director
W. Haywood Burns Institute