Dear Loretta Lynch: Maxine Waters and CBC members address U.S. attorney general
Black leaders demanding justice
Killings. Protests. Conversations. More killings. More protests. More conversation. There is no cure for this infectious trifecta that continues its extending road to nowhere while its symptoms become harder and harder to treat.
Police killed at least 102 unarmed black people in 2015 alone. The numbers in 2016 continue to grow. Now, community leaders are turning to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to use her influence to activate justice following two of the most recent consecutive shooting deaths of blacks by police.
Unarmed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was shot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last week by officer Betty Shelby. Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot Tuesday near the University of North Carolina- Charlotte.
On Thursday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) made demands for action by the Department of Justice. Waters read a letter to Lynch requesting her office begin prosecutions against members of law enforcement for the targeting and profiling of black men, women and children.
“We come to you today to urge you to aggressively pursue investigations, indictments and prosecutions through the Office of Civil Rights against any and all law enforcement officers who harm or kill innocent unarmed black men, women and children,” Waters said, reading from the letter.
“We will not continue to ask our constituents to be patient without any hope for change,” she added. “Madam Attorney General, you have the unique opportunity and constitutional responsibility to change this narrative.”
The devastating breakdown of the relationship between the police and the black community requires mending, but first the killings have to stop. The Undefeated hosted a town hall meeting following the back-to-back deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Minnesota to offer a platform for resolutions surrounding policing and the community.
As many athletes and now coaches continue to join the conversation, elected officials are taking the talks further. CBC chairman G. K. Butterfield, U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Alma Adams (D-N.C.), who oversees the 12th District in Charlotte, North Carolina, joined Waters to express their concerns.
Butterfield said the CBC is outraged and deeply troubled by the dozens of unlawful police shootings taking place all across America involving unarmed African-American men, women and children.
“Tensions are very high in our country, and violence does not lead to justice,” Butterfield said. “There must be a national standard regarding the use of lethal force, and the Congressional Black Caucus will not rest until fairness and justice have been brought to the victims, families and communities who have suffered at the hands of law enforcement.”
Ellison would like to see some more police training and sensitivity take place.
“We need to have some serious implicit bias training to make sure that officers do not jump to conclusions about who’s dangerous based on their skin color. And then de-escalation techniques are critical … You don’t shoot people because they don’t comply with your demands, and I don’t even buy that he wasn’t complying,” Ellison said of the shooting of Crutcher.
Police officers and citizens have been injured this week during protests in Charlotte. Police argue that Scott was armed when fatally shot. His family said he was reading a book in his vehicle during the altercation.
Adams said the Charlotte community wants Lynch to step in to use her power to make sure people are treated fairly and that there is some justice and some transparency. “I’d like for the partners in our community to come together and to sit with our local elected officials.
“The major thing that they asked me to bring back is to make sure that we let the attorney general know that we want her to utilize her power to come in as soon as it happens,” Adams said. “I spoke to the DOJ yesterday. They kind of wait and see what happens in the local front. But because it’s been so much going on I think that people have lost trust. They’ve lost hope in some instances and they see hope here with the attorney general.”
In a news conference Thursday, Lynch said the community and the Department of Justice have to come together in their thoughts and prayers because there have been too many victims of violence — civilians and law enforcement.
“One of my top priorities as attorney general has been to do everything in my power to help heal those divides. And the Department of Justice will continue working tirelessly to protect the rights of all Americans,” she said.