A Call to Action: MBBA and Police Shootings

MBBA Members and Supporters:

The past few days have been heartbreaking and challenging with the recent killings of black citizens by police officers and subsequent violence. These incidences, while caught on video and seemingly unlawful, do not guarantee that justice will be levied to any of the officers involved. As an organization of black lawyers committed to advancing justice in our community we cannot stay silent or inactive. Many community members have reached out to express their desire for action and direction to create meaningful change in this area. I’m writing to let you know about MBBA’s ongoing initiatives to address this issue, provide you with suggestions on individual and concerted action and to request additional ideas and your participation in our efforts going forward.

The MBBA’s Ongoing Initiatives:

  1. MBBA & Office of the Police Commissioner of the NYPD: The MBBA scheduled various meetings around the boroughs with the Office of the Police Commissioner of the NYPD to discuss how we as attorneys can partner with the NYPD to better serve the community. This collaborative effort was designed to foster a genuine dialogue with our law enforcement partners and encourage MBBA members to join the MBBA Board of Directors and Officers in participating at each forums. MBBA intends to continue these forums in all five boroughs and encourages its members to participate in these robust discussions with our police department in the next year.
  2. Overview with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB): What You Need to Know To File a Complaint. The MBBA provided an opportunity for the community to learn more about the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). A representative gave an overview of the structure and jurisdiction of the CCRB, information on how to file a complaint, an explanation of the processes of investigation and mediation, the procedural and legal guidelines governing police authority, as well as civilian rights and responsibilities during police encounters particularly, question-stop-and-frisk and de- escalation. We will continue these trainings. For more about CCRB, click here.
  3. MBBA’s “I am A Solution” Campaign - The MBBA’s “I am A Solution” Campaign was created last year to identify solutions for improving relationships between minority communities and police officers. The implicit goal was to collect ideas on how to reduce the number of unarmed civilian deaths by law enforcement, which the data shows are disproportionately African American.

ACTIONABLE STEPS:

  1. Use your platform to spark conversations necessary to incite change (i.e. use social media, spread the word about incidences affecting our community and about advocacy surrounding them).
  2. Join, volunteer, and support organizations with established records of fighting police brutality.

    Some of these organizations include:

    • The Metropolitan Black Bar Association. The MBBA will continue to be a visible and engaged voice in advocating for change in police/ community relations.
    • NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. LDF has launched a “Policing Reform Campaign” aimed at promoting unbiased and responsible policing policies and practices at the national, state and local levels.
    • Your local NAACP branch. For example, the Brooklyn NAACP which has a Criminal Justice committee in which they invite people to volunteer and get involved to create and organize actions on criminal justice and police accountability issues.
  3. Know the statistics concerning police brutality.
    1. According to The Washington Post, 123 African Americans have been shot by law enforcement since January 1, 2016.
    2. According to the F.B.I.’s Supplementary Homicide Report, 31.8% of people shot by police officers were African-American even though African Americans make up only 13.2% of the general population.
    3. The Guardian’s “The Counted”
      1. The Counted is a project by the Guardian working to count the number of people killed by police and other law enforcement agencies in the United States and to monitor their demographics and to tell the stories of how they died.
  4. Submit a complaint to Internal Affairs and to the Department of Justice if you or someone you know has had his or her rights violated by a police officer
    1. To submit a complaint, click here.
  5. VOTE and elect public servants with a record of understanding the issues and struggles of marginalized groups.
    1. The next two New York elections will be on September 13, 2016 and November 8, 2016. If you are not registered to vote, you can do so here.
  6. Call your local city council member and demand action.
    1. You can find your local council member here.
  7. Request a meeting with your local police chief/director to find out the policies and procedures of the police department in your neighborhood.
    1. You can find your local precinct here
  8. Conduct a “Know Your Rights” training workshop in your community.
  9. Advocate for the passage of the “Right to Know Act.”
    1. The Right To Know Act is a legislative package that would require cops to identify themselves upon making a stop and explicitly request permission before searching an individual. You can find out more here.
  10. Demand implicit bias and de-escalation training in all police departments. Successful and periodic completion of implicit bias and de-escalation training courses should be a prerequisite to receiving and retaining the use of a firearm.
  11. Demand a stronger commitment to community policing.
  12. Demand an end to “Broken Windows Policing” policies and the criminalization of poverty.
  13. Read this report:: Building From the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing http://www.justiceinpolicing.com/
  14. SPEAK OUT: The NYPD wants your input on an important NYPD policy before it is finalized: their body camera policy. The NYPD will equip 1,000 officers in 20 precincts with body-worn cameras. In partnership with the “Policing Project” at NYU School of Law, the NYPD is seeking public input on how the cameras should be used. The questionnaire may be found at www.nypdbodycameras.org
  15. Be deliberate in exercising self-care. Seeing these images repeatedly does have an effect on each of us.

What we need from you:

Partner with the Metropolitan Black Bar Association: www.mbbanyc.org

  1. Membership - We need strength in numbers
  2. Participate - Be active in your membership by bringing participating on projects that support our work
  3. Plan - Drive a committee, a project, or initiative as they relate to our goals at large

SHARE THIS MESSAGE!! Forward this message to your network and encourage them to get involved. Connect with the MBBA on your social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and share your feedback and input using #MBBANYC

Your Feedback: What are your thoughts about proposed action? Are you interested in being a part of the MBBA’s efforts going forward? Email us at info@mbbanyc.org with your thoughts, to propose further action or to volunteer. If you would like to email me directly, president@mbbanyc.org

With Hope and Conviction,

Paula T. Edgar
Metropolitan Black Bar Association, President (2016-2018)