Reform Campaign Calls for Changes to Police ‘Bill of Rights’

On the steps of the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles Wednesday, May 2, 2018, Dr. Melina Abdullah addresses the crowd of activists and families of individuals fatally shot by law enforcement in Los Angeles County. Abdullah is part of a coalition that launched a statewide campaign to overhaul the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, which they say impedes police accountability. (Martin Macias Jr/CNS)

(CN) – The families of individuals killed by law enforcement joined members of a police reform coalition Wednesday to launch a statewide effort to overhaul the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, which they claim is the “single largest obstacle to police accountability.”

The coalition, comprised of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, Youth Justice Coalition, White People for Black Lives and others, also repeated their demand for Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey to either prosecute law enforcement officers involved in fatal shootings or to resign.

The statewide coalition, called Justice Teams Network, will train residents across California to push for statewide and local legislation that eliminates police access to military equipment and increase funding for training on response to mental health-related 911 calls.

A major focus of the group, activists said, is to overhaul the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, which grants certain protections for police officers under internal investigation for alleged misconduct.

Under the protections, public access to police officers’ personnel records is limited and advance notice is given to officers that a search of their personal belongings will be conducted.

Cat Brooks, of the Anti Police-Terror Project, said the bill makes it practically impossible to investigate officers and hold them accountable.

Brooks announced Tuesday she will challenge Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf in the mayoral election this November.

On the steps of the Hall Of Justice building in Los Angeles, activists said the names of individuals who have recently been killed by law enforcement in California.

Quintus Moore, father of Grechario Mack who was killed by Los Angeles police in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall on April 10, said officers “took a piece of his heart” when they killed Mack.

“This is not Mississippi in the 1960s,” Moore said. “There will be consequences.”

Lisa Hines, the mother of Wakiesha Wilson who died while in custody of the LAPD at the Metro Detention Center in March 2016, said Wilson “is not a hashtag, she’s my baby.”

The gathering Wednesday marked the 30th consecutive week of protests outside the district attorney’s office.

In a letter delivered to Lacey on Wednesday, the coalition said more than 400 LA County residents have been killed by law enforcement “under your watch.”

Dahlia Ferlito, co-founder of racial justice group White People for Black Lives, called Lacey’s decision to not press charges against any officers “shameful and a danger to the community she is supposed to serve.”

Ferlito said officers “would think twice before using force against black and brown residents” if they knew they would be held accountable.

Ferlito said Lacey has refused to meet with community members on several occasions, despite confirming her availability. Lacey also turned down an invitation to a Jan. 21 town hall on fatal police shootings of residents.

A call to Lacey’s office was not returned by press time.

The statewide network is mobilizing as recent fatal shootings of individuals by police, such as the March 18 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, have spurred legislative reforms of protocols for use of force by law enforcement.

Sacramento Police officers, responding to calls of car vandalism, approached Clark in his grandmother’s backyard and shot him eight times. As shown in recently released body camera footage, the two officers believed Clark had a gun and fired 20 times in the dark at the 22-year-old man.

The following day, investigators confirmed Clark wasn’t armed and was in fact holding his cellphone when he was shot and killed. An independent autopsy report found Clark was struck several times in the back, sparking days of protests and marches throughout California’s capital.

On April 3, state lawmakers and civil rights groups proposed a bill to overhaul the state’s “reasonable force” rule for law enforcement.

Under the proposal by state Democrats, officers would only be able to use deadly force after considering all other nonlethal alternatives. If an officer doesn’t follow the proposed guidelines or use nonlethal techniques before shooting, they could be fired or even face criminal charges.

Proponents say setting tougher standards puts an emphasis on de-escalation and prevents needless police killings.

Police shot and killed 162 people in California in 2017, lawmakers said at the April 3 event.

On April 19, a new policy went into effect, requiring video from Los Angeles Police Department body cameras, drones and patrol cars be released to the public.

Under the policy, which was approved by the Los Angeles Police Commission, video and audio from “critical incidents” involving LAPD officers will automatically be made public within 45 days of occurrence.

Activists also said Wednesday they will begin collecting signatures for a ballot measure that will give the LA Sheriff’s Department Civilian Oversight Commission subpoena power to investigate deputy misconduct.

Melina Abdullah, a member of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and a California State University, Los Angeles professor, said the proposed measure will help ensure that the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors will divert a portion of the proposed $3.5 billion allocated for a new LA County jail into “alternatives to incarceration.”

 

 

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