After National Spate of Killings, We Must Rebuild Trust Between People and Police

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
July 18, 2016 9:15 am

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In response to the police killings of Alton Sherling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and the murder of five police officers by snipers in Dallas, Texas, the New York Civil Liberties Union released the following statement, attributable to Executive Director,

Donna Lieberman:

“In the past several days we have seen intolerable violence around the country and we mourn the lives lost. Two separate police killings, of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, have devastated and sickened Americans who have seen senseless violence against Black men and women by police officers too many times. Then, last night in Dallas, five police officers were killed by snipers above a peaceful protest against police brutality in response to the deaths of Sterling and Castile.”

“It is impossible to separate these national tragedies from what is happening across our state. Just weeks ago, the city of Syracuse was roiled by the fatal shooting of Gary Porter, a Black man, at a Father's Day gathering where law enforcement was present. Last weekend in Brooklyn, a Black man who punched an off-duty cop was fatally shot. Each situation is different and not all individuals involved are equally culpable. But these incidents are not isolated. We must recognize that far too many Black lives have been lost, the targeting of communities of color is systemic, and law enforcement and our elected officials must be held accountable.”

“The shooting in Dallas is a reminder that police officers are vulnerable, and where the trust between police and community members is destroyed, everyone is more at risk. For the sake of its officers and civilians, New York must rebuild that trust. And New Yorkers must be able to rely on law enforcement to reduce the amount of senseless death and violence rather than contribute to it.”

“The death of Alton Sterling in Louisiana demonstrates that tools like body cameras are not the solution to police violence. Several New York police departments-- including the NYPD and the Rochester Police Department -- are implementing body camera programs and pilots, and we urge those departments to train officers that the purpose of body cameras is to ensure people's constitutional rights, and moreover, to recognize the limitations of this technology. While details regarding why body cameras failed to work during the killing of Sterling are still unfolding, body-worn cameras are a tiny piece of reforming the criminal justice system. All departments must invest in meaningful training and accountability mechanisms for officers, not only in new technologies.”

“In the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, it is also important to recognize that similar protests are taking place all across the country, including in New York, as they have time and time again since the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, through the failure to hold a single officer accountable following the killing of Eric Garner, and after countless other deaths of Black civilians at the hands of law enforcement. These protests gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement and have been critical to giving New York’s communities of color, and all New Yorkers, a voice.”

“The NYCLU long has fought to end police violence, to promote equal and respectful treatment for all, and to protect the right to protest. In the days, weeks, and years to come, we will continue that fight and will do everything in our power to end this cycle of violence.”

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