Lawyers to Challenge Police Brutality in 25 Cities
Freddie Allen, NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent | 9/14/2014, 9:42 p.m.
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In an effort to combat police brutality in the Black community, the National Bar Association (NBA) recently announced plans to file open records requests in 25 cities to study allegations of police misconduct.
Pamela Meanes, president of the Black lawyers and judges group, said that the NBA was already making plans for a nationwide campaign to fight police brutality when Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a White police officer following a controversial midday confrontation in a Ferguson, Mo.
Meanes called police brutality the new civil rights issue of this era, an issue that disproportionately impacts the Black community.
“If we don’t see this issue and if we don’t at the National Bar Association do the legal things that are necessary to bring this issue to the forefront, then we are not carrying out our mission, which is to protect the civil and political entities of all,” said Meanes.
The NBA, which describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges,” selected the 25 cities based on their African American populations and reported incidents of police brutality.
The lawyers group will file open records requests in Birmingham, Ala.; Little Rock, Ark.; Phoenix; Los Angeles; San Jose, Calif., Washington, D.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Baltimore; Detroit; Kamas City, Mo.; St. Louis, Mo.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas; New York City; Cleveland, Ohio, Memphis, Tenn., Philadelphia; Dallas; Houston; San Antonio, Texas, and Milwaukee, Wis.
In a press release about the open records requests, the group said it will not only seek information about “the number of individuals who have been killed, racially profiled, wrongfully arrested and/or injured while pursued or in police custody, but also comprehensive data from crime scenes, including “video and photographic evidence related to any alleged and/or proven misconduct by current or former employees,” as well background information on officers involved in the incidents.
Not only will the NBA present their findings to the public, but the group also plans to compile its research and forward the data over to the attorney general’s office.
Meanes said that the group’s ultimate goal is to have a conversation with Attorney General Eric Holder and to ask him, and in some cases, demand that he seize police departments or take over some investigations that are going on in states or run concurrent investigations.
Meanes said that federal law prohibits the Justice Department from going into a police department unless a pattern or history of abuse has been identified.
“The problem is that the information needed for that action is not readily available in a comprehensive way on a consistent basis with the goal of eradicating that abuse,” said Meanes, adding that the open records requests is the best way to get that information.
Meanes said that the NBA was concerned that the trust was already broken between the police force and the residents of Ferguson and that the rebellion and the protests would continue.