During the past months, I have attempted to counsel police leaders through this blog in what they needed to do. Most recently, in The Case for Change.
Now, pastors who are members of the “African American Council of Churches of Greate’ Madison, Wisconsin” have stepped forward and presented a number of changes that they wish to see.
These are critical times. American policing is in a crisis. And it could be a crisis in which they will not emerge from in a way that they would wish to.
I have called for leaders in policing to step up.
Now African American pastors in my county and city are doing so.
The times they are a-changing!
AFRICAN AMERICAN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES OF GREATER MADISON, WISCONSIN
- To: All Law Enforcement Agencies of Dane County
- From: The African American Council of Churches of Greater Madison
- Date: 4/21/2015
- RE: The negative impact of law enforcement on the Black community of Greater Madison, Wisconsin
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”—Martin Luther King Jr.
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
We, the members of the African American Council of Churches of Greater Madison (AACC) write to you to express our continued frustration with the continuing racial disparities and economic disenfranchisement of Black voices in the Dane County Community. The AACC represents a contingency of Black pastors whose congregations collectively represent thousands of Black voices throughout Dane County. Up until this point their voices are not being heard.
Today, we want to explain the negative impact of law enforcement on our community. While we are grateful for the safety law enforcement provides, we have concerns that can no longer be dismissed.
As we await the District Attorney’s decision to charge the officer involved in the shooting death of 19 year old Tony Robinson Jr., we continue to mourn the loss of one of our own sons, who was unable to fulfill his future as a young man and potential leader in this community.
As our name suggests, the members of our churches are directly affected by the innumerable disparity studies that consistently validate systematic repressive policies.
- In April of 2010 when the U.S. Census Bureau conducted its decennial count of Wisconsin residents, it found 12.8% (or 1 in 8) of African American working age men behind bars in state prisons and local jails. This rate of mass incarceration is the highest for African American men in the country and nearly double the national average of 6.7%.
- The same report showed that more than 50% of all Black men (in Wisconsin) in their 30’s and 40’s had been incarcerated at some point. This is mass incarceration!
- Nationally, Blacks account for 28% of all arrests, while making up only 13% of the nation’s population.
- According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on the Racial Gap in Men’s sentencing. Black males are getting sentences nearly 20% longer than those of Whites. Black males are 25% less likely than Whites to receive a sentence below the guidelines range.
We feel these and similar numbers cannot be dismissed as skewed statistics. They have caused distress, pain and disruption of family in our community. We feel targeted, profiled by law enforcement and unfairly punished by the justice system.
These trends must be stopped immediately and reversed through legislation and internal policing policies.
We recognize there have been efforts and experiments to try and resolve the complexity of the disparity. But, for the last 50-plus years, people have been trying to answer the same questions for Black people in Dane County, and despite considerable efforts, the narrative remains unchanged. Report after report, continues to provide evidence that our communities are being uneducated, incarcerated and remain underemployed.
These are the changes we are seeking to bring to light in the Dane County Law Enforcement agencies:
- All 27 Police Units in Dane County Commit to including the Continuum of Force Training for all of its officers. Just because it is legal does not mean it is Moral. It is not moral that our community police are not required to go through continuous training on how the continuum of force. An officer on the streets should be forced to annually recertify in order to continue patrol.
- Create a process for community members to be involved in the disciplinary proceedings of officers who are involved in killing unarmed civilians. Communities and not police should be able to determine whether or not we decide if the community wants an officer back on the streets.
- Prohibit officers from carrying guns in our local schools for routine matters. If you treat them as criminals they will respond as such. Police in schools should be creating relationships, not creating hostile environments for children.
- Require non-profits who study and provide recommendation for racial and social programming to include the voices of the people who are impacted by the realities of race and socio-economic exclusion.
- We request that the 27 agencies addressed in this letter provide a detailed plan for “New” (not revised) diversity/bias training programs that will be both mandatory and recurring! We realize many agencies offer diversity training. But based on the statistics we see both nationally and locally, the current programs are insufficient.
- We request a detailed strategy for increased recruitment and hiring of African American officers.
- We request a public posting of your internal policies that address the growing problem of racial profiling.
We commit ourselves to working within our community to cease crime and violence. Any form of violence leads to injured victims of which we don’t want. We commit ourselves to using the pulpit as a vehicle to remind those in our community of the moral value of equality and justice.
We look forward to working with elected and unelected officials in seeking solutions for our children and our community. This work cannot be accomplished in a vacuum so we welcome the opportunity to be at the table as partners.
We have a press conference date for October 21st, 6 months from today. During that press conference, we will report which of the agencies addressed in this letter have indeed responded to these sincere requests. And, we will also report which ones have not.
- Bishop Harold E. Rayford, President
- Pastor Colier McNair, Vice President
- Reverend Everett Mitchell, M.Div., Th.M., J.D., Member and Co-Author
This is Madison, Wisconsin, but if it has not occurred in your city, it soon will.
The question I have posed before to police leaders is this one: “do you want to be pushed to making the changes you know you should, or do you want to start implementing them now?
wait for public pressure to change or do you want to be