If you are asking yourself how you can support the fight for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the many other Black lives taken, here are answers to questions you may have been asking yourself in order to take action.
What are the charges against the four officers involved in George Floyd’s death?
- On June 4th, 2020, Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, announced the new charges on the four officers involved in the death of George Floyd. Derrick Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and the 3 other officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
What do the charges mean?
- “Second-degree murder is generally defined as intentional murder that lacks premeditation, is intended to only cause bodily harm, and demonstrates an extreme indifference to human life. The exact legal definition of this crime will vary by jurisdiction.” Maximum sentence is as many as 40 years for all four officers.
How many police officers have been convicted of murder in the U.S.?
- There is a general reluctancy at the state level to release information on police misconduct and there is no national reporting system. This means the most reliable data is not at the federal level but from journalists, researchers and political activists. Phillip Stinton, a criminal justice professor from Bowling Green University has spearheaded the Henry A. Wallace Police Crime Database, which has logged over 10,000 arrested cases involving nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers (e.g., police officers, state troopers, deputy sheriffs) from the years 2005-2014. Among all of these cases, ONLY 5 were convicted of murder, despite over 1000 fatally shot per year by on-duty police officers. This database arguably collects one of the most reliable data sets on police prosecutions. Here are a few resources:
What can be done to hold police officers accountable for abuse of power?
- It starts by promoting accountability. Police officers have a duty as public servants to work collaboratively, transparently, and fairly with all of the communities they serve. “Too often, police departments and officers violate their role in the community and abuse their power by engaging in acts of excessive force; acting in an increasingly militarized capacity; abusing asset forfeiture policies; and routinely stopping and frisking entire communities, among other practices…” Transforming the System provides four mechanisms for holding law enforcement accountable here: https://transformingthesystem.org/criminal-justice-policy-solutions/create-fair-and-effective-policing-practices/promoting-accountability/
- To reduce the possibility of biased prosecution of police officers, Join Campaign Zero advocates the requirement of independent investigations of all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilians. Learn more here: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/investigations
What does a District Attorney do?
- The district attorney (DA) decides who is deserving of a jail or prison sentence and who will instead be routed into a diversion program to help rebuild their life, or have charges dismissed. District, county and state attorneys can decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct.
Why is the Los Angeles District Attorney election so important?
- The City of Los Angeles has the largest District Attorney’s office and jail system in the country. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, described the LA election as “the single most important DA race in the country.” The candidates are current District Attorney Jackie Lacey and challenger George Gascón, a former SF DA and police chief.
- Lacy is facing an organized effort by criminal justice reform advocates to replace her this election. “Black Lives Matter activists have protested Lacy for years because her office has only filed charges against one of more than 500 officers who fatally shot people since she took office in 2012.”
- Progressive reform-minded prosecutors including Wesley Bell, Rachael Rollins, and George Gascon, to name a few, are on the rise and their supporters hope the momentum continues in order to win votes in critical local elections.
- Bernie Sanders joined the movement by endorsing 10 prosecutors across the country. https://medium.com/@BernieSanders/endorsing-progressive-
How to get involved?
- Start by understanding what a district attorney does and what power they have. Visit https://meetyourda.org/ for more info. We signed up to stay informed with updates and how to get involved in our community. Sign up with your local organization!
- Find out your local DA's name and learn about his/her policies. Here is a site to search for your local district attorney:
As residents of Los Angeles County, we have pledged to vote for district attorney on November 3rd at https://www.dajusticecoalition.org/home/#join. VOTE in your local election!
Police must be held accountable for their actions. State and district attorneys must serve to seek justice. We have the power as U.S citizens to elect these officials.
We are dedicated to supporting social justice. We are committed to learning more about police reform, who our local district attorney candidates are, and pledging to vote on November 3rd? Will you pledge to vote for your local district attorney?