Dear Mr. President,
On Friday, you said something that was unprecedentedly reckless for a person holding the highest office of the land. In a speech to a room full of law enforcement officers in Suffolk County, NY, you encouraged officers to rough up people they arrest and to not worry so much about being careful to protect them.
Not only is this illegal and violates constitutional protections against police mistreatment, but it is also a mean-spirited statement rooted in ill will and racism.. It is no secret that Black boys and men are arrested at significantly higher rates — 2.5 times more — than other segments of the population. This is not because they commit more crimes; this is because of implicit and explicit racial bias in the criminal justice system. Because of racial profiling, innocent Black males are routinely harassed and arrested for “fitting the description,” causing a disproportionate number of them to end up in police cars and behind bars. One in 3 black men can expect to be incarcerated in his lifetime, compared to 1 in 6 Latino males and 1 in 17 white males.
As a mom of two Black boys growing up in America, I find your inflammatory, violent rhetoric extremely disturbing and dangerous. It threatens to exacerbate a growing problem of police brutality and racist practices carried out by the criminal justice system. So far this year, more than 574 people have been killed in police encounters in the U.S., and 117 (20%) of them were Black males (Blacks are 13% of the population).
The reality is that innocent people are arrested every day. None of us can guarantee that we’ll never be accused of a crime and arrested, and if so, there are constitutional rights that define the process. However, the fact that Black boys and men are unfairly targeted by police and subsequently face higher conviction rates and harsher sentences demonstrates that not all of us can count on these rights. We live in a country that claims to guarantee due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Instead of encouraging police to “rough people up a bit,” you should be encouraging law enforcement agencies to implement progressive reforms. Regular implementation of programs, such as implicit bias training, community policing and mandatory de-escalation training, have been shown to improve police-community relations and decrease harassment and unwarranted use of deadly force. Additionally, putting in place other checks, such as equipping police officers with body cameras and sharing data about police stops, increases accountability and transparency.
How can I effectively teach my sons to treat others fairly and like they want to be treated when the person leading the country endorses bullying and not following the rules? It will not do any good for us to teach our sons to “comply” with law enforcement orders if law enforcement officers don’t comply with the law of the land.
If police officers all over the country become emboldened by your words, we are likely to see many more cases like Freddie Gray, who died after a very “rough ride” in the back of a police van in Baltimore that led him to fall into a coma and eventually die of injuries to his spinal cord. Despite the officers being charged with multiple crimes including second degree “depraved heart” murder, no one was convicted for his death. The Department of Justice receives more than 12,000 complaints of law enforcement abuse every year, and fewer than 50 result in convictions.
These practices must be stopped. I urge you to retract your statement for the good of the country and for the protection of innocent lives. In your speech, you told police, “We’ve got your backs 100%. Not like the old days…” then later, “We’re going to support you like you’ve never been supported before.” Well, I want YOU to know that Moms of Black Boys United has our sons’ backs 100%, we will support them like they’ve never been supported before, and this is NOT the old days that you dream of bringing back in the delusional quest to “make America great again.” America will be great when police officers uphold their vows to protect and serve all citizens. America will be great when we have equal opportunity and protection under the law for everyone, regardless of race or gender identity. America will be great when our leader is great again.
We understand that police officers have a tough job. They face many dangerous situations. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, and we pray for them to make it home safely every night along with our prayers for our sons. But it is also not a job for the angry, the recklessly violent, the easily startled, the lawless or those with a depraved heart. We call on all police officers to speak up, to stand up, to right wrongs and to firmly reject this message of brutality.
A Loving Mom of Black boys