Following the recent police killing of Saheed Vassell in New York City, and the shooting death of Stephon Clark by police three weeks ago in Sacramento, the National Black Caucus of the Young Elected Officials Network (YEO Network) has released a new police brutality agenda for the nation in an open letter to President Donald Trump, California elected officials, and their peers nationwide. The letter, signed by 66 young Black elected officials, calls for a joint approach to police brutality and gun violence, twin ills that are destroying lives of far too many young people of color.
The group also released a statement as follows:
“One week ago, police in Brooklyn needlessly killed Saheed Vassell, a mentally ill man who was well known in his community,” said Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca, NY and head of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Official Network. “Three weeks ago, Stephon Clark was murdered in his own backyard. This violence won’t stop unless we make it stop, by demanding more accountability and a change in the way we police. Today, young Black elected officials are coming together to say never again to police brutality, just as last week we said never again to gun violence.”
“Police brutality is a national issue,” said Baltimore City Council Member Brandon Scott on the call. “President Trump’s comments to the contrary, that this is just a local issue, are disrespectful. If we are truly going to solve this, we need the Department of Justice to invest nationally in body camera technology and law enforcement training.”
Key national demands from local black elected officials include:
• A national push at all levels of government to prosecute police misconduct.
• A national push for more systemic investigations when agencies are suspected of engaging in “pattern or practice” violations and discrimination.
• An end to “broken windows” policing and “stop and frisk” policies that endanger the lives of young men of color.
Recommendations for local governments include:
• Local prosecutors need to create civil rights units dedicated to investigating and prosecuting police misconduct fairly, transparently and independently.
• State attorneys general need to provide recommendations and guidelines for local prosecutors and investigators of misconduct to ensure police accountability.
• We need mayors to appoint police chiefs who prioritize building trust with communities, de-escalation, and life preserving trainings and protocol, and support alternative mental health intervention.
Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales of Portsmouth specifically called on fellow prosecutors to take action: “From Saheed Vassell to Stephon Brown, what is happening across our country right now does not reflect a just America for all. As prosecutors, we hold the power of law in our office and with that comes a heavy responsibility. I urge my fellow prosecutors across the country to show our nation that we value every single one of our constituents, including the lives of people of color, by prosecuting crimes by police officers against them.”
at is right for our people no matter how uncomfortable or trying the road may be.”
“Even with reform, even with new policy and procedure, we have to bring police officers on the force that are committed to the sanctity of human life,” said Lateefah Simon, BART Board of Directors member, Oakland, CA.
“We have all come together to say ‘enough’ to losing black lives in our communities. Wisconsin has seen the strain of police violence. It’s in the nation and state’s interest to end this violence in our communities because Black families cannot afford this misstep,” said David Bowen, a Wisconsin state legislator from Milwaukee.
The Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network is a nonpartisan program of People For the American Way Foundation. It is the first and only national initiative to provide a network of support to the newest generation of progressive leaders at every level of elected office.
People For the American Way Foundation is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.