This month, we’ve witnessed the brutal murders of several Black people by police— including Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Delrawn Smalls, and Alva Braziel. And guess what? The federal government has been bankrolling the police departments that killed all four of them.
Yes. Congress and the Obama administration are spending millions of dollars every year giving grants to the same police departments that are killing and over-incarcerating Black people–and it has to stop.
Politicians can’t keep promising the change we need in local police departments and quietly maintain the status quo by failing to take real action. Pres. Obama and Congress have real power to hold police departments accountable with their funding—if they are really about stopping police terror in Black communities, this is how they show it.
Baton Rouge PD, the very police department that killed Alton Sterling, has been under investigation by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations TWICE—including for its harassment of Black people following Hurricane Katrina. Yet, federal officials continue to give them money. In fact, Baton Rouge PD has received 3 million dollars from the DOJ over the past five years.
In the aftermath of his death, it was revealed that Philando Castile had been stopped by police 52 times in 14 years—and subject to the same profiling, criminalization, and extraction of wealth detailed in the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson police and replicated everywhere in the US.[4,5]
The federal government knows exactly how police departments are terrorizing Black communities—it’s past time they do something about it and hold these police departments accountable.
After thousands of people spoke out against the Department of Defense giving police military equipment, following the highly militarized brutalization of Ferguson protesters, Pres. Obama signed an executive order banning the federal government from providing certain kinds of military gear to local and state police. So we’re calling on President Obama and Congress to take action again and pull all grant funds from any police department that doesn’t make reforms to protect Black lives.
The reforms we’re calling for are simple ones that President Obama himself has supported and funded research to create with the 21st Century Policing Task Force. It’s time for Pres. Obama to step up and ensure these critical reforms actually happen—and he can do that by withholding funds from any police department that doesn’t do the following:
Embrace a culture of transparency
- Make all department policies available for public review, and publish demographic data on all stops, frisks, summonses and arrests.
- Collect, maintain, and analyze demographic data on all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.
Hold the police accountable
- Adopt policies that require all officers to seek written consent before any search & provide their name, reason for stop or search, and contact information for the civilian complaint board.
- Police cannot and should not police themselves. Require independent criminal investigations into all officer-involved fatalities and in-custody deaths.
- Enforce policies prohibiting profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, housing status, occupation and/or language fluency.
With four Black deaths in a matter of days, we’re in—and have been in—a state of emergency. We can’t afford to spend millions of dollars on police departments that will continue killing, criminalizing, and incarcerating Black people.
–Scott, Rashad, Arisha, Clarise, Enchanta and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.
1. “Why Alton Sterling and Philando Castile Are Dead,” The Nation, 07-07-2016
“Video surfaces of NYPD cop’s road rage shooting,” New York Post, 07-08-2016
“Police Said They Shot A Man Because He Pointed A Gun At Them, Video Shows He Had His Hands Up,” ThinkProgress, 07-10-2016
2. “Feds: We’re Investigating Baton Rouge Police Too,” Pro Publica, 03-26-2010
“Alton Sterling Shooting Exposes Racial Fractures in Baton Rouge,” NBC News, 07-07-2016
3. “Audit of the Office of Justice Programs Justice Assistance Grants Awarded to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office,” Office of the Inspector General, 11-01-2014
4. “Philando Castile stopped by cops in Minnesota 52 times in past 14 years for a slew of misdemeanors,” NY Daily News, 07-09-2016
5. “The 12 key highlights from the DOJ’s scathing Ferguson report,” The Washington Post, 03-04-2015
6. “Obama bans some military equipment sales to police,” USA Today, 05-18-2015
7. “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing,” U.S. Department of Justice, 05-01-2015