The Executive Leadership Council has announced its support for The Legal Defense Fund’s call for the federal government to enact nationwide policing reforms. At a minimum, such reform must include federal legislation related to increasing Department of Justice (DOJ) oversight of funding for police department training and strengthening the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s ability to identify and investigate patterns of discrimination and misconduct that can potentially surface at police departments across the country.
Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and now Freddie Gray; these three cases are just the most recent, high-profile examples of Black males who were killed during questionable interactions with law enforcement officers in America. The African-American business community cannot remain silent while members of our own communities and individuals who are our brothers, our sons and our grandsons are killed. Thus The ELC pledges its support of The Legal Defense Fund’s call for legislative enhancements and increased federal oversight. We too, believe that the following measures will help combat police misconduct across the country and help bring a greater level of accountability to local police departments:
Greater oversight by the DOJ over the utilization of its law enforcement grant programs, to determine how such programs can be used to provide and support increased training for police officers in key areas.
Increased funding and resources for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to help strengthen its efforts to conduct thorough reviews of any police department believed to be engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination.
“The life-threatening reality of racial bias in policing threatens to undermine public confidence in our criminal justice system and in the rule of law itself – a bedrock principle of our democracy,” said ELC President and CEO Ron Parker, who is helping to rally the business community around this cause, which has affected the African-American community at a disproportionate rate. “We rely on principles of fairness and equity in all American institutions, both public and private. As we’ve seen in Tulsa, North Charleston, and most recently Baltimore, these principles are not being upheld in our law enforcement institutions to the detriment of the African- American community and American society as a whole.”
The ELC also credits the work of religious and civil rights leaders and organizations that have been intensely focused on these issues for years, such as the Legal Defense Fund, which has used litigation, policy advocacy, and public education to ensure that African-Americans and other communities of color are treated fairly and without regard to race in the criminal justice system. “I am thrilled that The ELC has chosen to lend its voice in support of the need for policing reform,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “When a business group with the stature of The ELC chooses to speak, people listen. The ELC’s engagement in this issue speaks powerfully to the urgent need for change. We are excited about this important collaboration.” As Black business leaders, The ELC is committed to continuing to speak and support measures that will strengthen the legitimacy of our justice system and the rule of law, and it knows the reforms it is supporting today will help it achieve these goals of inclusion and respect in America.
Parker also emphasizes the business case for ardent reform. “Police reform is not just a social and/or civil rights issue – it is an economic imperative,” said Parker. “As a group of global business leaders, we are mindful that the world is watching how we as a nation treat our black and brown men and women. The world is taking note of the value we place on these lives and the potential of the lives that are growing up in communities of color.”
History has shown us repeatedly that our ability to protect, serve and meet the needs of the least of us, determines how well and how high we rise and prosper together as a nation. We must also be mindful of how we support the good men and women in law enforcement who work to protect the lives of black men and boys, as well as others in our communities. Let us remember to teach justice and respect while demanding their application to all.