All eyes are on Ferguson, Missouri, as that community grapples with the aftermath of the shooting death of Michael Brown. But it's an unfortunate truth that the unarmed teenager, who was shot by local police, is not an isolated tragedy, and comes on the heels of the deaths of Eric Garner and Ezell Ford, who also died at the hands of police officers.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund is calling on Attorney Gen. Eric Holder to take steps to end police violence against unarmed African-Americans.
"The depravity demonstrated by law enforcement in these recent events must be met with immediate reform," said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF's president and director counsel, in a letter to Holder on Aug. 14.
"When the integrity and transparency of local law enforcement is in question, federal authorities must step in and exercise their significant influence to maintain the public's trust and confidence in the criminal justice system," she added.
The civil rights group wants the Justice Department to conduct a comprehensive review of police-related assaults and deaths; incentives for state and local law enforcement to provide training on racial bias and avoiding the use of force; and body cameras for police officers. It also wants police officers to be held accountable to the full extent of the law for the use of excessive force, discriminatory policing and other similar violations.
"Violent deaths like Michael Brown's happen all too frequently and will continue to occur without meaningful accountability. The DOJ must utilize its substantial resources to take significant, proactive steps to curb police violence on communities of color. Transparency, accountability, oversight, and deterrence are critical elements in the effort to curtail police violence," Ifill said.
Reps. John Conyers and Bobby Scott, who sit on the House Judiciary Committee, have requested in a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte hearings to investigate recent incidents of local law enforcement using excessive force — sometimes deadly — and other violations where civil rights have been infringed upon."
Like Ifill they believe that Brown's death "highlights what appears to be a continuing pattern of the use of deadly force by police against unarmed African-Americans in cities around the nation."
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(Photo: AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Laurie Skrivan)