Sherrilyn Ifill: A National Crisis Requires a National Response

NAACP's LDF director-counsel says policing tactics in this country must be changed.

Sherrilyn Ifill declares that this country is facing a national crisis — a statement that she contends is not an exaggeration. The police brutality and violence projected toward the African-American community has dated back decades, but the only difference between 1915 and 2015 is the presence of new technology such as social media and cellphone cameras, which can document police brutality, she writes in an op-ed on CNN.

"To call this ugly and unrelenting wave of police violence against unarmed African-Americans a national crisis is not an exaggeration — we are losing the confidence of a generation of young who no longer believe in the legitimacy or credibility of our law enforcement and the justice system that underpins it,” Ifill writes. “A true democracy draws its strength from the confidence of its citizens in the bedrock institutions. The loss of that confidence threatens the very foundation of our legal system.” 

In order to fix the crisis, Ifill proposes that we must first face the crisis. In order to fix a culture, Ifill proposes that law enforcement would require training — targeted and consistent training.
“We must recognize that there are no quick fixes,” she said. “The culture of policing in cities such as New York and Baltimore has developed over decades.”

Ifill proposes that in the same way the education system in this country is a function of the state and local governments, where funds are appropriated and allocated on the basis of compliance with federal standards, law enforcement must also be held to the same standards. To ensure that law enforcement, which receives more than a billion dollars a year in grants, complies with newly adopted federal standards, Ifill advocates that the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice be allotted more money to do so.

These changes will not happen overnight, Ifill points out. Top officials must have a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination and bigotry, and a joint effort between all levels of government must be made to end police brutality in this country.

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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