ICO Rallies Around Police Accountability
By Dianne Anderson
Some of the most disturbing images Patrick Kennedy has seen lately is wrapped around religion, condoning violence and intolerance with Jesus as the strongman.
Far right extremism is always just a click away. He said it’s easy to see just how authoritarian the nation is leaning.
“Their interpretation of Jesus as the strongman is probably why they like Trump, and why they like Putin. These things run really deep. People twist culture and religion to help support them,” said Kennedy of Greater Long Beach Interfaith Community Organization (ICO),
At a weekend symposium, community organizers brainstormed best approaches to build accountable relationships with the police department. Participants also reviewed a list of 60 people that Kennedy said have died at the hands of Long Beach law enforcement since 2000.
The forum talked about the arrest process, current legislation, and alternatives to mass incarceration. At the event, one speaker, a former deputy chief of police from Los Angeles, covered concerns around police reform.
“He’s been horrified by the arrogance and lack of transparency in the city of Long Beach,” he said.
Another issue that he hears concerns about is that officers risk getting demoted or squeezed out of the department if they don’t “go along to get along.”
The symposium was to create a vision to help the community set goals for accountability. ICO is also looking to establish a team that will engage and pressure the police department to make a change.
“[It’s to] really challenge and negotiate with the police department and how we look at heat elements — hiring, equipment, accountability and training,” Kennedy said.
The hope is that training will impact officer-involved killings and police brutality.
In a joint study earlier this year, UCLA, Harvard, and UC Berkeley found that there were over 100,000 years of life lost (YYLs) in encounters with law enforcement America between 2015 to 2016.
“People of colour comprised 38.5% of the population, but 51.5% of YLLs. YLLs were greatest among those aged 25–34 years, and the number of YLLs at younger ages was greater among people of colour than whites,” the study found.
According to mappingpoliceviolence.org, 1,147 people were killed in America by police in 2017, 92% were killed by police shootings. Tasers, physical force, and police vehicles accounted for most other deaths, and Officers were charged with a crime in only 13 of these cases, One percent of all killings by police. Nine of those cases had an accompanying video.
“We were able to identify officers in 569 cases. At least 48 had shot or killed someone before. 12 had multiple prior shootings,” states policeviolencereport.org. “Most killings began with police responding to suspected non-violent offenses or cases where no crime was reported. 89 people were killed after police stopped them for a traffic violation.”
Lisa James sits on the planning committee with ICO, and said together they are working more outreach, and awareness to tackle tough issues facing the city.
“It was pretty powerful, and I think it was the beginning of something really amazing for folks that live in Long Beach,” said James, also a Long Beach resident and local organizer of All of Us or None, an organization under the umbrella of a New Way of Life.
The goal is to increase connections at the table where people can step up a plan of action around the conversation. She said they canvass, and provide ongoing expungement clinics and a safe space for the community.
Voter suppression is another big concern as they continue voter-in reach registration for those that are incarcerated, but have not yet been convicted of a crime. They still have voting rights.
“We’re going inside of jails to get folks registered to vote and helping them understand what’s coming up on the ballot, and that their vote matters,” she said.
She said the organization challenged the county superior court level that had wrongly determined that hundreds of 2016 votes were ineligible.
“Hundreds of thousands, millions of votes nationally are literally being snatched away by some mechanism or another,” James said.
James, who also sits on the Coalition for Safety and Justice roundtable with Kennedy and ICO, said the focus there is to get people out of the prison pipeline into mental health and social service programs.
She said the city’s conservative police enforcement also keeps the community from rallying out of fear, but she said the AOUON organization will continue to host local meetings.
“They don’t want to come out and stand up for their rights. So, All of Us or None is playing a significant role in helping folks mobilize and understand their position as a community,” she said.
For more information, see http://www.anewwayoflife.org