A Ferguson Near You: police brutality and racism

In the aftermath of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, Duke Law’s Black Law Student Association brought together a panel of experts to discuss the issue of police brutality and race. Because violence against unarmed young men of color is not unique to Ferguson – it happens every day throughout the U.S. SCSJ’s Daryl Atkinson spoke at the event, connecting the root causes of events such as those in Ferguson with the institutional racism endemic to police departments throughout the nation. (Daryl’s speech begins at 29:25, but the entire video is well worth watching).

What police actions lead to violence such as what we saw in Ferguson?

  1. Highly racialized stops by police, leading to distrust between police and communities of color
  2. Highly racialized outcomes associated with the “War On Drugs,” despite equal usage rates by people of all races
  3. Militarization of police departments, and the overuse of militarized police practices in communities of color

What can we do?

Here in Durham, Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement (FADE), a coalition of local grassroots organizing, clergy members, and civil rights groups, has five

  1. Mandatory written consent for police searching people and their property[i]
  2. Misdemeanor marijuana possession should be a lowest law enforcement priority (LLEP)[ii]
  3. Mandatory racial equity training for police[iii]
  4. Reform civilian review board to hold police accountable
  5. Mandatory quarterly data reports on the racial breakdown of police stops, searches, and arrests

[i] Adopted by the Durham city Council on September 17, 2014
[ii] Under consideration by the Durham City Council (as of September 22, 2014)
[iii] While the Durham City Council has endorsed some training, the FADE coalition encourages more in-depth racial profiling training.

About this event

Sparked by the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, there is a renewed public discussion on troubled interactions between minorities and police. This panel, comprised of experts from various disciplines, offers observations and suggestions. Presented on September 15, 2014, at Duke Law School, panelists included Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University; Dr. Karla Holloway, Professor of English, Law, and Women’s Studies; Daryl Atkinson, attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), focusing on criminal justice reform; Melvin Tucker, criminal justice and litigation consultant for law enforcement cases. Duke Law Professor Trina Jones moderates the panel. Sponsored by the Black Law Students Association and the Center on Law, Race, and Politics.