The time is now for America’s legislative body at the state and local levels to bring a full stop to the endless harassment and killing of Black children at the hands of the men and women in law enforcement sworn to protect and serve them.
Of those that made the news, Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old from a Dallas, TX suburb, was a latest victim of law enforcement. Jordan’s death follows an unrelenting pattern of Black children who are subjected to undue harassment and excessive force, or death, by police officers. Many of these reported killings have taken place in settings where children are simply doing what young people do in the course of their daily life. In school, at social events, in playgrounds and on their streets Black children are harassed, tormented or killed by police officers.
For victims, their families and the greater community, the trauma of these acts against children is too much to bear. These acts also shed light on our state and local legislative bodies as institutions that have not acted in the better interest of keeping our children safe.
After waiting months, we have learned the U.S. Department of Justice will not file charges against the two Baton Rouge, LA police officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, for the death of Alton Sterling last summer, in a convenience store parking lot. Now, it is up to the Louisiana State Attorney General to decide whether to pursue criminal charges against these two police officers. Will the State Attorney General fail its citizens, too?
The failure to prosecute and convict nearly every officer involved in fatal force shootings of unarmed Black people, underscores the urgent matter of substantive accountability and justice. The police officer who killed Jordan Edwards was swiftly terminated, but that is not accountability in measure to the life he took.
Police officers are public servants. They answer to municipal and state elected officials. When will our elected officials stand for justice and ensure that the children of our communities are protected and served rather than harassed and killed? Do we need to elect new legislators in order for them to take notice and take action regarding these egregious killings and traumatic treatment of our citizens?
Police officers, by law, are granted an extraordinary range of authority to make life and death decisions. It is time for elected representatives to use their authority – entrusted by the public who vote them into office – to rein in police officers by changing the laws that shield them. The safety of our children, wherever they may be, begins and ends with elected representatives who enact laws and have the power to hold their subordinates accountable for their actions or failures thereof. We certainly will hold them accountable on election day.
Brian L. Pauling, is the CEO and President of 100 Black Men of America, Inc., whose world headquarters is in Atlanta, Ga.