With the nation’s focus on police brutality after the recent deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland Ohio; and Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, there is much to learn from the work of local NAACP branches. These deaths were all listed as homicides by their local coroners but none of these homicides received indictments by the grand jury system. With these recent police killings coming after the national outrage sparked by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, I decided to pull the San Bernardino NAACP Branch Legal Redress file on police shootings in San Bernardino from a few years ago.
Before I list the resolution the branch submitted to the NAACP State Association and how they requested the national office look into the issue, I have a few thoughts on these recent shootings especially the killing of Eric Garner because it really troubled me to hear witnesses state that he was gasping for air. I don’t know about you but if you have any kind of respiratory problem such as asthma or anxiety you have some idea of what it is like to fear not being able to breathe and in need of air. Your mind begins telling your body to react and thus tenses up if you cannot do what your mind is telling you to do. Now imagine your hands tied up behind your back and four people holding you down and not listening to you. Your mind goes into overdrive which also works against you because the mind knows that all you need to do is relax for just a few seconds to allow air into your lungs. Then you pass out from lack of air.
To further exacerbate the situation the personnel paid to help after Garner was unconscious just stood around and watched him die after he informed them 13 times, “I can’t breathe.” Believe me he did not have to die because one police officer with a preconceived belief and fear of Black men decided to exercise his legal authority, jump on Eric Garner’s back, and put him in an illegal chokehold that eventually killed him.
I have reviewed several cases in San Bernardino since the shooting death of Tyisha Miller in Riverside over sixteen years ago that brought about the following NAACP study. I even wrote an editorial in 2012 calling for the public to demand more police accountability. I am convinced, more than ever, that the need is still great. On Monday the San Bernardino City Council voted to adopt a pilot program to have some police officers wear body cameras. While that is a step in the right direction, I am suggesting that they not overlook recruitment, training, and where police officers reside as part of the solutions to correct the divide that exists between the police and some sections of the community. As evidenced by the recent shooting in New York, a video alone will not correct officer behavior. I would also like for the city of San Bernardino to do a study on how all public safety employees have been recruited, tested, hired and trained in the city and released to the public.
San Bernardino Branch of NAACP, Resolution on Police Shootings, Misconduct and Abuse of Authority in Performance of Duty, 2012
Whereas another African American, Anthony Paul Gilmore Jr., 23, has been shot and killed by a San Bernardino City Police officer on March 1, 2012; and it was reported in the newspaper by police that during a struggle on the ground, the victim reached for a gun laying nearby and pulled the gun under his body, the officer feared for his or his partner’s safety so he shot the man several times.
Whereas Jerriel Da’Shawn Allen, a 19-year-old African American male, was shot nine times in the back and killed by a San Bernardino City Police officer on 4/14/07. A lawsuit was filed and was scheduled to go to trial on 1/23/12 and the judge ordered the city to settle the case because it was a bad case. The family settled for $575,000.
Whereas Jonneshia Reese, a 16-year-old African American female, settled a cased filed against the San Bernardino Police Department for $211,937 for Excessive Force used by the police that occurred on 1/8/06.
Whereas Terrell Markham, an African American male, was shot on 11/17/07 by a San Bernardino City Police officer and is now blind. The police allege Markham pulled a gun and the city council has set aside $122,500 to settle the case.
Whereas on 10/9/09 the police forced their way into the apartment of Donavan Parker an African American male where they handcuffed him and was taking him into the police station for booking only to discover Mr. Parker was blind. Mr. Parker told them all during the incident he was blind and did not know what they wanted. The city has set aside $110,000 in hopes of settling the case.
Whereas on 5/2/09 in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit filed against the city for another police shooting of Mr. Mason, an African American male. The officer alleges he heard metal hitting the ground and thought Mason reached for a gun. No gun was ever found. The city settled the case for $275,000.
Whereas James Brown, an African American male, was forced into a stairwell and beaten by officers of the San Bernardino Police Department and was sued for using excessive force. According to five eyewitnesses, the police used excessive force. The city has set aside $18,500 in hopes of settling the case.
Whereas the city has 24 open lawsuits against them with the majority involving the police department, we therefore request the NAACP State and National Offices open a national taskforce to look into this KILLING FIELD of African Americans by local police officers in America. We furthermore request that the city of San Bernardino be the genesis of these investigations because it has been named the poorest city in California and the 2nd poorest in America as noted by the U. S. Census Department.
Submitted this 3/19/2012 by:
The San Bernardino Branch of the NAACP
Patricia Small, President
Walter Jarman, Secretary and Chair Legal Redress Committee
Hardy Brown, Legal Redress Committee