The Village

  • “CBCF Perspectives” OPINION: Law Enforcement and Communities of Color: Why Loretta Lynch Needs to be Confirmed

    Apr 23, 2015. Written by guest

                                                            Written by Kenya Metters

    Every 28 hours a black man, woman, or child is killed by police or vigilante law enforcement. News accounts about this startling statistic have forced a national dialogue on the ongoing tension between law enforcement and communities of color. The emotional outburst that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown as well as the fatal shooting of Walter Lamar Scott of Charleston, South Carolina has led the nation to the realization that our criminal justice system needs reform.

    It is now more evident than ever that policing in America needs more effective policies to end the systemic pattern killings of black persons by law enforcement. No one is better positioned to enact such new and effective practices than the nation’s top law enforcement officer, The Department of Justice’s Attorney General. There is one problem, however: Senate Republicans refuse to confirm Loretta Lynch as the first African American woman Attorney General of the United States.

    On November 8, 2014, President Obama nominated Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York as the next Attorney General of the United States, to succeed Eric Holder. A Harvard Law graduate, prosecutor and U.S Attorney, Loretta Lynch possesses not only the academic and professional credentials for the job, but also a strong record demonstrating her commitment to equal and impartial Justice. To her, all lives matter including black lives. In 1997, she led the prosecution of the officers accused of assaulting Abner Louima, a Haitian who, after being arrested in Brooklyn, New York, was assaulted, brutalized and sodomized with a broom handle by officers of the New York City Police Department. The main perpetrator involved received a 30-year prison sentence. Justice was served in part because Loretta was there.

    After the Staten Island grand jury investigating Eric Garner’s death decided not to indict the officer who killed him, Loretta Lynch led a federal civil rights investigation into the chokehold death and met with Garner’s family, demonstrating sympathy.

    Last year, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) hosted a conference with law enforcement officials, civil rights activists, academic experts, community leaders, and policy makers that focused on building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Loretta Lynch suggested that there is a strong effort needed to ensure police and communities of color are truly seen and truly understood. She explained, “To say that the minority community has a conflicted relationship with law enforcement is a profound understatement. But if you listen closely, you can hear how often both groups are saying the same thing: ‘Don’t look at me and just see the uniform.’ ‘Don’t look at me and assume the worst.’ There is a mutual desire to be understood. We can find commonality from this common ground”.

    The Attorney General heads the Department of Justice and is the chief law enforcement officer of the federal government. The Attorney General represents the United States in legal matters generally and is the main legal advisor to the President and to the heads of the executive departments of the Government when so requested. The Attorney General has executive responsibility for law enforcement, public prosecutions or even ministerial responsibility for legal affairs generally.  The DOJ is the central agency for enforcement of federal laws.

    By delaying Loretta Lynch’s confirmation for U.S. Attorney General, resolution of our broken justice system will be prolonged. As Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee, stated last month, “They’re stopping the workings of government by blocking the chief law enforcement officer of the United States of America- they can’t step away from that”.

    Loretta Lynch is the change we need to reform nationwide policing practices. She has a long history of working with the New York Police Department and understands the situations they experience on a daily basis. She understands the racial tension amongst law enforcement and the African American community. She has proven to be a fair and unbiased legal champion of the justice system.  Loretta Lynch has demonstrated that she is not going to stand for injustice. America needs Loretta Lynch to be confirmed as Attorney General of the United States.

    Kenya Metters is a native of Oakland, CA and a recent graduate of Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in administration of justice and a minor in political science. On campus, she served as members of the Howard University Democrats and Students against Mass Incarceration.
    Kenya is currently serving in the office of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)