Former NAACP President Ben Jealous Calls for National Policing Standards
The United States needs a top-down, comprehensive set of national standards that determines how its police forces are trained, said former NAACP president Ben Jealous.
Speaking to Cheddar on Tuesday as cities across the country awoke from another night of civil unrest over the police killing of George Floyd, Jealous said that the anger that sparked the current wave of protests is as old as the country itself.
"People in our country have, for centuries, been opposed to abusive behavior by those who are supposed to protect us," he said, pointing to the Boston Massacre of 1770.
"What's frustrating is that this is not new — it's simply being caught on tape, so it's become intolerable to a much broader range of people," according to Jealous.
Jealous ran an unsuccessful bid for Maryland governor in 2018, but his effort to win the seat began in 2015 in the aftermath of another police killing, one that roiled the city of Baltimore. That spring, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, sustained fatal neck injuries while in the custody of police. Jealous said that while the Gray and Floyd cases are different, there are lessons to be learned from the federal response to the Gray incident. It was then that the Department of Justice, under President Barack Obama, launched an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department and found that BPD engaged in systemic patterns of conduct that violated the Constitution. Since then, that police force has been under a so-called "consent decree" with the federal government which mandated significant police reforms.
President Donald Trump has ordered that the DOJ's investigation into George Floyd's death be expedited, but Jealous said that the president himself bears some responsibility in allowing the unrest to grow nationwide.
The president lacks the moral authority to empathize with the black community, Jealous alleges, noting that Trump still maintains that the Central Park Five were guilty even in the face of the DNA evidence that exonerated them.
"That makes him seem, quite frankly, racist to the core," Jealous said.
With a leadership vacuum at the top, Jealous said police forces must act to get aggressive cops off the force.
"There are lots of good officers," he said. "But the bad officers make this a more dangerous country for all of us — including the good officers."
This piece originally appeared on Cheddar.com on June 2, 2020