African American leaders push for criminal justice changes

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — African American leaders hope the civil unrest will lead to meaningful change in our criminal justice system.

Urban core advocates say reforms are needed now.

Many in the black community are not surprised that peaceful protests have boiled over, resulting in vandalism and property damage.

Specifically, some leaders are quoting Martin Luther King in saying that rioting is the language of the unheard.

Black leaders say there needs to be more transparency in police investigations.

They cite the cases of Cameron Lamb, who was shot by Kansas City police, and Breona Hill, who was assaulted by officers who are now facing charges, as examples of a flawed and broken justice system.

Black leaders say without video there would not be any criminal charges in George Floyd’s case or Breona Hill’s case.

Among the demands: African Americans want all police officers equipped with body cameras to make officers more accountable for their actions.

“Those in the millennial generation and these younger generations, they are going to say: ‘When you tell me to be peaceful, when you tell me to do it in the spirit of Dr. King, they killed him too.'” said the Rev. Branden Mims, senior pastor of the Greater Metropolitan Church of Christ. “So how do we give hope to a generation who says, ‘If we do it Malcolm X style, he got killed. If we do it Dr. King style, he got killed?’ We are dealing with a generation of people who feel like they have no hope. That is where we have to begin. We have to see real change. Real systemic change. We have got to see it in the courts, we have got to see it in our prisons. We have got to see it in our communities.”

Body cameras have been talked about in Kansas City for more than five years.

And while many of the surrounding suburbs have them, there’s still no funding to make body cams a reality for the KCPD.

When police talk about being transparent, many in the African American community disagree.

They want independent investigation of citizen complaints.

Right now there’s an independent office, but police still investigate their own.

And the civil unrest is likely to increase debate over local control of Kansas City police.

Many in the African American community have been unsuccessfully pushing for local control of the police department, saying it would make officers more directly accountable to the citizens they serve.

 

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