Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby spoke out against the flawed American criminal justice system as the single most significant civil rights issue facing black residents in Maryland.
“Black people are six times more likely to be arrested and become a part of the criminal justice system [than] whites,” Mosby said at the fall symposium of the University of Baltimore Law Review, which was headlined, “400 Years: Slavery and the Criminal Justice System.”
Mosby shocked the criminal justice world when she announced the indictment of the six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray’s case.
Mosby did not win the case against the Police Officers but her effort created a national conversation on the issue of Police Officers violating departmental policies and procedures and how it relates to state criminal statutes.
Mosby said prosecutors like her have an obligation to reduce disparities by providing opportunities for young people before they come into contact with the system, alternatives for returning felons who are too often sidelined economically because of their criminal records, and means for seeking redress for those wrongfully accused or convicted.
In New York, our elected officials have been playing political Hollywood shuffle when it comes to proper oversight and accountability of the Law Enforcement or bringing indictments of police officers in deaths of black men.
A Daily News investigation found that on-duty NYPD officers killed at least 179 people over the past 15 years. Just three of the deaths have led to an indictment in state court. In another case, a judge threw out the charge on technical grounds, and it was not reinstated.
Moreover, acts of police brutality are not only crimes against the individual victim, but also are attacks on the communities in which they occur. Therefore, local prosecutors who are elected to enforce the laws in those communities should not be robbed of their ability to faithfully and fairly do so in cases where police officers shoot, kill or injure someone unjustly.
In Westchester County, black men can be shot, shot at, or killed and never an indictment; instead the District Attorney has hid behind the curtain of the Grand Jury. In the killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, former District Attorney, Janet Difiore said the police officers using the word “Nigger” was a tactic to distract and never considered it to be a “Hate Crime.”
In Governor Cuomo’s history, even as states Attorney General, he has never intervened as an independent body or brought any indictments of police officers as States Attorney General. Even at the request of victim’s families, law enforcement reform groups, Criminal Justice experts, and many New York taxpayers, the demand for an Independent Special Prosecutor have fallen on death ears of the state legislator. In a weak effort, our Governer gave the people an Executive Order for the state’s Attorney General to play the role of the Special Prosecutor. But there was no need in that executive order, according to the Attorney Generals website the office already had the power to investigate.
Unfortunately, even when municipalities do recognize the need for transparency, the call has fallen to death ears by Governor Cuomo and our State Legislators. A letter, dated May 29 and signed by the entire City Council of Newburgh N.Y., came at the response to the death of Michael Lembhard, a 22-year-old killed in 2012, during a confrontation with police.
The council’s letter claims a close working relationship between police and prosecutors undermines the credibility of the district attorney’s investigation.
“It does not matter that the DA’s office does an outstanding job of investigation; the results will not be trusted. By definition, the relationship causes a conflict of interest,” the letter said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo denied the council’s request for a special prosecutor.
Unfortunately for Black people, the NYS Attorney General has never investigated and prosecuted on behalf of a victim of police criminality. The Attorney Generals mission;
As the “People’s Lawyer,” the Attorney General serves as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens of New York, its organizations, and its natural resources.
The Attorney General’s Office is charged with the statutory and common law powers to protect consumers and investors, charitable donors, the public health and environment, civil rights, and the rights of wage-earners and businesses across the State.
In New York, many District Attorneys are fighting against the new criminal justice reform laws. Lady Justice is supposed to be blind and fair. For our District Attorneys to fight against fair rules of the discovery of behalf of Defendants. Prosecutors did not have to turn over evidence until a person went to trial. This means that people were often asked to take plea deals without even the basic facts of the case. The people have requested a model of real justice for our District Attorneys, not career conviction or plea stats so the District Attorney can be ranked like a sports athlete.
Carl Dix, in an earlier Op-Ed for Black Westchester wrote, “We’ve gone through this for decades—those in power telling us to wait for the results of investigations, investigations that almost always let the murdering pigs walk free. We went through it with Obama, sometimes shedding crocodile tears over the deaths of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice. And still, the murdering pigs walked free. This is what played out with the murder of Alton Sterling, and the same thing will continue to play out unless people rise up mightily—joining with those who are courageously standing up and taking this even further.”
There is NOT ONE city in Westchester’s 43 municipalities that have an active Civilian Complaint Review Board.
Our system of government is based on checks and balances, each possessing the power to curtail the activities of the other. Elected officials must ensure those who represent the interest of protecting the people do so in accordance with the law and not abuse the authority they have been granted. If our local District Attorney’s and our state Attorney is incapable or unwilling to investigate police crimes in New York properly then it is necessary for our state legislators to create proper oversight legislation to help positively influence behavior patterns in a law enforcement organization and build a better relationship with the communities that law enforcement claims to serve.