Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer:
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (The Leadership Conference), a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect civil and human rights in the United States and the 386 undersigned organizations, we urge you to take swift and decisive legislative action in response to ongoing fatal police killings and other violence against Black people across our country.
Federal statutory reforms are urgently needed on a range of policing issues, including use of force, police accountability, racial profiling, militarization, data collection, and training. We also respectfully request a meeting with House and Senate Leadership within the week to discuss legislative responses to ongoing police killings against Black people. Abusive police practices coupled with devastating state-sanctioned violence have exacted systemic brutality and fatality upon Black people since our nation’s founding.
The current protests across our country are not new. They are in response to a long cycle of lawlessness against Black people, from our founding to 1968, the year the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. This cycle includes deadly incidents spanning from Los Angeles in 1992 to Ferguson in 2014. 1 Police have shot and killed more than 1,000 people in the United States over the past year.2
Moreover, Black people are disproportionately more likely than white people to be killed by police. For too long, the cycle of police brutality and racism has been met with cosmetic tinkering instead of substantive structural change. The current public protests in our cities are a response not only to unjust policing of Black people but are a cry for action to public officials for structural change, writ large. In recent weeks, the chronic structural issue of police killings against Black people across our country has, again, escalated to a boiling point.
The February 23, 2020, death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a former police officer in a Brunswick, Georgia suburb, sparked public outrage and scrutiny. The more recent police killings of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020, Dreasjon “Sean” Reed in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 6, 2020, George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020, and Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL on May 27, 2020 have generated national attention and protest. This spate of cases highlights entrenched, systemic dysfunction that has long plagued police departments and our criminal legal system.3 Congress must rectify these structural wrongs through legislation before another Black life is needlessly lost