The Malik Jones All-Civilian Review Board Proposal

Here is the introduction to the Malik Jones ACRB proposal. Its gives the historical context for our CRB campaign and speaks to the decades of work that has gone into the Malik ACRB proposal. Read the full ordinance proposal here (it’s a work in progress and we are looking for feedback).

Introduction

There has been an ongoing, far-reaching community process to develop a workable model for an All-Civilian Complaint Review Board in New Haven for approximately twenty years. This has been a long and careful journey in which we have tried to involve all facets of the community. This issue continues to be a very sensitive matter, and although we are still in the midst of very delicate community-wide discussions and negotiation, our position has remained constant. Malik E. Jones and many others have lost their lives at the hands of police officers. We cannot pretend that we do not have emotions about this issue; of course, we do.

While we admit that our emotions run high, we have nevertheless taken a measured and rational approach to address what is one of the single most devastating, decisive and traumatizing issues confronting America today. We realize that police officers have concerns as to whether or not an All-Civilian Review Board will be fair to them. We certainly hope so. It is not now, nor has it ever been our intention to put in place another unjust institution.

The New Haven community has expressed an urgent need for an All-Civilian Review Board. In November of 1995, Alder Dawson submitted an ordinance to the Board of Aldermen that would have created an All-Civilian Review Board. That ordinance was a response to a conversation held in New Haven on the necessity of such a panel by Michael Jefferson, now attorney Jefferson. That measure is still pending before the Board of Alders. After the brutal police shooting of her son Malik in April 1997, Emma Jones became more deeply involved in this issue.  Emma, the M.A.L.I.K. Organization, community activists, and Alder Dawson joined forces to bring the issue of an All- Civilian Review Board to the forefront of public discussions.

Following the awful tragedy of Malik’s shooting in 1997, there was a resurgence of interest in creating the All-Civilian Review Board, as the cause attracted local, state, and even national attention. Indeed, interested parties and organizations from all across the nation sent us their input, and we sought the involvement of all segments of the New Haven community. The community has shown and continues to demonstrate serious concern about this issue.

Soon after, in 1998, Alderman Dawson introduced a Resolution to the Board of Alders that called for a two-day conference to examine the disturbing circumstances and larger issues raised by the fatal police shooting of Malik E. Jones. As a result of this conference, Alders Anthony B. Dawson, Alvin Brooker, and Ron Gattison came together with Emma Jones and M.A.L.I.K. supporters to model an All-Civilian Review Board with subpoena power. We also hoped to establish a statewide review board with subpoena power within three to five years.

Later, in 1999, what had grown into a broad coalition of citizens and organizations got behind the NAACP as it sponsored a citywide referendum on this vitally important issue. Testimony was taken on this referendum from Roger Vann, Emma Jones and Cliff Pettaway. Then by an overwhelming 4-to-1 margin the people of New Haven voted in favor of creating an All-Civilian Review Board that was independent of the police commission. The issue was coming to a head, so we intensified our efforts to listen to and take into consideration the views of individuals from all segments of our community. The M.A.L.I.K. Organization continued to hold forums, conferences, public meeting and strategy session on the matter.

At this time, we called on Board of Alders President Jorge Perez, Public Safety Committee Chair Robin Kroogman, and Legislative Committee Chair Carl Goldfield to encourage Mayor John DeStefano not to issue his Executive Order, which would eventually stall our progress. We then pleaded to the Board of Alders to urge Mayor DeStefano to allow the Board’s committee process to play out in regards to the All-Civilian Review Board ordinance that was pending before them.

We called on President Perez and committee chairs Kroogman and Goldfield to insist that the Mayor back off and allow the dialogue to continue on this critical issue. At the time that the Mayor made his announcement regarding his executive order, The M.A.L.I.K. Organization was in the process of finalizing a proposed ordinance to be presented to the joint committee on legislation and public safety. The M.A.L.I.K. Organization pledged to have that final plan ready by the first week of March of that year. The M.A.L.I.K. Organization also made a plea to the full Board of Alders for support of its All-Citizen Review Board ordinance. Finally, we respectfully requested that we all work together to ensure that this process was transparent.

Nevertheless, Mayor John DeStefano issued executive order 01-0 on March 21, 2001.  As expected, it did not work. It established a “paper tiger” board that lacked any ability to hold the police accountable to their oaths to “protect and serve”. It had no subpoena power, and it was incapable of conducting independent investigations of police misconduct. In 2013, after ten years of struggle, the Charter Review Commission amended the Charter to allow for an independent All-Citizen Review Board with subpoena power. In addition, the Civilian Review Board established by DeStefano’s executive order was dissolved. During this time, the New Haven community continued to demand the implementation of the Malik-Dawson All-Civilian Review Board.

On April 14, 1997, the Jones family suffered the worst form of police brutality when East Haven, Connecticut police officer Robert Flodquist murdered Malik E. Jones. Twenty years later, we are still struggling for justice. Police violence, specifically against communities of color, remains a serious problem in New Haven, the State of Connecticut, and throughout the country.  Police brutality is both a national epidemic and a national emergency. What is most troubling is the denial on the part of the government and some segments of the country that this problem is real.

Across the country, African-Americans and other oppressed people live under the constant threat of police violence, murder, harassment and negative intervention into their lives. Many mothers, wives, sisters, and aunts, especially those of African descent, live in fear of the awful nightmare that their sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or husbands might end up beaten, arrested, or even killed by the police. By the time African children reach the age of twelve they become targets for police brutality and abuse. Some families and young children already recognize the police as armed enemies.  They watch television, read reports and listen to stories about victims of police violence in the United States.

People in New Haven, East Haven and other parts of the State of Connecticut are extremely concerned about the safety and welfare of their families. They recognize the necessity of continuing to struggle for justice for Malik E. Jones, and of seeking reforms that will prevent similar injustices.  The creation of an All-Civilian Review Board has been a primary topic of advocacy for supporters of the M.A.L.I.K. Organization. It is incumbent upon advocacy groups like People Against Brutality, Black Lives Matter New Haven, CT-CORE, the Yale Black Law Students Association and Yale’s chapter of the National Lawyers Guild to continue to wage this struggle. We must begin now to pursue preventative measures to help ensure that what happened to Malik E. Jones doesn’t happen to anyone else.

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