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Give the Community the Power to Hold Police Accountable: We Need a People’s Civilian Review Board, Not the Alder’s CRB

For the last 21 years, since Malik Jones was killed by East Haven Police Officers only two blocks away from his home in New Haven, the people of New Haven have called on the leaders in their city to create an effective Civilian Review Board that would give residents the ability to hold police accountable for their violence and misconduct. In 2013, over 71% of local residents voted for, and passed, an ordinance that would require the city to establish a Civilian Review Board that would institute mechanisms for “fair, independent, complete, and transparent review of civilian complaints of alleged police misconduct.”

The community stands here today, five years after the Charter revision, still being denied such a Civilian Review Board. In failing repeatedly to create such an oversight body, the city has actively disregarded the will, the safety, and the deepest vulnerabilities of its residents and is in violation of its own laws.

Read more here and sign to let the Board of Alders know you support a strong, community-driven Civilian Review Board.

And come out Monday, December 17 at 7pm to City Hall when the Board of Alders votes on their proposal.

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20 years later and still no Justice for Malik

Black Lives Matter New Haven and People Against Police Brutality held a memorial vigil on April 14, 2017 for Malik E. Jones who was brutally gunned down by the East Haven Police Department on April 14th, 1997. We gathered in New Haven on Grand Ave., at the spot where Malik was killed, to celebrate his life.

Twenty years ago, Malik Jones was driving through East Haven on his way back home from his brother’s birthday party. He was on his way to his mother’s house in New Haven when an East Haven police officer started following him. Officer Robert Flodquist followed Malik out of East Haven and eventually pulled him over on Grand Avenue in Fair Haven, right around the corner from Malik’s mother’s house. The police stopped Malik’s car and boxed him in before officer Flodquist got out and approached the driver side window. Flodquist eventually shattered Malik’s car window with his gun and shot and killed Malik as he sat, unarmed in his stopped vehicle, so close to his mother’s house that she could’ve heard the gunshots. She would eventually see news reel footage of the police and first responders dragging her son’s bullet ridden body from his car as they tried to handcuff him before allowing him to receive medical attention.

Flodquist would later say that he shot Malik because he feared for his life after Malik gave him a “go to hell look,” and Malik’s car began to roll backwards. A federal jury, however, found that Officer Flodquist was not justified when he shot Malik to death. Unfortunately, the Jury made a technical error when it awarded Malik’s estate damages leading to a new trial exclusively on the issue of damages. At this trial, the attorney for the city of East Haven, Hugh Keefe, hoped to argue that Malik’s life wasn’t really worth the $2,500,000 the jury determined in the award because he probably would’ve only lived for another ten years. In other words, Malik’s Daughter, Priya, doesn’t deserve as much compensation for the time she would’ve been able to spend with her father because he probably would’ve died young anyway.

Since April 14th, 1997, Malik’s mother Emma Jones, along with the unwavering support of the New Haven community, has sought to hold the East Haven Police Department accountable for her son’s death. She’s pursued every imaginable legal remedy in every possible venue, she’s organized with the M.A.L.I.K. organization for numerous policing reforms, and has lead a twenty year movement for police accountability in the state of CT. Twenty years later, Malik is still dead. The town of East Haven has yet to so much as apologize to his family for his death, which was the direct result of the East Haven Police Department’s notoriously racist policing practices. This was a time when the East Haven Police department softball team proudly wore homemade jerseys that depicted a black person bent over the hood of a police car with the ingeniously racist play on words “Boys on the Hood” printed over the disturbing image.

Instead of an admission that the racism endemic to the East Haven Police force, as well as police forces throughout the state, robbed Malik’s family of their brother, son, father, grandson, nephew, etc… the East Haven Police Department promoted Robert Flodquist to department spokesperson shortly after he murdered Malik. He is currently collecting a healthy pension. The longtime mayor of East Haven, Jospeh Maturo, took SCOTUS’s decision not to hear Malilk’s case an opportunity to rub salt into Malik’s family’s and the New Haven Community’s wounds by saying, “Malik Jones is done.”  This is the same Mayor who, when asked what he was going to do for the Latinx community following the arrest of several East Haven police officers for racial profiling and racist brutality against Latinx residents, said, “I might have tacos when I get home.” Even in this atmosphere of blatant, old school, KKK lynching style racism, there is still no accountability when a white police officer shoots and kills an unarmed black person because they allegedly gave him a “go to hell look.”

Malik would be nearly forty years old if he were still alive today. His daughter recently graduated from college and his mother continues to struggle for police accountability in the state of CT. We keep Malik alive by remembering the way he died on April 14th, 1997, and by remembering the way he lived for twenty one years prior. Malik was born on September 4th, 1975 and was murdered on April 14th, 1997. Twenty years later, we remember Malik as a father, son, grandson, brother and friend, so that his life isn’t overshadowed by the unapologetically racist, brutal, and yet-unremedied manner by which it was stolen.  

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VIDEO – New Haven Needs a CRB

Here’s a video we made in the run up to the most recent Board of Alders hearing about the Civilian Review Board, featuring some of our members and friends on why we need a powerful CRB in New Haven. Enjoy and share!

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Open letter to the Board of Alders

Our open letter to the New Haven Board of Alders, as it ran in the New Haven Independent on April 3, 2017. Featured as well was an overview of the recommendations given in our draft ordinance.

To the New Haven Board of Alders,

The community has demanded an effective Civilian Review Board for the past two decades. Your recent proposal to revive the Board falls fundamentally short, and will not provide the community with a real tool to hold the police accountable. We respectfully request that the Board of Alders reimagine its proposal, incorporate essential elements from the M.A.L.I.K.-Dawson proposal and open the process to allow for expansive community involvement.

Twenty years ago, 21-year-old New Haven resident Malik Jones was brutally gunned down by East Haven Officer Robert Flodquist. Since then, Emma Jones, the M.A.L.I.K. Organization, and the New Haven community have organized tirelessly to hold police officers to their oaths to “protect and serve.”

In 2000, New Haven residents voted overwhelmingly in support of the M.A.L.I.K.-Dawson All-Civilian Review Board, an independent review board with investigatory and subpoena power. An illegal executive order by Mayor DeStefano hamstrung the board, leaving it only with the power to rubber stamp police Internal Affairs investigations. We were not satisfied then and we are not satisfied now.

In 2013, the city voted for a revised charter including a mandate for an empowered and independent Civilian Review Board. Our basic demand is that Alders create a Civilian Review Board worthy of our charter—one that conducts investigations “fairly and independently, and in such a manner that the public has confidence.” The current Board of Alders proposal falls short of this mandate.

We have seen many instances where police officers unnecessarily harmed or killed residents, violated their constitutional rights, and treated them in ways that assaulted their dignity. We know too many victims of police violence. The board established in 2000 by Mayor DeStefano’s illegal executive order was not an effective method of holding police accountable. This recent Board of Alders proposal makes no fundamental changes to that model. No reasonable person should expect a board so similar to be any more effective.

We demand an open, transparent, and public process. More than two years ago, at a public hearing on this issue, Legislative Committee Chairperson Jessica Holmes said, “As we begin to develop the language for the ordinance, there are many partners who we will need to work with…I envision there being a publicly-noticed meeting, even prior to writing the document, before creating the formal language….” The Board of Alders has not lived up to Alder Holmes’ statement. We want public-facing meetings to decide how police will be overseen in our communities.

We demand that the Board of Alders commit, by ordinance, to exercise its power to compel testimony on behalf of the Civilian Review Board. The City Charter makes clear that the Board of Alders has the “power to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses… by the issue of subpoenas and the administration of oaths in the manner and according to the rules governing the same in courts of justice,” and remove from office or employment any city employee who fails to comply. The Board of Alders must use this power on behalf of the Review Board to subpoena those who refuse to testify and sanction those who refuse to comply. Further, the police department must be ordered to share all requested information and require its employees to testify to the Review Board.

We demand that the Civilian Review Board conduct its own investigations. The well-documented “Blue Wall of Silence”—collaborated and coordinated police cover-ups—makes it impossible for the police to police themselves. There is no world in which an Internal Affairs investigation of police misconduct is “impartial” or “independent” as required by the charter. The Civilian Review Board must be empowered to conduct its own investigations in order to be in compliance with the Charter.

We demand that the Civilian Review Board be truly independent and free from possible conflicts of interest. The current proposal houses the Civilian Review Board within the Office of Corporation Counsel—the same office that is charged with protecting the City of New Haven from legal liability. An independent Civilian Review Board will expose police misconduct, which is a liability to the city. This conflict is plain and unavoidable. Civilian Review Board staff must report only to the Board, and the Board must be allowed to retain its own lawyers.

Major changes are needed to ensure that this Board can accomplish its stated goals and satisfy the City Charter. We urge the Board of Alders to open the drafting process to the New Haven community and make the necessary changes. In addition to this letter, we offer a skeletal outline of what we consider to be the essential elements of an effective Civilian Review Board. These recommendations fit squarely within the language of the Charter, and, unlike the Board of Alders’ most recent proposal, would lay the foundation for an empowered board that would be in compliance with the Charter mandate. We ask that these recommendations be incorporated into a city ordinance establishing a Civilian Review Board in New Haven. This Board should act as a pilot program for a Statewide Civilian Review Board. We ask that the City establish a local pilot board for a time period of three years so that we have time to assess its effectiveness, and work with the State Legislature to establish an independent, statewide board with its own enforceable subpoena power.

Signed,
People Against Police Brutality
The M.A.L.I.K. Organization
CTCORE – Organize Now!
Black Lives Matter New Haven
SURJ (Showing up for Racial Justice) New Haven
New Haven Educators Collective
Yale Black Law Students Association Executive Board
Yale Law School National Lawyers Guild
Yale Law Outlaws

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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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