Judges, prosecutors, legislators, law enforcement and the public all have a role to play in systemic police reform, according to panelists for the program “The Future of Policing: Ending Senseless Violence and Igniting Transformative Reform,” presented at the American Bar Association 2021 Hybrid Annual Meeting on Aug. 5.
Benjamin Crump, who represented the families of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery as well as others in high-profile police cases, raised the clarion call with fellow panelists to push for accountability of law enforcement officers. “This is what America is all about — having equality and justice,” Crump said. “We can’t just have it be rhetoric. We have to make it reality.”
Lonita Baker, co-counsel for the family of Breonna Taylor, called for limits on qualified immunity for police, a ban on no-knock warrants and holding police officers accountable, both professionally and criminally.
“Court systems and prosecutors have allowed police officers to skirt around the Fourth Amendment,” Baker said. “We can’t have situations where officers are comfortable lying in front of judges, under oath and not getting prosecutorial approval for a warrant.”
Lynda R. Williams, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, agreed. “Qualified immunity is not a shield to do wrong,” she said. Williams also called for a national standard for police departments to follow and building mutual trust between police officers and community members.
Along with holding police responsible, Madeleine Landrieu, dean of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, pressed for law schools to lean into the work of police reform and partner with law enforcement agencies to bring about change.
“Law enforcement has to be trained — or retrained and rewired — to understand that intervening before harm occurs is courageous,” Landrieu said.
Also appearing on the panel were Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor, and moderator Wayne McKenzie, general counsel of the New York City Department of Probation.