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August 04, 2021

Annual 2021: Policing in America takes center stage

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Over the past year, these names have become seared into the public memory as high-profile cases that brought racism, justice and inequality in policing in America to the forefront.

The ABA will further examine the overlapping issues of racial justice and police oversight in the CLE Showcase Program “The Future of Policing: Ending Senseless Violence and Igniting Transformative Reform,” sponsored by the Litigation Section and Standing Committee on Gun Violence, and co-sponsored by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Criminal Justice Section and Civil Rights and Social Justice Section. The program will be held during the 2021 ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting on Thursday, Aug. 5 from 2-3:30 p.m. CDT.

The featured panelists are:

  • Lonita Baker, Sam Aguiar Injury Lawyers, Louisville, Kentucky, co-counsel for the family of Breonna Taylor
  • Ben Crump, president and founder, Ben Crump Law; attorney for the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Trayvon Martin
  • Madeleine Landrieu, dean of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
  • Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor
  • Lynda Williams, executive director, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives

Wayne McKenzie, general counsel of the New York City Department of Probation, will serve as moderator. 

“The session seeks to examine how law enforcement agencies can address incidents of police lethal force and discuss systemic challenges and highlight examples of successful reforms,” said Angela Downes, incoming chair of the Standing Committee on Gun Violence. That includes everything from “legislation to internal policy to practice while also amplifying the voices of victims of police violence.”

The panelists represent a cross-section of law enforcement representatives, legal experts and attorneys involved in landmark policing cases. Many people view the pursuit of justice for victims of excessive and lethal force as often hampered by systemic forces that resist criminal prosecution of law enforcement by the use of the doctrine of qualified immunity, and by laws that shield police officers and municipalities from civil liability.

Still, some cities and states are pushing for federal policing oversight and police reform. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021, which addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability, is making its way through Congress with the backing of the Biden administration.

McKenzie, who will moderate the panel, said that when it comes to the future of policing, he continues to be hopeful that the police-citizen relationship can evolve to the “courtesy, professional and respect” that many police departments advertise.

“We know the path to meaningful and lasting transformative change involves changing hearts and minds. But until this enormous feat can be accomplished, there is the more immediate and achievable goal of managing conduct,” McKenzie said. “Although one cannot legislate civility, the passing of appropriate laws and regulations, along with establishing national standards and guidelines for policing, can go a long way.”