Jillian Jorgensen, Observer, April 8, 2015
Rev. Al Sharpton called for national policing legislation akin to the Civil Rights Act this morning at the kickoff his National Action Network’s annual convention, just after the arrest of a white South Carolina police officer for murder in the shooting of an unarmed black man.
“There must be national policy and national law on policing,” Mr. Sharpton said. “We can’t go from state to state, we’ve got to have national law to protect people against these continued questions.”
Mr. Sharpton’s comments, coming on the heels of multiple instances of police killings of unarmed men of color around the country, were met with applause from the crowd–and from the dais, which was packed with elected officials including Mayor Bill de Blasio, Congressman Charles Rangel, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, city Comptroller Scott Stringer and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
Mr. Sharpton praised the city’s mayor and police chief for bringing the charges, but said the nation couldn’t rely on the judgement of local officials.
“We commend them, but we cannot have a justice system that hopes we have a mayor in the right city or a police chief,” he said. “We have to have one policy that is national.”
Mr. Sharpton later noted that the comparatively small town’s officials had been braver than police leaders in bigger cities. He has been vocal about his belief that New York City police Daniel Pantaleo should have been charged with a crime in the death of an unarmed black Staten Island man, Eric Garner. A grand jury declined to indict Mr. Pantaleo, spurring protests throughout the city.
That death, too, was captured in a widely published video. And though the footage did not lead to any charges, Mr. Sharpton said today the national legislation should focus on “cameras” as well as “accountability.”