OBS Meets With MO Black Caucus

OBS Meets With MO Black Caucus

By Bridjes O’Neil 
(from St. Louis American, Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 8:23 pm)

Members of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus met with activists from the Organization for Black Struggle on Friday, January 9 at Greater St. Marks Family Church in Ferguson. They discussed legislative strategy for the upcoming session and ways to incorporate the organization’s Quality Policing Initiative into legislation at the state, county and local levels.

Organization for Black Struggle (OBS) organizer Kayla Reed spoke of a shift in the Ferguson protest movement – from identifying problems to finding solutions.

“Protesting is not a solution,” she said. “It’s a tactic to force a solution.”

OBS members hand-delivered the Quality Policing Initiative policy proposal to legislators in Jefferson City on Wednesday, January 7, along with an invite to attend Friday’s meeting. They had also disrupted the opening ceremony in the Senate chamber by chanting and dropping banners. One banner read, “You’ve got mail.”

“With the start of the year and a new legislative session,” the letter read, “we, the people, are committed to holding our elected officials accountable to us as constituents.”

The letter was signed by OBS Executive Director Montague Simmons. It went on to say that the “systematic lynching” of black people at the hands of police has continued since the death of Michael Brown Jr. on August 9 – and that the judicial system has failed to hold police accountable.

The letter warned legislators that the community is dealing with a “structural problem” requiring a “structural solution.” That “structural solution,” OBS said, is the Quality Policing Initiative, a broad policy proposal that organizers demand lawmakers use as a blueprint to transform the state’s broken policing system.

Three months ago, when there were daily protests in Ferguson, state Rep. Michael Butler said he knew many protestors would come to Jefferson City once the legislative session started in January. From a list of 20 Black Caucus members invited to attend the meeting, Butler was among the handful that showed up.

He was joined by state Reps. Courtney Curtis, Sharon Pace, Joe Adams and Tommie Pierson, who is also pastor of Greater St. Mark Family Church. It seemed to be a disappointing number for Reed.

“When I think of where I live, I’m looking at my representative right now,” Reed said. “When I think about who my senator is, the fact that she’s not here is very concerning.”

Despite their absence, state Senators Jamilah Nasheed and Maria Chappelle-Nadal have been outspoken throughout the protest movement. On January 7, Chappelle-Nadal filed a formal “remonstrance” against Governor Jay Nixon calling for his resignation or impeachment, citing “failed and incompetent leadership.” In December, she also introduced legislation governing police conduct.

Most at the meeting agreed that there should be a greater focus on accountability, which comprises a large portion of the Quality Policing Initiative. The proposal tackles five phases of policing authority: recruitment, training, deployment, accountability and advancement.

The proposal outlines the creation of “use of force” and “search and seizure” reports along with a media accountability system – in which body and dash camera data are controlled by a citizen’s review board.

With a pen in hand, Butler listened intently with an occasional head nod as he jotted down notes on the back of a piece of paper.

Legislators gave brief updates on sponsored bills, particularly those dealing with community policing. The Don’t Shoot Coalition, of which OBS is a member, also has a police committee tracking bills in the Legislature and planning to meet with legislative leaders.

“You already have changes to the racial profiling act, municipal reform, and some policing tweaks that we have tried in the past year,” Butler said. “I’m sure these guys will re-file this year.”

Simmons said there’s no greater time than now to effect real change, although he seemed concerned about attempts to pass any progressive legislation with a Republican super-majority in both the Missouri House and Senate.

But there is hope, according to Curtis. He said, “There are some good Republicans we can work with.”

For more information on OBS or its Quality Policing Initiative, visit http://obs-stl.org.

Follow this reporter: @BridjesONeil.

via St. Louis American: