Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan Jr.
Sign On Letter Regarding Officer Involved Killings of Black and Brown People
With minds that are keenly aware of the historic and ongoing patterns of systemic racism in the United States, and hearts forever altered by the unjust and tragic experiences that scores of African Americans have had with law enforcement personnel, we who lead church bodies connected to the Ohio Council of Churches reverently affirm the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 Minneapolis murder of George Perry Floyd, Jr.
The extrajudicial execution of Mr. Floyd, bravely videotaped and made available to the public by a shocked teenaged onlooker, has given the nation and the world yet another graphic reminder of the immoral and grotesque nature of racial contempt when it is paired with state-sanctioned authority and might.
While we are in alignment with the Chauvin decision, we are acutely aware that his conviction is but one step on the long and arduous road toward racial justice in policing in Ohio and across the United States.
The list of African Americans who needlessly or unjustly died at the hands of law enforcement officers is long and broad and includes Daunte Wright, an unarmed African American man, who was shot to death by a police officer during a traffic stop just miles away from the site of the Chauvin trial and days before the jury’s findings were released, and Andrew Brown, Jr. of North Carolina. The list also includes Ohioans such as John Crawford, III, Tamir Rice, Henry Green, Casey Goodson, Jr., Andre Hill, Miles Jackson, and 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who was shot to death by a Columbus police officer just minutes before the reading of the Chauvin verdict.
We believe that like scores of other African Americans not named in this letter, the abovementioned individuals were victims of questionable policing practices that included the escalation of tension, the overly accelerated deployment of lethal force, and the disproportionate use of deadly weapons, even on retreating suspects. As informed by history, we are concerned that the life-ending police practices described here appear to have been carried out under the cloud of racial bias and the trivialization of African American lives, and that to date, few of the officers in the abovementioned cases have successfully been held accountable for their actions.
The fact that the ranks of law enforcement professionals boast of scores of women and men who serve and protect the public honorably and heroically is not lost on us. For their service, we are thankful. However, our acknowledgement does not require us to mute our outrage over policing policies and practices in Ohio and everywhere that abruptly, violently, and unjustly end the lives of Black and Brown people.
It is abundantly clear to citizens of goodwill in all communities and political parties that constructive changes in policing are dramatically overdue and must be implemented without hesitation. As stewards of the love and justice ethics of God made known in Jesus Christ, we join all others in the non-negotiable demand for the transformation of policing in Ohio and across the United States.
We call for the adoption of an anti-racist and anti-oppressive vision toward policing, with corresponding professional training that advances the unflinching insistence that all who are entrusted with law enforcement authority and power honor, serve, and protect all people regardless of their race, age, or zip code. Without such a vision and an adjoined code-of-conduct that is supported by transparent and trustworthy systems of accountability, Black and Brown people will continue to perish needlessly and unjustly, and the public trust of the law enforcement enterprise will collapse.
Finally, we offer our sympathy to the families whose loved ones were unfairly killed as a result of their encounters with law enforcement officers. While we understand that no courtroom decision can restore their loved ones, we join them in calling for transparency and accountability, as these are the elements that make for justice and peace.
Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr.
Pastor Brandi Slaughter