Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Ben Crump and Al Sharpton say the fatal police shooting of white Arkansas teen could be a pivotal event in the drive to reform broken policing system

Hunter Brittain

The influence of black civil-rights leaders Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump on a fatal police shooting in rural Arkansas could lead to much-needed reform for American policing, according to a report at CNN.

Sharpton and Crump have tended to speak out on police-brutality cases where the victims are black -- largely because the overwhelming majority of victims are black.The victim in Arkansas -- 17-year-old Hunter Brittain -- was white. But Sharpton delivered the eulogy at Brittain's funeral, and Crump (along with Pennsylvania lawyer Devon Jacob) has signed on to represent the family. Are Sharpton and Crump involved because they recognize police brutality crosses racial boundaries, and they want to call attention to that fact? We certainly think that's possible. But a political calculation -- one that could be important to Americans of all colors -- also might be in play.  From the CNN report:

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Ben Crump are taking up their first case involving a White person who was killed after being shot during an encounter with a police officer.

The civil rights leader and the high-profile attorney, who Sharpton has dubbed "Black America's Attorney general," deemed the police shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain "one of the most significant" cases in the fight to push Congress for landmark police reform legislation. 
Attorneys Crump and Devon Jacob, along with Sharpton and representatives from the NAACP, were invited to attend Brittain's memorial on Tuesday at Beebe High School in Beebe, Arkansas. 
Brittain was fatally shot June 23 by a Lonoke County sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop around 3 a.m. outside of a local auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a Little Rock suburb, according to Arkansas State Police.

What raises the stakes on the Brittain case? CNN explains:

Crump told CNN . .  that he believes Brittain's death could push lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which has stalled in the Senate since early March as bipartisan negotiators attempt to reach a compromise on several key sticking points. 
The attorney has represented the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Michael Brown and several other Black people who were fatally shot by police. 
But Crump said the image of an unarmed, White teenager killed by police will start to change the narrative as the country sees that children of all races and ethnicities can be victims of police violence. 
"That is going to be looked at differently because he wasn't a teenager who was a child of color," Crump said. "Because we've always said that our White brothers and sisters couldn't fathom their child being killed by the police. That people are supposed to protect them. But that's a reality that parents of children of color literally deal with every day of their lives."

Sharpton expanded on that idea:

In his eulogy, Sharpton said, "The issue of policing is not about Black and White. It's about right and wrong." 
Sharpton said this was the first time in his nearly 40-year career advocating for civil rights that he was invited to present the eulogy for a White person who was a victim of police brutality.
Ben Crump in Arkansas

          Brittain's death has sparked protests outside the              sheriff's office, as well as a proposal for a so-                called "Hunter's Law" in the state.

 A petition calling for officers and sheriff's deputies to wear and activate body-worn cameras during their entire shift has already garnered thousands of signatures.
The George Floyd Act also contains a provision requiring body cameras and calls on federal law enforcement officers to activate them when responding to calls or initiating a stop "at the first reasonable opportunity to do so."

Statistics show that police brutality is both a black and white problem. By percentages, however, the burden falls disproportionatly on people of color:

Since January, 156 White people and 102 Black people have been killed by police, according to Mapping Police Violence, a database that collects data on police killings. That includes 14 unarmed White people and six Black people killed by police this year, according to the data. The database includes the number of off-duty police killings as well as incidents where police kill someone "through use of a chokehold, baton, taser or other means," their website states.
Black people, who make up roughly 14% of the US population are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people, who account for 76% of the country's population, according to data from Mapping Police Violence.
Crump, who has previously represented White inmates who were killed or died while incarcerated, said he had to "help give his (Brittain's) family the voice to say Hunter Brittain's life mattered."
"I want to be able to talk to senators on both sides of the aisle and say, 'This isn't just about Black children, it's also about brown children and White children and Asian children,'" Crump said. "This is about our citizens being brutalized or killed because the federal government hasn't acted."
Sharpton said he didn't know what to expect when he arrived in Arkansas for Brittain's memorial, but knew he had to "take the risk" knowing that it was a significant moment.
"I think it may have been (300) or 400 people there, maybe 20 Black, and for them to give me five or six standing ovations showed that this is a real possibility of us bridging, a real police accountability movement that is based on race, and class," Sharpton said, adding, "As I said in the eulogy, that if Hunter had been a rich guy in another part of the White community, would they have shot him like that?"


legalschnauzer said...

Will be interesting to see what the police investigation turns up on this. I'm sure I don't have all the facts, but based on what I've read, it's hard to comprehend why a cop found it necessary to shoot this young man.

legalschnauzer said...

And to shoot him three times? Why in the world was that necessary? I wonder if Brittain might have survived the first shot, or even the second. But the third? I assume an autopsy was done, and it should answer questions like this.

Anonymous said...

I don't have much faith in police investigating police.

legalschnauzer said...

I don't either. I hope this criminal probe doesn't turn into a whitewash, as happened with the Hanna Fizer shooting in Sedalia, MO. In that case, the cop was cleared criminally, although the investigator noted the shooting could have been avoided. An attorney from Independence, MO, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Fizer family.

Anonymous said...

If you shoot somebody three times, it seems to me you are trying to kill him. I see no justification for that here. Not sure it's justified in any of the cases we read about.

legalschnauzer said...

Agreed. If you are trying to get someone under control, or if you fear for your life or safety, three gunshots should not be necessary to address those issues.

legalschnauzer said...

In my view, if you are trying to get someone under control, a gun should not be the method of choice. A gunshot can go a few inches either way and lead from control to death. It seems too many cops just grab a gun as first choice and don't consider the consequences -- or maybe they don't care about the consequences.

legalschnauzer said...

Hopefully, Ben Crump's presence will help ensure the Brittain family gets significant justice on the civil side. I don't have much faith in the criminal process.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible Sharpton and Crump are opportunists?

legalschnauzer said...

I don't see it that way. For one, the Brittain family invited them to get involved, and they accepted the invitation. Two, we clearly need reform in policing. Many Americans seem resistant to defunding the police, and that might not be the best answer, anyway. I'm not an expert on the provisions in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, but Crump seems to support it, and I'd say he's an expert on these issues, so his judgment matters to me. I don't see him as being an opportunist. I see it as trying to do something positive for your country--to see a problem and seek a solution.