Lauren Carter on a Mission for Public Safety Reform in the City of Mount Vernon
According to www.dcaf.ch “Police Reform aims to transform the values, culture, policies and practices of police organizations so that police can perform their duties with respect for democratic values, human rights and the rule of law”
Say their names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clarke, and most recently added to the list, 15-year-old, Ma’Khia Bryant, shot four times by law enforcement in the middle of an altercation. It is disheartening that the possibility of self-defense was not taken into account. She was shot twenty (20) minutes before Judge Peter Cahill announced that a jury had reached a verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. He was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, a killing that sparked world-wide protests against unarmed black civilians being killed at the hands of police officers. For a brief moment, those seeking justice for a man who died because he “could not breathe” breathed a sigh of relief after the verdict.
“I am sad about the recent shooting of Ms. Bryant. It is extremely heartbreaking and I can only imagine what her family must be going through. This is why I believe that we need public safety reform, and I also believe that it starts with better training.” These are the sentiments of City Council hopeful, Lauren Carter.
Like many across the world, Carter was touched by the increasing incidents of black men and women losing their lives at the hands of those entrusted with their safety.
“I respect law enforcement and thank them for the job they do. However, it is known that there are some bad actors in our police departments; those individuals and their unethical, abusive practices must be addressed”, says Lauren.
“The impetus for my decision to run for City Council was based on an incident that happened in Mount Vernon where a civilian was recorded on video allegedly assaulting a parking enforcement officer. A few hours later, police officers found and apprehended the alleged perpetrator, just a few blocks from the where the incident occurred. Afterwards, video evidence shows a police officer repeatedly punching the suspect while he lay on the ground, face down, surrounded by several police officers. Needless to say, an internal investigation cleared the police officer.”
While trainings differ with each state, the officers go through four rounds of training or vetting in Mount Vernon:
1. Written test - To test knowledge of police law and procedure.
2. Physical Strength/Agility Training - Maintaining an effective lifestyle that will aid in being effective and learning defense and offense techniques on varied levels.
3. Medical Exam- Determines the medical ability to perform the job.
4. Psychological evaluations - to measure a variety of job-related behaviors and personality traits.
However, Lauren like so many others, is trying to wrap her mind around the current state of affairs where people of color fall victim to police mistreatment.
“ Officers are trained to shoot you in the center mass area because that is the largest portion of your body. Chances of an officer-who may be aiming to shoot someone in a limb- actually hitting a different part of the body are very slim. With that in mind, one way reform will occur is through effective training. We need to address how officers are trained and this will have to happen at the state or county level. Also, it will be necessary for police officers to learn successful engagement strategies with all populations. This is necessary in order to improve their de-escalation tactics when they are responding to people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, or mental illnesses.
Oftentimes, when officers respond to reports of possible violent activity, they approach the situation already on-edge because they may not be aware of what they are walking into. Unfortunately, it is in times like these that their immediate response is to react because of a perceived threat rather than to de-escalate”, Lauren points out.
“In addition, another possible reason for police brutality and murders is because there is seemingly no community outreach. Some police officers are not taking time to know the people in the community, so they resort to violence and civil rights abuses because there is no dialogue. The police and the people are speaking different languages. Miscommunication leads to tragedy”, says Lauren.
According to data from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), officers face the most danger when responding to domestic violence calls. So, better training in de-escalation is needed to minimize use of force”, Lauren says.
“It should not be acceptable for officers to practice lawlessness; in other words, for police officers to simply do whatever they want to do on the job and get away with it. Police contracts are negotiated between the police union and the office of mayor/city/town/village manager of those municipalities where they are employed. Usually, the administration will engage labor council to negotiate these contracts on their behalf. We can, and should, put pressure on administrations to renegotiate these contracts to demand greater accountability from our officers”.
Recently, the Westchester County District Attorney, Mimi Rocah and House of Representatives Member, Jamal Bowman, have called on the DOJ to investigate the Mount Vernon Police Department for repeated allegations of illegal strip searches, excessive use of force, and other disturbing accusations.
“While most police officers are good people and do their best each day, there are some who have betrayed the trust of the community they serve”. I welcome the DOJ to investigate these allegations and to root out corruption, fraud, and abuse”, Lauren continued.
Lauren emphasized that there should be better representation among the leadership in the community.
“I think there is the need for competent leadership. I believe that if a person has a public service mindset, they can represent any group because it’s not about self-interest, it’s about public interest,” she says.
You can contact Lauren Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 914-297-8088. For more information about the author and the author’s platform, visit laurenforcitycouncil.com