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Opinion: We must take action to ensure equal justice
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People take to downtown Gainesville Sunday, May 31, 2020, on the second night of protests in Gainesville that blocked traffic and resulted in vandalism on the square. - photo by Scott Rogers

"I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired" are the infamous and powerful words spoken by the now deceased Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer more than five decades ago. Ms. Hamer was a civil rights activist and a victim of police brutality, sustaining permanent injuries after being arrested and jailed in Mississippi in the 1960s. 

The pain, anger and frustration of black people who continue in 2020 to fear for their lives at every traffic stop, neighborhood jog, visit to a convenient store, or when relaxing at home is omnipresent and contributes to the high levels of hypertension and mental distress observed in black communities. 

No one in this day and time should feign ignorance of the racial disparities in fatal encounters with the police. Too frequently reports submitted by police to justify the use of deadly or excessive force are contradicted by cellphone or body camera video recordings. We have become, at a minimum, virtual witnesses of these atrocities and should be sick and tired of the status quo.

As we march in peaceful protests against ongoing police brutality and racism in this country and around the world, we must also pursue the critical job of enacting police reform. Common sense reform should include, at a minimum, the following: national prohibition of choke holds and knee-neck holds; national mandatory training on de-escalation, crowd control at peaceful demonstrations and implicit bias; a national mandatory tracking system with independent state and local review of all officer-involved shootings or use of force that result in the serious injury or death of a suspect or bystander; mandatory use of body cameras for officers responding to a disturbance or incident; and the implementation of a "duty to intervene" requirement for any law enforcement officer at the scene of an incident when excessive force is being used to restrain an individual.

Vital action is needed by our elected representatives to ensure that we operationalize the principle of equal justice under the law for all communities and that police departments and their officers are held accountable for ensuring the safety of the communities they serve. Black lives matter.

Barbara Allen


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