Article Op-Ed

Police Chiefs Who Condemned George Floyd's Murder Must Stop Police Brutality In Their Own Cities

Police Chiefs Who Condemned George Floyd's Murder Must Stop Police Brutality In Their Own Cities

Author Edward Ahmed Mitchell by

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Ben Gray, Associated Press

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. All praise and thanks belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds. May peace and prayers be upon Prophet Muhammad and his family.

Believe or not, something positive happened at police departments across our nation over the past week.

From Atlanta to Chattanooga to Houston to Los Angeles to New York, many police chiefs broke the "blue wall of silence" by publicly and vocally condemning the murder of George Floyd. Here in Atlanta, police chief Erika Shields also met with demonstrators on the first night of protests, and officers in a few other states have even fallen to their knees before demonstrators.

Although such expressions of solidarity are welcome, it is difficult, if not impossible, for me and many other African-American activists to take them seriously.

After all, some of the very same police departments that condemned police brutality against George Floyd spent the following week engaging in police brutality at protests against police brutality

In Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta and elsewhere, police officers dressed like Storm Troopers have shoved, punched, clubbed, gassed, rammed, tased, fired rubber bullets at, or otherwise attacked peaceful protesters, as well as journalists and bystanders. That's not even counting the military crackdown President Trump has ordered on protesters in Washington, DC.

Furthermore, some of the police chiefs that vocally spoke out against Derek Chauvin's conduct continue to employ and protect the accused Derek Chauvins in their own departments.

Here in Georgia, Johns Creek Police Department Chief Chris Byers disavowed Chauvin's actions as unrepresentative of law enforcement. Yet Chief Byers has not disciplined or terminated the JCPD officers responsible for the death of Shukri Ali Said, a mentally ill woman who was tased and bean bagged while walking alone on the side of a road, holding out her passport, and saying she wanted to go home, and then shot three times when she (supposedly) brandished a kitchen knife, and then shot two more times after falling to the ground.

In fact, Chief Byers defended the two officers who killed Shukri when they flatly refused to cooperate with the Fulton County prosecutors investigating the shooting, citing their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

This situation is not unique to Georgia. Countless officers who have abused or unjustly killed people of color remain on the job at police departments across our nation. 

To make matters worse, many police departments in Georgia and elsewhere still do not submit data on their use-of-force incidents to the FBI's (voluntary) national database. The absence of comprehensive nationwide data makes it even more difficult for the Justice Department to monitor and address police killings of unarmed people of color.

Finally, some of the nation's most diverse and progressive police departments regularly train with foreign law enforcement agencies that engage in police brutality overseas.

Let's take the Atlanta Police Department as just one example. Since 1992, APD officials have participated in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange

Known as GILEE, the private organization arranges for Georgia police officials to learn about urban policing and other topics from nations accused of human rights violations by watchdog groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. GILEE touts its work with the Israeli, Egyptian, Chinese, and Hungarian governments, among other nations.

In addition, GILEE's founder uses the program to promote anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and other far-right views. According to GILEE, "there is no Islamophobia," "Arab-American advocacy terror," Jimmy Carter should have never received a Nobel Peace Prize, and no Muslim leader anywhere in the world has ever clearly condemned the 9/11 attacks.

For years, activists have called on the City of Atlanta to stop participating in GILEE. During the city's 2017 mayoral campaign, then-Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms pledged to pause Atlanta's involvement and meet with community members concerned about the program. But Mayor Bottoms has not followed through on her promise since taking office. Police officials continue to train with GILEE.

Again, this is not unique to Georgia. Police departments in New YorkWashington, DC, and other cities participate in similar programs.

In the wake of George Floyd's murder, this hypocrisy must end. If police departments across America truly object to police brutality, they cannot simply condemn such violence when it happens elsewhere, or when it's captured on a cell phone camera. 

They must stop abusing protesters and journalists in their own cities. They must report and confront the Derek Chauvins in their own midst. They must refuse to learn from or train with foreign governments that abuse people under their control.

Then, and only then, can we take their condemnations of George Floyd's murder seriously.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell is a Muslim American civil rights attorney who serves as deputy director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR National). He previously served as the executive director of CAIR-Georgia, and as a criminal prosecutor with the City of Atlanta.

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