My name is Elbert “Big Man” Howard, and I am a founding member of The Black Panther Party and also of PACH, the Police Accountability Clinic & Helpline of Sonoma County. PACH, an all-volunteer organization, was formed to take reports of police misconduct after community meetings which occurred because of a series of killings which took place in 2007. I am making this statement on behalf of myself and PACH and in response and protest to the killing of Andy Lopez, 13 years of age, by law enforcement.
One of the reasons that the Black Panther Party was formed in 1966, and why they fought so hard many years ago, was to have community control of the police – to make the police accountable to the community. In the present atmosphere that still exists of racial profiling and police abuse, the politicians and law enforcement agencies are accountable to no one.
Now, 47 years later, here I am, waking up to the news that yesterday, Oct 22nd, on the very day we recognize as the National day of protest against police brutality, this 13 year-old child has been shot down and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputies.
Clearly, police misconduct remains an on-going issue in our community as the civil and human rights of people in our communities are ignored and violated. We all need to protest the police abuse, racial profiling, and the killings by law enforcement that continue to occur in our community.
Law enforcement, in this county, is a system against the people. The treatment of people at the hands of law enforcement remains an ongoing issue, and instead of improving, has clearly worsened. The fact that this child has been gunned down is just one example of an entire unjust system.
Details of these deaths in the past and present are always “not for public record”. The so-called details take weeks to be obtained. We, as community members, demand an accounting of this shooting. We want to know why this child is dead.
In order to protest the police abuse and racial profiling that continues to thrive in our community, we need to take action in various ways.
One of these ways is that we need to cease supporting, as taxpayers, the funding of laws, law enforcement agencies, and criminal penalties that do not work and violate our civil, constitutional, and human rights.
Some of you may remember, back in May of 2000, the US Commission on Civil Rights, after investigating charges of police misconduct in Sonoma County, recommended that there should be an office formed, independent of the District Attorney’s, to both investigate and prosecute cases of police abuse. It never happened. Why? Was it due to a lack of community political will?
Are we to continue to ignore the injustices in our community? Are we to continue to support laws that erode our basic human and civil rights? We must form alliances within our community in order to deal with this issue of misconduct by law enforcement. We must do it now before someone else’s child lies dead at the age of 13.
Elbert “Big Man” Howard