Did Black Lives Matter?

As you are aware, the #Black Lives Matter movement gained national recognition in 2014 in the wake of fatal encounters between white police officers and black citizens in Ferguson, Missouri, and other communities. This past week juries either acquitted police officers or deadlocked in criminal prosecutions in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Paul. How should we understand these events?

Is one lesson that the recent use of police body cams or other videos make it more likely that prosecutors will prefer charges, but may not lead juries to convict? Perhaps more encouraging are the instances where police departments have disciplined or terminated police officers or entered into sizeable civil damages settlements even though juries voted for acquittals. Or the videos may lead to better police training and tactics designed to deescalate many routine encounters. One discouraging development is that the new U.S. Attorney General has turned away from leadership of police best practices and has resumed enforcement of minor drug offenses that, as we learned from the New Jim Crow book, leads to many pre-textual police stops of minorities.

Join United Parish members at the Black Lives Matter Vigil, 5:30 pm on Thursday, July 6, at the First Baptist Church, 633 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain.

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