Two of the NFL’s biggest stars and an expert on police-community relations testified before the Congressional Black Caucus recently on how to address the cultural and sometimes racial divide between African Americans and local law enforcement.
Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and former Detroit Lions’ wide receiver Anquan Boldin, along with Philip Atiba Goff, president and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity, talked about tensions between Blacks and police officers before a hearing of the CBC that was led by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on March 30 on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings hosted a hearing that featured two NFL players. (CSPAN)
“The police need the community and the community needs the police,” Cummings, the top Democrat on the Committee on Government Oversight, said. Cummings was joined at the hearing by CBC Chairman U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Lacy Clay (D-Mo.).
Lions’ cornerback Johnson Bademosi and former Washington Redskins wide receiver Donte Stallworth attended the hearing but made no remarks.
Cummings said the purpose of the hearing was “to discuss ways to build greater trust between police and minority communities.”
“Community policing has garnered national attention following several police-related killings of unarmed African Americans,” he said. “As you all know, my hometown of Baltimore is one of many communities across the country that is now working to repair the fractured relationship between police and the communities they serve.”
Cummings quoted a 2001 NAACP statistic that said one in six Black men living had been incarcerated and said, “Think about that statistic and the ripple effect it has on families and communities throughout the country.” He said that soon he will re-introduce “The Fair Chance Act” that would ban the government from requesting criminal history information from job applicants until the end of the hiring process.
Cummings’ bill would federalize “Ban the Box” practices that are in places such as the District of Columbia.
Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the Committee of the Judiciary, said that more than 250 Blacks were killed by police incidents in 2016.
“Against this backdrop, these same communities have been ground zero in the so-called War on Drugs,” he said. “There is bipartisan agreement that our nation has a crisis of over-incarceration, with 2.2 million people imprisoned in this country. One of the main reasons for this catastrophic level of incarceration is the use of mandatory minimum sentencing, which often imposes sentences that are not appropriate for the facts and culpability of individual cases.”
Jenkins has set up a foundation, The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, which has operations in every jurisdiction where he has played: New Jersey, Ohio, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. He said the goal of the foundation to have youth feel “empowered and motivated to get an education and become contributing members of society.”
“The majority of the youth that we serve are in poverty-stricken communities, and often, those are the same communities in which crime is high and prevalent,” Jenkins said.
Boldin talked about the shooting death of his cousin, Corey Jones, in Oct. 18, 2015, by Palm Beach officer Nouman Raja.
“Corey was a good kid,” Boldin said. “Every Sunday you would find him in church playing the drums. But his faith could not keep him alive.”
The Jones matter hasn’t been fully resolves and that frustrates Boldin.
“The lack of transparency is only hurting any trust that remains between the police and the community where I am from, and it is also a problem facing so many other communities,” he said.
Both Boldin and Jenkins said that they support proactive measures such as “Ban the Box” and increased funding for youth programs and the COPS program that gives money to cities to increase the number of police officers.
Richmond noted that while Blacks comprise of 13 percent of the U.S. population, 35 percent of its jailed inmates and 37 percent of its prison inmates are African Americans and that has an impact on the Black family.
“The African American is in jail but the family is doing time,” he said.
Lawrence said that incarcerated Black females shouldn’t be ignored, either.
“When you imprison the female, you imprison the family,” she said.