Justice for Bennie Edwards and Police Reform in OKC
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Bennie Edwards. Say his name. Remember It. #justiceforbennieedwards
Bennie Edwards, a 60 year old Black man, was shot and killed by the Oklahoma City Police Department December 11, 2020. Neither mental health professionals nor Crisis Intervention Trained officers were called to the scene, though Bennie was formally diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.
Bennie Edwards had a history of homelessness and was known by his community as a gentle soul who sold flowers throughout the City. His niece, Ameerah Gaines said, "He was in the streets because he loved it. He liked to meet new people. He loves people. He likes selling flowers."
Around Noon, December 11, 2020, 911 was called due to a "disturbance" in front of a business near Hefner & May Ave. in NW OKC. The caller said Bennie was "bothering" customers in front of the store.
Police reports say Bennie was armed with a knife when they arrived. Cpt. Daniel Stewart, OKCPD spokesperson, said MSgt. Keith Duroy (28 years in service) and Sgt. Clifford Holman (7 years in service) controlled the situation with use of a taser and pepper spray.
As of December 15, 2020, body camera footage has not been released. However, a witness at the scene captured parts of the incident. It’s unclear what happened before cell-phone video begins, but bystander-footage shows Mr. Edwards disoriented & running, moments before one officer yelled, “Hey!” and three shots rang out. In the video, Mr. Edwards continues running away from officers as three more shots deal a fatal blow. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Bennie’s niece said, “He died scared.”
According to MappingPoliceViolence.org, the OKCPD has the second highest killing rate in the USA. In Oklahoma City, 70% killed by law enforcement are BIPOC. News surfaced that the officers who killed Mr. Edwards had not completed Crisis Intervention Training. Only 14% of OKCPD officers have undergone this voluntary training that teaches them to respond to people suffering a mental health crisis. Between 2013-2019, the number of mental health calls the department responded to increased by 95%.
Protests erupted immediately on the scene of Bennie's killing and will continue indefinitely, with some protesters reporting Bennie's lifeless body laid uncovered for nearly two hours at the scene.
Through art tributes, vigils, and protests, outraged Oklahomans are calling for justice. They are met by some elected officials who reject responsibility—pointing toward other leaders to address public outcry. Join Oklahomans in demanding Justice for Bennie Edwards & police reform in OKC.
The following demands should outlive the current Law Enforcement Task Force, Working Group, Citizens Advisory Board, and City Council, and should be permanently enacted in the Oklahoma City Police Department once adopted. To achieve the following goals within the upcoming two fiscal years, the following demands must be adopted immediately and executed in collaboration with the Law Enforcement Task Force established by the Mayor, the Working Group established by the City Manager, and the consultant mentioned in the “Resolution of Intent to Study Community Policing Initiatives, Including the Six Listed Herein, to Determine Opportunities, Costs, and Funding Possibilities; and, Directing the City Manager to Create a Working Group to Conduct Such Study.” We, the signatories of this petition demand the following:
- We’re calling for the two police officers, MSgt. Keith Duroy and Sgt. Clifford Holman to be fired or resign. These officers are threats to our communities. As long as they patrol our streets, people are not safe, which is a conflict of interest to their oath to protect and serve.
- Holistic Community Care by redistributing OKCPD annual funding & budgets toward mental health care services & homelessness intervention services, proportionate to the rate of policing calls concerning these matters.
- Mandatory additional implicit bias training for every officer serving in the Oklahoma City Police Department. According to an article in The Atlantic titled “Can Cops Unlearn their Unconscious Bias?,”current training may have great potential, but are likely ineffective if they offer no assessment of effectiveness. Therefore, OKCPD must implement the following:
- Implicit bias training must include assessment following training, and may only be rendered effective if “see if officers’ reactions, behavior, or perceptions were actually changed by the material.”
- Training must be delivered by a group culturally competent, proclaims to be anti racist, and can tout qualifications that should the group is well researched and passionate about implicit bias training.
- Training must be created by or directly impacted by work from the Center for Policing Equity & must show similar, measurable reform results.
- Transparency between Oklahoma City civilians and the OKCPD Citizens Advisory Board. Transparency requires the following:
- Releasing all meeting minutes.
- Making meetings open to the public, quarterly.
- As in Salt Lake City, reforms should be made based on dialogues the Citizens Advisory Board, Law Enforcement Task Force, and Working group co-host where community members are asked to provide feedback about their experiences with policing in Oklahoma City.
- Public dialogues should be held a minimum of once per quarter, should be widely announced on all local news platforms and on social media a minimum of 4 weeks before the scheduled event.
- Prior to public dialogue meetings, particular attention should be made to invite members of under-served and under-represented populations, where police presence is likely increased. This must include strong invitations to leaders and residents of the Eastside, Southside, and Northwest side of Oklahoma City—wards 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7 respectively.
- All perspectives shared in Public Dialogue Meetings with OKCPD, the Law Enforcement Task Force, the Working Group, and the Citizens Advisory Board should be prioritized and both immediate (mitigating harm) and longterm (reform) solutions must be implemented.
- Release all body cam footage to the public within 48-72 hours of a police involved shooting of a civilian. This will promote accountability and transparency between the department and civilians. After those 72 hours, body cam footage following an incident should be made available at the request of any civilian at any time.
- Before releasing to the public, body cam footage must be viewed with the family of the deceased. Should the family refuse to watch body cam footage, it should still be released.
- Body cam footage should be released to a database that is freely accessible to the public and the media. An announcement of the released footage should be made publicly via social media platforms and press conferences and should be accessible immediately upon release.
- Released footage should be made shareable and downloadable.
- Body cam footage should not be edited, freeze-framed, paused, fast forwarded, spliced, altered, muted, blurred, or skewed in any way.
- Body cam footage should show the moments officers arrived on the scene of the shoot to the moment officers leave the scene.
- For the sake of transparency, body cam footage should include clear audio & video recordings that remain unaltered.
- Immediately release body cam footage from December 11, 2020 which shows the killing of Bennie Edwards, showing the moments MSgt. Keith Duroy and Sgt. Clifford Holman arrived on the scene through the moments MSgt. Keith Duroy and Sgt. Clifford Holman leave the scene.
- Full compliance with “Resolution of Intent to Study Community Policing Initiatives, Including the Six Listed Herein, to Determine Opportunities, Costs, and Funding Possibilities; and, Directing the City Manager to Create a Working Group to Conduct Such Study,” authored and adopted by The City Council and Mayor David Holt, June 16, 2020. In particular we demand members of the Citizens Advisory Board & the Law Enforcement Task Force take immediate action to implement the six requests therein. These include:
- In addition to what the resolution states, we demand mandatory at least 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training completed by by all OKCPD officers. According to an article by State Impact Oklahoma, “Oklahoma City police answered 19,658 mental health calls in 2019, reports obtained by Oklahoma Watch and State Impact show. That’s a 95% increase since the current tracking system took effect in 2013.” State Impact also reported that “The risk of being killed during a police encounter is 16 times greater for individuals with untreated mental illness, according to a 2015 report by the Treatment Advocacy Center.” Therefore, Crisis Intervention Training must be prioritized and the priority should increase as/if the demand for these mental-health interventions increase. This investment in Crisis Intervention Training, and overall community-care based policing, will require divesting from other (more lethal) uses of policing power.
- Officer Access to Mental Health Services
- Alternative Response to Mental Health Calls
- Focus on Youth Outreach
- Expansion of Homeless Outreach Initiatives
- Creation of a Neighborhood Safety/Violence Interruption program
- To ensure the Working Group detailed in the “Resolution” is successful, an oversight committee should be established. This committee will assist the community outreach efforts of the consultant that has been hired to take inventory of the OKCPD.
#justiceforbennieedwards #okcpd #policebrutality #policekillings #blacklivesmatter
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