By Whitley Granberry

Lately, there have been countless protests, marches, riots, rallies, discussions, die-ins, teach-ins, town hall meetings, social media posts, and even concerts, surrounding the topic of unarmed black men and women killed during police encounters.[1] People are talking about police militarization, systemic racism, the excessive use of force by law enforcement, and the overarching theme of human rights.[2]  The world has witnessed displays of grief and campaigns to spread public awareness on behalf of the growing number of black lives lost, but what comes next?  What happens legally?

We, as a country, are on the brink of a movement. Legally, this movement has sparked several, albeit arguably not enough, responses from different organizations, associations, governmental bodies, representatives, and of course laypeople.[3] Groups, such as the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), have drafted petitions. NBLSA drafted petitions to appoint special prosecutors under Missouri and New York state laws to charge officers Wilson and Pantaleo for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively.[4]  We might also recall other widely supported petitions, such as the petition demanding that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch recuse himself.[5] After the grand jury’s failure to indict officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown, one must note that 70,000 people signed and supported the petition for Bob McCulloch’s recusal.[6] However, we must also question the effectiveness of petitions, acknowledging that Bob McCulloch simply refused to step aside from the case.[7]

The Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights held a hearing on the state of civil rights in the U.S. on Tuesday, December 9, 2014, during which Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Illinois) recalled being confronted with racial profiling by Capitol security.[8] 

Some police departments are instituting pilot programs using body cameras.[9]  At the Justice for All March, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) promised that Congress would pass legislation seeking better oversight of policing across the country, and has introduced H.R. 5407, the Transparency in Policing Act (TIP) of 2014, which would require state and local law enforcement agencies that receive funds from the Department of Justice to acquire body cameras for use by their law enforcement officers.[10]  

In the wakes of the rallies, protests, and marches, the recent failures to indict former officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, as well as the deaths of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, John H. Crawford, III, President Barack Obama has asserted that he wants to avoid a “militarized culture” within police departments.[11] So, the President is asking Congress to purchase 50,000 body cameras to “record events like the shooting [and] death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown and look for ways to build trust and confidence between police and minority communities nationwide.”[12]In addition to proposing “a three-year, $263 million spending package to increase use of body-worn cameras, expand training for law enforcement, and add more resources for police department reform,” the President has also announced the creation of a task force to create more transparency, accountability and trust in police.[13]

We can teach our children better, sign petitions, march, rally and riot. We can hold protests, teach-ins, die-ins, concerts, hearings and discussions. We can hold town hall meetings, give police body cameras, and send them back to training school. Yet the question remains: Are these tactics enough to stop the police from killing unarmed minorities in the future? Is the law doing its job, and is the law enough?


[1] See, e.g., Recap of Twin Cities Hip Hop Against Police Brutality Benefit Teach-in, Die-in, Rally, and Concert, Save the Kids (Dec. 1, 2014), available at

[2] See, e.g., Excessive Force, The Huffington Post, available at (lasted visited Dec. 17, 2014).

[3] See Bridget Bowman, National March Against Police Violence to End Near Capitol, Roll Call (Dec. 12, 2014, 2:06 PM), available at (recounting Rev. Al Sharpton’s response that a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and discussion on the state of civil rights was not enough); see also Scott Neuman,Protesters Rally In ‘Justice For All’ Marches In 3 Cities, NPR (Dec. 13, 2014 10:39 AM), (documenting the presence of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, the NAACP, Nation Urban League, and thousands of demonstrators).

[4] See National Black Law Students Association, Appoint a Special Prosecutor under MO § 56.110 to charge Darren Wilson in the killing of Black Teenager Michael Brown, (Dec. 12, 2014), available at; see also National Black Law Students Association, Appoint a Special Prosecutor under NY State Executive Law § 63 (2) to charge Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner., (Dec. 12, 2014),

[5] See Jamilah Nasheed, Appoint a Special Prosecutor to Investigate the Murder of Michael Brown, MoveOn Petitions, available at

[6] See Larry Copeland, Ferguson protesters renew push to replace prosecutor, USA Today, Aug. 21, 2014, available at

[7] Id.

[8] See Location Change: The State of Civil and Human Rights in the United States, United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, available at But see Bowman, supra note 3.  

[9] See, e.g., Andrea Noble, D.C. cops making big investment in body cameras for patrol, Washington Times, Sept. 3, 2014, available at

[10] See Congressman Al Green, Congressman Al Green Introduces Transparency in Policing (TIP) Act of 2014 (Sept. 8, 2014), available at

[11] Nedra Pickler, Obama: Wants to avoid ‘militarized’ police culture, AP The Big Story (Dec. 2, 2014 12:11 AM), available at

[12] Id.

[13] Id.; Press Release, Office of the Press Secretary, Fact Sheet: Strengthening Community Policing, The White House (Dec. 1, 2014),available at (detailing the president’s plans to address police brutality, militarization, and community policing). But see Terrance Heath, President’s Too-Modest Proposals Won’t Prevent Another Ferguson, Campaign For America’s Future (Dec. 3, 2014), (calling the scope of the president’s force “to address the problems behind the making of Ferguson” too narrow in scope).

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