On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot multiple times and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. This tragic act provoked grief and outrage in Ferguson and across the country. We mourned the loss of an innocent young man, taken before his time, and recognized that his killing was the latest in a long and rapidly growing succession of cases involving police use of lethal force against unarmed people of color.

The disproportionate, militarized police response to subsequent community protests in Ferguson—including the use of tear gas and snipers, curfews enforced by armored trucks and tactical units, and the unwarranted arrest of multiple journalists—further incensed the country and, in conjunction with Michael Brown’s killing, raised an urgent question:

What must change so that not one more person of color is unjustifiably and indefensibly killed by the police?

While there are no definitive figures on how many Americans are shot by police every year, existing data point to grave differences by race. From 2010 – 2012, black men were 21 times more likely than their white peers to be killed by police.[1] Similar racial disparities hold true among those injured by police.[2]

Local law enforcement units too often treat low-income neighborhoods populated by people of color—communities where people strive to live, learn, work, play, and pray in peace and harmony—as if they are enemy territory. Youth of color who should be growing up in supportive, affirming environments are instead presumed to be criminals and relentlessly subjected to aggressive police tactics that result in unnecessary fear, arrests, injuries, and deaths.

The militarization of police departments further erodes the trust that should exist between residents and the police who serve them. The proliferation of machine guns, silencers, armored vehicles and aircraft, and camouflage in local law enforcement units does not help police-community relations, the future of our cities, or our country…read more.