NC4RJ Demands Norman Defund and Demilitarize NPD, End School Resource Officer Program in NPS, Justice for Marconia Kessee
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2020
Norman Citizens for Racial Justice has delivered a list of demands to Norman Police Chief Foster, Mayor Breea Clark, and the Norman City Council addressing the issue of police violence and accountability and systemic racism in the City of Norman.
The nationwide uprisings in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the brutal display of indiscriminate, unapologetic police violence in response to the protests has forced a national conversation about whether it is actually possible for the police, who are violence workers, to keep us safe. The continuous violence perpetrated by police against the citizens they are paid to “serve and protect” is unacceptable.
This violence also happens here, in Oklahoma. In recent days we have witnessed the Oklahoma City police use tear gas indiscriminately to attack protesters, press, and bystanders. Many of the same protesters who showed up in Norman this past Monday and Tuesday were attacked with tear gas over the weekend by the OKCPD. In 2018, 35-year-old Marconia Kessee, an unhoused Black man in mental distress, went to Norman Regional Hospital to seek treatment for his medical emergency. Instead of helping him, Norman Regional discharged him, and when he was not capable of walking off the premises, Officers Kyle Canaan and Daniel Brown mocked and degraded him, accused him of faking his medical condition, brutally dragged him to the parking lot, arrested him for trespassing, and left him to die in a jail cell. The Norman Police Department responded to the disgusting behavior of Officers Canaan and Brown, which is publicly available to view on their bodycam footage from the incident, by giving those officers paid leave. The family and the public still have no answers. This is unacceptable.
In 2005, 17-year-old Richard Lee Sanchez was shot 13 times in the back by Officer Chad Vincent. The NPD Officer who killed him, Officer Chad Vincent, went on to become the architect of the Norman Public Schools’ Resource Officer Program. This is unacceptable. According to the an article published in the Norman Transcript on May 19, 2016, Black students constituted “about 6.6 percent of the school population, but a disproportionate share are arrested each year and that number is growing. In 2010, 12 percent of the arrests were Black students. That number increased to 26 percent in 2011, grew to 28 percent in 2012 and climbed all the way to 31 percent in 2013.” This is unacceptable.
The steps toward inclusivity that Mayor Clark announced earlier this week, including the creation of an Equity Officer position within city government, and Norman’s official membership with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, are important ones. But we must also acknowledge that the positive steps that have been taken towards equity in recent months are the direct result of the unpaid labor of the Inclusive Community Subcommittee of the Norman Human Rights Commission, which includes many marginalized residents of Norman including Black and Indigenous residents, as well as other unpaid groups who have repeatedly made these recommendations over the years.
NC4RJ appreciates the willingness of Mayor Clark to show up to racial justice events, but we have to be wary of the dangers of performative allyship. The City of Norman has been using the branding and language of inclusivity for over a decade without taking meaningful steps toward materially addressing racial inequity in Norman. In fact, many of the boards and commissions that have historically had a great deal of legal authority to hear and locally prosecute cases of racial discrimination, such as the Norman Human Rights Commission, have been largely stripped of their legal power. It is still unclear whether the new ones that have been created, such as the Citizens Advisory Board for NPD, will be able to provide any accountability or transparency, or whether they will remain PR tools and window dressing for the city to hide behind while they continue going about their business as usual.
We greatly appreciate that city leadership as a whole has remained open to constructive criticism on issues of racial inequity in Norman. We also appreciate that Mayor Clark is listening, and her acknowledgement that there is more work to be done, but her silence on police accountability is deafening. We must continue to move the conversation forward to action.
In order to ensure an end to police brutality and racialized violence so that Norman can be a truly inclusive and safe community for all residents, Norman Citizens for Racial Justice demands the following:
Invest in alternatives to policing that are proven by research to support increased racial equity and equitable access to social services, such as unarmed mediation and intervention teams, decriminalization of poverty and nonviolent crimes, transformative justice programs, and increased access to mental health services.
Permanently end the use of military grade weapons and equipment by NPD. This includes chemical weapons like tear gas and mace. The use of these chemical weapons is considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions because they are asphyxiating and their purpose is to cause misery through nerve pain and lung damage. These are less lethal than some other weapons, but can still cause death and serious injury. The use of these weapons by our police force should not be permitted under any circumstances, but especially considering the increased risk of respiratory illness during the global COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that they are immediately banned.
Transparency and Accountability from NPD
Norman residents pay for the police budget with their tax dollars, and so the public deserves to know how racism within NPD is being dealt with. So far we are still waiting for that transparency, as evidenced most recently by the circulation and cover up of the racist email sent by Officer Jacob McDonough. The public has still not been informed by NPD or the Citizens Advisory Board on the disciplinary measures taken within the department. Unless and until this changes, the Citizens Advisory Board is failing to perform its stated function of providing public oversight of NPD.
Justice for Marconia Kessee and other victims of the NPD
We are also still waiting on justice for Marconia Kessee, an unarmed black man who died in Cleveland County jail after being brutally dragged across Norman Regional Hospital while trying to seek medical attention for a health emergency in 2018 in a racist incident by Officers Kyle Canaan and Daniel Brown of the Norman Police Department.
End the School Resource Officer Program
That the Norman Public School Board immediately end the School Resource Officer program and eliminate policing of children in Norman Public Schools. The school-to-prison pipeline must not be allowed to function in our community.
When governments choose to inflate police budgets so that they can be militarized for warfare against their own citizens, they are failing to protect us. Ultimately, Norman needs to be willing to invest in systems of community care and alternatives to policing that are proven to keep all residents safe, rather than inflating the budget of policing, which we know does further harm to our residents, and disproportionately harms our Black residents and other people of color. We must be willing to do whatever it takes to end police brutality and create the conditions for racial equity in the City of Norman.