2014-2021 Press Releases
United Methodist Women Reiterates the “Call to Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States”
The killing of unarmed Daunte Wright by a Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, police officer during a misdemeanor traffic stop is the latest in a too-long list of extrajudicial killings of Black people. This tragic event happened as the trial for police officer Derek Chauvin in the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd during an arrest for a misdemeanor offense is underway in nearby Minneapolis.
During this same time period, additional videotapes emerged of Black men stopped for minor offenses in violent confrontations with local law enforcement, including Army Second Lieutenant Caron Nazario being pepper-sprayed during a routine traffic stop in Virginia in December 2020, and 42-year-old Kurt Reinhold being shot dead after police detained him for alleged jaywalking in San Clemente, California, in September 2020.
And if police encounters in communities of color for misdemeanor offenses regularly result in violent conflict, can we be surprised by an extrajudicial killing after a violent offense when the suspect stops and complies with police orders, as newly released bodycam video show was the case with 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago?
The sheer number and geographic spread of incidents arising from encounters with police for misdemeanor offenses belies the “bad apple” narrative that often frames incidents of police brutality and extrajudicial killings as the actions of rogue officers. That at least two of these incidents were committed by veteran police officers as they trained rookie officers lays bare the systemic instructing of new officers to conduct pretext stops and to escalate conflict in such encounters.
Pretext stops and escalation are hallmarks of the targeted over-policing and criminalization of communities of color that United Methodist Women decried in the resolution we initiated, “Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States.” This resolution was adopted by the UMC General Conference in 2016 and is the position of the Church.
Targeted over-policing and escalation of conflict during police encounters in communities of color not only results in extrajudicial killings, but also the mass incarceration of men and women of color, which results in untold hundreds of thousands burdened for life with police records that hinder their advancement in life. This is the same spirit that drives the growth in school-based policing, the pushout of students of color and the school-to-prison pipeline.
The proliferation of smartphone videos is revealing for all to see what communities of color have been testifying to for decades about too many of their encounters with law enforcement, but they were not believed.
United Methodist Women urges our members, our church, our nation to not deny what is being exposed but to acknowledge the truth about racial injustice we are seeing with our own eyes. United Methodist Women reiterates the call of the Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color resolution and calls on the church to act on its own commitment to:
- Stop the criminalization of communities of color and the cacophony of “wars” being waged against these communities.
- Make the enforcement and protection of international human rights law central to criminal justice and immigration policy.
- End racial/ethnic/religious profiling by law enforcement officers and end “zero tolerance” policies in schools.
Jesus promised that we would know the truth and that the truth would set us free (John 8:32). Paul further taught that when one part of the body suffers, every part of the body suffers with it (1 Corinthians 12:26). The U.S. body is suffering. We must accept this truth and take actions to stop and correct the harm being done.
We pray God’s comfort for the family of Daunte Wright and all the families struggling to heal from this trauma. We pray God’s grace to help our nation to face truth, do justice, love mercy so that we can walk humbly with God.
Lord, have mercy.
Contact: Yvette Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org