FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Laura Argenbright, Director of Communications
PHRC STATEMENT ON THE ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD
Agency calls for the need to continue to fight for change and reform
HARRISBURG, PA – One year ago, on May 25, 2020, a black man's life was taken under the knee of a police officer. While much has changed in the 365 days that have passed since then, much has remained the same.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) – the state's leading social justice enforcement agency – calls for all Pennsylvanians to continue the fight for justice and insist on change in our policies, organizations, law enforcement, and communities
"The current movement towards justice started with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee and was exacerbated by the murder of George Floyd under a knee, but it must not end with the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Officer whose knee strangled the life out of Floyd for nine minutes before he perished," PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, said. "The Black Lives Matter movement and social justice advocacy in all its forms must continue beyond the streets, into the court rooms, the voting booths, and in conversations across the kitchen tables of every small town and major city."
That change includes police reform. "We commend the valiant work and sacrifices of police officers, and recognize that not all officers are racists," Lassiter said. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that according to Mapping Police Violence, 7,666 police officers killed someone in the U.S. between 2013 and 2019. Mapping Police Violence defines a police killing as "a case where a person dies as a result of being shot, beaten, restrained, intentionally hit by a police vehicle, pepper sprayed, tasered, or otherwise harmed by police officers, whether on-duty or off-duty." Of the 7,666 cases, only 25 officers were convicted of a crime. In another 74 cases, the officers were charged with a crime but not convicted. In 99% of the cases, officers were not charged with any crime whatsoever.
In Philadelphia, PHRC Commissioner and Philadelphia's Majority Whip, Councilmember Curtis Jones, Jr., recently introduced a new independent Citizens Police Oversight Commission that will reflect the geographic and population diversity of the city and answer the demands of the community. According to Jones, the powers and the duties of the new Commission will be expanded, which up until now, the Police Advisory Board has operated solely to advise on the Philadelphia Police Department's Policies and Procedures. In addition to citizens' complaints, the Commission will be investigating all incidences when an officer discharges a firearm and all incidences where someone dies or is seriously injured during a police interaction.
"The purpose of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission Legislation is three-fold – to restore public confidence, to provide a fair and equitable process of citizens' complaints, and to create better police community interactions. We believe this will be a game-changer for our city and will serve as a model for other municipalities across the Commonwealth," Councilmember Jones, stated.
"Racism exists and will always exist in Pennsylvania and in America," Lassiter said. "But we are making real progress as more and more people work to eradicate racism and all discrimination. Now is the time to double down on our efforts and continue to work towards justice."
About PA Human Relations Commission (PHRC):
The PA Human Relations Commission (PHRC) promotes equal opportunity for all and enforces Pennsylvania's civil rights laws that protect people from unlawful discrimination. As Pennsylvania's leading civil justice enforcement agency, it is our vision that all people in Pennsylvania will live, work, and learn free from unlawful discrimination. For more information or to file a claim, visit: https://www.phrc.pa.gov/