‘Yo Listen Up’ Panel Addresses Police Brutality and Accountability

DJ Flexx and Tony Redz stopped the music on Monday, July 11, to present “Yo Listen Up” in the wake of violence in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas. Panelists discussed police/civilian relations, law enforcement accountability, safety measures when dealing with police and more.

Panelists included Mayor Muriel Bowser; Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski; Alvin E. Johnson, a retired master patrol officer; Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s chapter of the NAACP; therapist Brett Givens, Commander Perry Tarrant, from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement; Douglas Roeser, director of constituent services for Delegate Darryl Barnes; Emerick A. Peace, president of 100 Black Men of Prince George’s County; and Al Malik Farrakhan, from Cease Fire Don’t Smoke the Brothers and Sisters.

Freddie Gray’s attorney Billy Murphy Jr., rapper and activist David Banner, and pastor and spoken word artist Savanna Hartman joined Yo Listen Up by phone.

Mayor Muriel Bowser opened the event by discussing measures she is taking with the D.C. police., such as outfitting all patrol officers with body cameras by the end of the 2016. As for the resulting footage from those body cameras, Mayor Bowser pledged to “be transparent about how we use that information.”

The mayor also said she aims to “make sure we have a force that reflects our city,” and continued, “Nothing beats communities knowing their officers, trusting their officers and counting on their officers.”

Mayor Bowser explained how reducing nuisance fines, marijuana arrests and small traffic tickets will lead to fewer negative interactions between the police and residents.

She also discussed measures she’s taking to improve police and community relations in the District.

Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski outlined the protocol for police stops, comparing them to an interaction in a restaurant: “If you treat someone respectfully, you get good service.”

Chief Stawinski, Al Malik Farrakhan and retired Master Patrol Officer Alvin E. Johnson talked about what goes down at traffic stops, and what behavior makes drivers look suspicious to police.

Johnson also spoke about his experience training young police officers.

Therapist Brett Givens emphasized the importance of counseling for young people.

Joining via phone, Freddie Gray’s attorney Billy Murphy Jr. explained why it’s so difficult to convict police officers, saying “It’s hard to win cases that are based largely on circumstantial evidence…It is uniquely difficult to prosecute police officers.”

Murphy pointed to technology as a game changer for police accountability, saying “Thank God for video cameras.”

He also recommended watching the video “Ten Rules for Dealing with Police,” which he narrates.

Douglas Roeser, director of constituent services for Delegate Darryl Barnes, and others repeatedly urged people in the community to vote at every level to effect change.

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