NAACP Calls for Police Accountability in Houston & Beyond

Dr. Niaz Kasravi, NAACP Senior Manager for Law Enforcement Accountability moderates the hearing

In February we witnessed yet another brutal beating of an African American young man at the hands of a group of Houston police officers, as the videotaped abuse of teenager Chad Holley was broadcast across the country. Captured by a store security camera nearby, the scene reminds us that we are exactly at the same place we were twenty years ago when the Rodney King tape was released. In fact, after the Chad Holley video, several other videos were released from Houston prompting the NAACP National Office to partner with the NAACP Texas State Conference and Region VI of the NAACP (including Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas) to hold a public hearing on police accountability in Houston, in conjunction with the NAACP Region VI Conference. The hearing was meant to not only highlight the concerns in Houston, but address issues of police misconduct throughout the region.

Victims, advocates, experts and law enforcement and government officials came before a panel of NAACP local, state and national officials to talk about police accountability, each from their own perspective and experience, addressing challenges and possible solutions. A student from Texas Southern University stood up to talk about how he has been repeatedly profiled by officers and his mother, obviously emotional, asked why her child should be subjected to such treatment if they are tax-paying, law-abiding citizens.

Among the experts who testified was Diop Kamau, CEO of Mr. Kamau a former law enforcement officer himself, has spent twenty-five years conducting undercover investigations of police misconduct allegations, using video technology to document incidents of profiling, brutality and other abuses of power by police. Because of the great impact of his remarks and his work, the NAACP invited him to make two more presentations to the youth and adults attending the Region VI Conference.

At the youth workshop Mr. Kamau listened to the problems African American and other minority youth face on a regular basis in their encounters with law enforcement on and off school campuses. The youth testimony touched Mr. Kamau and moved him to tears as he felt just how much more work we have to do to create a safe environment for our children, an environment in which young people from the African American and other communities of color are treated with the same respect and dignity as their white counterparts.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new to the NAACP; the first case the Association took on after its inception was to defend a poor sharecropper, Pink Franklin, against an illegal police raid. And we still receive constant reports of law enforcement misconduct on a daily basis from our 1200 active units across the country. We hope that the hearing in Houston (similar to public hearings hosted by the NAACP in Oakland, CA last year) will further invigorate the movement to promote safety, respect and accountability for our communities and the law enforcement officers who have sworn to protect and serve us.

Right to left: NAACP Senior VP for Advocacy Hilary O. Shelton, NAACP Texas State Conference President Gary Bledsoe, NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, and NAACP Houston Branch President Dr. D.Z. Cofield