“Do we have an approach between our officers and community members that’s one of sufficient trust so that we can avoid necessary conflict and unnecessary use of force?”
This is the question that Mayor Larry Morrissey of Rockford, Illinois is posing to his citizens and to those whom have been assigned to protect and serve them.
Meant to foster a better understanding, the question has it’s impetus in a disturbing case of violence, one that calls into question the motives that police officers use when employing deadly force. In a shocking play of events, an unarmed man was gunned down in a church, in front of several children of daycare age, as he held up his hands in surrender.
Two white officers fired numerous rounds into the body of 23-year old Anthony Barmore as he offered himself to authorities inside Kingdom Authorities Ministries church. Both officers maintain that Barmore attempted to confiscate their firearm, thus allowing them to use the amount of force that they felt was necessary in both doing their job and protecting themselves, a first-hand account that is heavily disputed by eye witnesses and the NAACP.
This attack on an unarmed, defenseless man is but one of many perpetrated by law enforcement officials against a minority this year. Amidst all of the despair, confusion, and anger, the NAACP has chosen this event to serve as the catalyst in their push for better federal standards on the use of force by police officers. Their presence also denotes the not so subtle racial undertones involved in this case.
“There are no national standards for the use of force or training for use of force,” remarked Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP. “We want to make sure the standards are the most modern and appropriate ones possible…The issue is not primarily about racism.”
Jealous is calling upon the reintroduction of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, authored by John Conyers of Michigan in nine years ago and co-sponsored by 34 legislators. Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, stands as the proposals main opposition, deeming the proposed law “oppressive to officers.”
Barmore was gunned down as he stood cornered in the church’s boiler room. Reverend Melvin Brown, his wife, 17-year old daughter, and several children were present at the time.
One of the officers that shot Barmore, Oda Poole, has been involved in several instances that involved the use of deadly police force. The last instance pointed to him shooting a 66-year old man whom Poole said pointed a weapon at him. The man had no weapon, but rather, a sock and a hammer.