News Race

‘Here Is Your Brain on Race’: Democrats Engage in Hearing on Race and Justice

Adele M. Stan

Exploring overt racism, unconscious bias, and the ravages of inequality, Democratic lawmakers sought solutions in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict.

In a hearing room on Capitol Hill, an extraordinary thing happened on Tuesday: a real discussion about race, justice, and the nature of prejudice. I’m not talking about a sanitized display of empathy or a mere indignant recounting of justice denied. No, this was an honest talk about the underpinnings of racism, not just its resulting tragedies and travesties.

The occasion, titled “A Conversation About Race and Justice,” was a hearing called by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi under the aegis of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee at the request of the Congressional Black Caucus in the wake of the exoneration of George Zimmerman for the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, 17-year-old African American, in Sanford, Florida.

Appearing before the committee were three witnesses: Eugene Robinson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist; Maya Wiley, president of the Center for Social Inclusion; and Morris Dees, founder and chief trial attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

At the meeting, committee co-chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) recited well-worn statistics about the over-representation of African Americans among the poor (including 40 percent of African-American children), an unemployment rate nearly double that of the national average, and the much higher rates of convictions for minor drug offenses endured by Black offenders when compared with those for whites. “African Americans make up 15 percent of the nation’s drug users,” she said. “They are 37 percent of those arrested, 59 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense. That is not right.”

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Co-Chair Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) stated that in its recent decision striking down a key section of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court had “vandalized” the landmark law.

“Over the past few months, the foundation on which this country was built has been shaken,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. As evidence, she noted, in addition to the high court’s June decision on the Voting Rights Act, “we’ve seen programs that work to close the gaps in educational, economic, and health inequities come under attack.”

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), assistant minority leader, was acknowledged by Pelosi for his decades in the civil rights movement. He went on to remind those assembled that Martin Luther King’s “Letter From the Birmingham Jail” was written in response to a letter King received from eight pastors in the civil rights movement who asked him to leave Birmingham because they thought him to be “a disruptive force” whose timing was off “even if his cause was right.” King’s response, Clyburn said, was an indictment not just of those who spewed hatred and vitriol, but for “the appalling silence of good people.”

“We are here today, hopefully, to break a silence that has permeated this country on this question of race and justice,” Clyburn said.

Once the witnesses began to speak, the political speechifying gave way to a more nuanced discourse that examined the unconscious biases of most Americans, and the obstructions to racial equality that are built into the very institutions of American society.

“A Secret Hiding in Public”

“Racial profiling is a secret hiding in public, and America’s becoming increasingly armed and dangerous,” said Morris Dees. “And those two things make a recipe for disaster.” He recounted the words of juror B-37 of the Zimmerman trial, who claimed that race had nothing to do with the trial or the verdict—that Zimmerman was simply profiling a potential criminal. But it was Martin’s race that defined him that way, Dees suggested.

He went on to recount the story of the Jena Six to illustrate the ways in which African-American boys are “overcharged” with crimes, and often given punishments greater than those of white boys for “status offenses”—essentially the breaking of rules—in schools, often leading to their suspension or introduction to the juvenile justice system. In Jena, Louisiana, six African-American high-school boys were charged with attempted murder for getting into a fight with white students after three nooses were found hanging from a tree at which they had asked permission to gather.

After their case became a national news story when civil rights leaders organized a massive protest, Dees’ Southern Poverty Law Center provided legal representation for the boys, preventing five of the six from serving time.

His own mission to fight racial injustice, said Dees, who is white, was shaped by what he saw of the plight of African Americans when he was growing up on a cotton farm in Alabama, “where race was the only issue—it was Jim Crow,” he said.

Dees suggested that Congress pass an act in the name of Trayvon Martin “to address the issues of racial profiling” by making federal funds for highways and other projects conditional on the state’s elimination of racial profiling by police.

Of Race and Racism

In her testimony, Maya Wiley sought to draw a distinction between overtly racist attitudes and the biases, both conscious and unconscious, that determine the shapes of institutions, and limitations to access experienced by people of color.

To illustrate an episode of overt racism that took place against a racially complex backdrop, Wiley, who is African-American, conveyed a story told to her by her cousin about a family friend, a college-age Black man who was shot dead during a street confrontation in Lexington, Kentucky, with two white men who were around the same age.

The white men were in a car stopped near the car occupied by the Black man, when one of the white men “hurled a racial epithet,” said Wiley. When the Black man left his car and approached the car occupied by the white men, one of them shot him. The shooter, she said, was never charged.

What was not reported by the news media, Wiley said, was the fact that the Black man was dating the white ex-girlfriend of one of the white men. Wiley had come by the back story, she said, via the white step-daughters of her cousin, who is African-American. The young women were school friends with the young man who was killed.

So, Wiley said, the story was at once an example of “the incredible strides we have made in this country, because my cousin has two beautiful step-daughters who are white with whom she is extremely close,” and that her understanding of the story came to her through the two young white women who were friends with the young Black man who was killed.

Wiley asked the lawmakers to consider not just what she called the “overt racism” that leads to episodes such as that, but also the implicit biases that we all carry with us as a result of conditioning.

“We have two decades of social science that actually show us that our laws and policies have not kept pace with what we know about the human brain,” Wiley said. “Here is your brain on race,” Wiley said; according to a study commissioned by the Associated Press, she continued, “56 percent [of Americans] have negative attitudes towards Black people that they do not know they have.” Negative attitudes toward African Americans were found to be held even by Blacks, the AP found.

These biases become embedded in the neurocircuitry of the brain, she said, via a constant barrage of images that reinforce stereotypes, whether of Black men being arrested, Latinos being handcuffed at the border, or stereotypical images of members of other groups.

Then there are disparities of access that can be simple matters of political calculus, implicit bias, or both. The 21 states that have opted out of the Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act (thanks to last year’s Supreme Court ruling), Wiley said, comprise 60 percent of uninsured Blacks nationwide who would have been eligible under the expansion. Medicaid is the public health insurance program for low-income people.

This is particularly troubling for women’s health, Wiley told Rewire after the hearing. (Low-income women make up over 60 percent of uninsured women in the United States, according to the National Women’s Law Center.) “Medicaid expansion is critical for women of all races, and people of color in particular, to be able to see a doctor when they’re sick and prevent themselves from getting sick,” Wiley said.

Wiley concluded her opening statement with a plea for comprehensive integration. “Diversity matters,” she said. “The more we live together, work together, the more we are able to bypass some of the neural circuitry [of bias], and create new neural pathways.”

The Lost Childhood of Black Boys

Eugene Robinson, an African-American commentator and columnist, took the occasion of his testimony to read from the column he wrote after the verdict was rendered in the trial of George Zimmerman.

He said, “this society considers young Black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. … Trayvon Martin, at the time of his death, was three weeks past his 17th birthday, but Black boys in this country are not allowed to be children; they are assumed to be men, even at a tender age, and to be full of menace.”

Robinson went on to note that Blacks and whites are “equally likely to smoke weed, but Blacks are four times more likely to be jailed on marijuana charges.”

Laws themselves can be race-neutral, but their implementation often is not. “In this regard,” Robinson continued, “I am particularly concerned with the Stand Your Ground laws,” referring to the laws supported by the National Rifle Association and modeled by the American Legislative Exchange Council that have been passed by 16 states, essentially legalizing the shooting by citizens of anyone they deem to be a threat under the terms of the law. Florida adopted the law in 2005.

The “stand your ground” law was initially seen as a means for women to protect themselves, he said, but it became an instrument of racial bias.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) suggested that if there was to be a legacy for Trayvon Martin, it should be the repeal of “stand your ground” laws, which she called “a clear and present danger to every Black man walking in the streets today. She suggested starting a movement to do so in Florida, and engaging Martin’s family to lead the charge.

Calls for dialogue did not move her. She said what she was hearing in the African-American community were calls “to do something”—not more talk.

The State of Race Relations

In the question-and-answer portion of the hearing, it became clear that several members of Congress were bereft at the state of race relations. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) expressed his disappointment at the small number of white people in attendance at the hearing.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said her grandsons asked her, “Granny, why do you work so hard” on racial issues, when nothing seems to change?

“When we talk about the civil rights movement, I think it’s just beginning,” Johnson said. “We made strides—we made strides to the point where somebody else noticed we were making them, so now [they say], ‘We’ve to stop them.’”

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) asked the panel how electoral politics affects the racial landscape. “I’ve always believed,” Robinson responded, “that the rise in a vicious kind of racism, or tone of racism, is … not unrelated to the economic uncertainty that so many Americans are experiencing—the hollowing out of the middle class, and what has happened to the American Dream as we understood it. And I think that situation creates anxieties that tend to get expressed sometimes in racial animus.”

“And let’s be honest,” he continued, “just the inauguration of the first African-American president has brought this whole thing to a head for a lot of people.”

Culture & Conversation Human Rights

Let’s Stop Conflating Self-Care and Actual Care

Katie Klabusich

It's time for a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities.

As a chronically ill, chronically poor person, I have feelings about when, why, and how the phrase “self-care” is invoked. When International Self-Care Day came to my attention, I realized that while I laud the effort to prevent some of the 16 million people the World Health Organization reports die prematurely every year from noncommunicable diseases, the American notion of self-care—ironically—needs some work.

I propose a shift in the use of “self-care” that creates space for actual care apart from the extra kindnesses and important, small indulgences that may be part of our self-care rituals, depending on our ability to access such activities. How we think about what constitutes vital versus optional care affects whether/when we do those things we should for our health and well-being. Some of what we have come to designate as self-care—getting sufficient sleep, treating chronic illness, allowing ourselves needed sick days—shouldn’t be seen as optional; our culture should prioritize these things rather than praising us when we scrape by without them.

International Self-Care Day began in China, and it has spread over the past few years to include other countries and an effort seeking official recognition at the United Nations of July 24 (get it? 7/24: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) as an important advocacy day. The online academic journal SelfCare calls its namesake “a very broad concept” that by definition varies from person to person.

“Self-care means different things to different people: to the person with a headache it might mean a buying a tablet, but to the person with a chronic illness it can mean every element of self-management that takes place outside the doctor’s office,” according to SelfCare. “[I]n the broadest sense of the term, self-care is a philosophy that transcends national boundaries and the healthcare systems which they contain.”

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In short, self-care was never intended to be the health version of duct tape—a way to patch ourselves up when we’re in pieces from the outrageous demands of our work-centric society. It’s supposed to be part of our preventive care plan alongside working out, eating right, getting enough sleep, and/or other activities that are important for our personalized needs.

The notion of self-care has gotten a recent visibility boost as those of us who work in human rights and/or are activists encourage each other publicly to recharge. Most of the people I know who remind themselves and those in our movements to take time off do so to combat the productivity anxiety embedded in our work. We’re underpaid and overworked, but still feel guilty taking a break or, worse, spending money on ourselves when it could go to something movement- or bill-related.

The guilt is intensified by our capitalist system having infected the self-care philosophy, much as it seems to have infected everything else. Our bootstrap, do-it-yourself culture demands we work to the point of exhaustion—some of us because it’s the only way to almost make ends meet and others because putting work/career first is expected and applauded. Our previous president called it “uniquely American” that someone at his Omaha, Nebraska, event promoting “reform” of (aka cuts to) Social Security worked three jobs.

“Uniquely American, isn’t it?” he said. “I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)”

The audience was applauding working hours that are disastrous for health and well-being, laughing at sleep as though our bodies don’t require it to function properly. Bush actually nailed it: Throughout our country, we hold Who Worked the Most Hours This Week competitions and attempt to one-up the people at the coffee shop, bar, gym, or book club with what we accomplished. We have reached a point where we consider getting more than five or six hours of sleep a night to be “self-care” even though it should simply be part of regular care.

Most of us know intuitively that, in general, we don’t take good enough care of ourselves on a day-to-day basis. This isn’t something that just happened; it’s a function of our work culture. Don’t let the statistic that we work on average 34.4 hours per week fool you—that includes people working part time by choice or necessity, which distorts the reality for those of us who work full time. (Full time is defined by the Internal Revenue Service as 30 or more hours per week.) Gallup’s annual Work and Education Survey conducted in 2014 found that 39 percent of us work 50 or more hours per week. Only 8 percent of us on average work less than 40 hours per week. Millennials are projected to enjoy a lifetime of multiple jobs or a full-time job with one or more side hustles via the “gig economy.”

Despite worker productivity skyrocketing during the past 40 years, we don’t work fewer hours or make more money once cost of living is factored in. As Gillian White outlined at the Atlantic last year, despite politicians and “job creators” blaming financial crises for wage stagnation, it’s more about priorities:

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

It’s no wonder we don’t sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been sounding the alarm for some time. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between 18 and 60 years old get seven or more hours sleep each night “to promote optimal health and well-being.” The CDC website has an entire section under the heading “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem,” outlining statistics and negative outcomes from our inability to find time to tend to this most basic need.

We also don’t get to the doctor when we should for preventive care. Roughly half of us, according to the CDC, never visit a primary care or family physician for an annual check-up. We go in when we are sick, but not to have screenings and discuss a basic wellness plan. And rarely do those of us who do go tell our doctors about all of our symptoms.

I recently had my first really wonderful check-up with a new primary care physician who made a point of asking about all the “little things” leading her to encourage me to consider further diagnosis for fibromyalgia. I started crying in her office, relieved that someone had finally listened and at the idea that my headaches, difficulty sleeping, recovering from illness, exhaustion, and pain might have an actual source.

Considering our deeply-ingrained priority problems, it’s no wonder that when I post on social media that I’ve taken a sick day—a concept I’ve struggled with after 20 years of working multiple jobs, often more than 80 hours a week trying to make ends meet—people applaud me for “doing self-care.” Calling my sick day “self-care” tells me that the commenter sees my post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as something I could work through if I so chose, amplifying the stigma I’m pushing back on by owning that a mental illness is an appropriate reason to take off work. And it’s not the commenter’s fault; the notion that working constantly is a virtue is so pervasive, it affects all of us.

Things in addition to sick days and sleep that I’ve had to learn are not engaging in self-care: going to the doctor, eating, taking my meds, going to therapy, turning off my computer after a 12-hour day, drinking enough water, writing, and traveling for work. Because it’s so important, I’m going to say it separately: Preventive health care—Pap smears, check-ups, cancer screenings, follow-ups—is not self-care. We do extras and nice things for ourselves to prevent burnout, not as bandaids to put ourselves back together when we break down. You can’t bandaid over skipping doctors appointments, not sleeping, and working your body until it’s a breath away from collapsing. If you’re already at that point, you need straight-up care.

Plenty of activities are self-care! My absolutely not comprehensive personal list includes: brunch with friends, adult coloring (especially the swear word books and glitter pens), soy wax with essential oils, painting my toenails, reading a book that’s not for review, a glass of wine with dinner, ice cream, spending time outside, last-minute dinner with my boyfriend, the puzzle app on my iPad, Netflix, participating in Caturday, and alone time.

My someday self-care wish list includes things like vacation, concerts, the theater, regular massages, visiting my nieces, decent wine, the occasional dinner out, and so very, very many books. A lot of what constitutes self-care is rather expensive (think weekly pedicures, spa days, and hobbies with gear and/or outfit requirements)—which leads to the privilege of getting to call any part of one’s routine self-care in the first place.

It would serve us well to consciously add an intersectional view to our enthusiasm for self-care when encouraging others to engage in activities that may be out of reach financially, may disregard disability, or may not be right for them for a variety of other reasons, including compounded oppression and violence, which affects women of color differently.

Over the past year I’ve noticed a spike in articles on how much of the emotional labor burden women carry—at the Toast, the Atlantic, Slate, the Guardian, and the Huffington Post. This category of labor disproportionately affects women of color. As Minaa B described at the Huffington Post last month:

I hear the term self-care a lot and often it is defined as practicing yoga, journaling, speaking positive affirmations and meditation. I agree that those are successful and inspiring forms of self-care, but what we often don’t hear people talking about is self-care at the intersection of race and trauma, social justice and most importantly, the unawareness of repressed emotional issues that make us victims of our past.

The often-quoted Audre Lorde wrote in A Burst of Light: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

While her words ring true for me, they are certainly more weighted and applicable for those who don’t share my white and cisgender privilege. As covered at Ravishly, the Feminist Wire, Blavity, the Root, and the Crunk Feminist Collective recently, self-care for Black women will always have different expressions and roots than for white women.

But as we continue to talk about self-care, we need to be clear about the difference between self-care and actual care and work to bring the necessities of life within reach for everyone. Actual care should not have to be optional. It should be a priority in our culture so that it can be a priority in all our lives.

Analysis Human Rights

Activists Seek Justice as Verdict Looms for Officer Involved in Freddie Gray’s Death

Michelle D. Anderson

Freddie Gray, 25, died from spinal cord injuries in April 2015, a week after police arrested and took him into custody. Last year, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby brought criminal charges against six of the officers involved with his arrest. Since then, three officers' trials have been completed without convictions.

The bench trial of Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking Baltimore Police Department officer involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, began on Thursday, July 7. Rice faces involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment; the state dropped a misconduct charge after acknowledging Rice was not directly involved in Gray’s arrest. The closing arguments in his trial are scheduled for this Thursday; the judge is expected to share his verdict Monday.

The Rice trial started just as the public began grappling with the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling—and the subsequent murder of five police officers at a Dallas protest.

Castile and Sterling, both Black men, died during encounters with police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, triggering nationwide protests against police brutality and implicit racial bias that have continued into this week.

And just like the days following Gray’s death, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook were flooded with images, videos, and hashtags demanding justice.

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Gray, 25, died from spinal cord injuries in April 2015, a week after police arrested and took him into custody. Activists and some Maryland legislators accused police of giving Gray an intentional “rough ride,” when inmates or persons in custody are transported in police vans without a seat belt and subjected to frantic driving, ultimately causing them injury. Last year, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby brought criminal charges against six of the officers involved with his arrest. Since then, three officers’ trials have been completed without convictions—and as activists on the ground in Baltimore wait for more verdicts, they are pushing for reforms and justice beyond the courtroom.

The first police trial, which involved charges against Officer William Porter of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office, ended in a mistrial in December 2015 after jurors failed to reach a verdict.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Glenn Williams acquitted Officer Edward M. Nero of all charges in May. Mosby had charged Nero with misconduct, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment for putting Gray into the police van without a seat belt.

But many viewed the trial of Caesar R. Goodson Jr., who drove the van, as the most critical of the six. Last month, Judge Williams announced that Goodson, too, had been acquitted of all charges—including second-degree depraved-heart murder, the most serious of those brought against the officers.

Kwame Rose, a Baltimore activist, told Rewire he was not surprised.

“The judicial system of America shows that police are never held accountable when it comes to the death of Black people,” said Rose, who was arrested in September and December during peaceful protests related to Gray’s death.

During Goodson’s trial, Williams said there were several “equally plausible scenarios,” that could have transpired during Gray’s arrest. He also rejected the state’s argument that police intentionally gave Gray a “rough ride,”according to a New York Times account.

Ray Kelly, community relations director for the No Boundaries Coalition of West Baltimore grassroots group and a community interviewer for the West Baltimore Community Commission on Police Misconduct, said he was disappointed by the Goodson verdict. However, he noted that he was heartened by Mosby’s decision to bring criminal charges against the officers in the first place. “It’s a small change, but it is a change nonetheless,” Kelly said in a recent interview with Rewire.

In addition to the charges, Gray’s death eventually sparked a major “pattern or practice” investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Local activists, including the No Boundaries Coalition, which issued in March a 32-page report that detailed police misconduct in Baltimore and helped to trigger the DOJ, expected the findings of the DOJ investigation in late June.

However, the document has yet to be released, said Kelly, who is a native of the same West Baltimore neighborhood where Gray was detained.

Kelly is expecting a consent decree—similar to the ones in Ferguson, Missouri, and Cleveland, Ohio—and a continued partnership with federal officials in the near future.

For Kelly, the trials—and the lack of convictions—have proved what leaders in groups like the No Boundaries Coalition have been saying in their advocacy. One of those messages, Kelly said, is that the community should continue to focus less on the judicial process for theoretically punishing officers who have committed wrongdoing and more on initiating policy changes that combat over-policing.

Baltimore Bloc, a grassroots group, seemed to echo Kelly’s sentiment in a statement last month. Two days after the Goodson verdict, Baltimore Bloc activists said it was a reminder that the judicial system was not broken and was simply doing exactly what it is designed to do.

“To understand our lack of faith in the justice system, you must first recognize certain truths: the justice system works for police who both live in and out of the city; it works against Black people who come from disinvested, redlined Black communities; and it systematically ruins the lives of people like Keith Davis Jr., Tyrone West and Freddie Gray,” Baltimore Bloc leadership said, referencing two other Baltimore residents shot by police.

The American Civil Liberties Union, citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Illinois v. Wardlow, said in a May blog post that police had legal case for stopping and arresting Gray, but also said the action constituted racially biased policing and diminished rights for Black and Latino citizens.

“The result is standards of police conduct that are different in some places than other places. It is a powerful example of institutionalized and structural racism in which ostensibly race-neutral policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups,” ACLU leaders said.

Right before issuing its statement in May, ACLU released a briefing paper that said at least 21 individuals had been killed in police encounters across Maryland in 2015. Of those fatal encounters, which included Gray, 81 percent were Black and about half were unarmed.

The ACLU said it was impossible for the agency to determine whether any officers were disciplined for misconduct in most cases because the police refused to release crucial information to the public.

The ACLU began compiling information about police custody deaths after learning that Maryland officials were not tracking those cases. In 2015, state politicians passed a law mandating law enforcement agencies to report such data. The first set of statistics on police custody deaths is expected in October, according to the ACLU. It is unclear whether those will include reports of officer discipline.

In line with those efforts, activists across Maryland are working to bring forth more systemic changes that will eliminate over-policing and the lack of accountability that exist among police agencies.

Elizabeth Alex, the regional director for CASA Baltimore, a grassroots group that advocates on behalf of local, low-income immigrant communities, told Rewire many activists are spending less energy on reforming the judicial process to achieve police accountability.

“I think people are looking at alternative ways to hold officers and others accountable other than the court system,” Alex said.

Like the No Boundaries Coalition, CASA Baltimore is part of the Campaign for Justice, Safety & Jobs (CJSJ), a collective of more than 30 local community, policy, labor, faith, and civil rights groups that convened after Gray’s death. CJSJ members include groups like the local ACLU affiliate, Baltimore United for Change, and Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle.

CJSJ leaders said the Goodson verdict underlined the critical need for “deep behavioral change” in the Baltimore Police Department’s culture. For the past year, the group has pushed heavily for citizen representation on police trial boards that review police brutality cases. Those boards make decisions about disciplining officers. For example, the city’s police commissioner might decide to discipline or fire an officer; that officer could go to the trial board to appeal the decision.

This spring, recent Baltimore City mayoral candidate and Maryland Sen. Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore), helped pass an omnibus police accountability law, HB 1016. Part of that bill includes a change to Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBR) giving local jurisdictions permission to allow voting citizens on police trial boards. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed the changes into law in May.

That change can only happen in Baltimore, however, if the Baltimore Fraternal Order of the Police union agrees to revise its contract with the city, according to WBAL TV. The agreement, which expired on June 30, currently does not allow citizen inclusion.

In light of the current stalled negotiations, Baltimore Bloc on July 5 demanded Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young instead introduce an amendment to the city charter to allow civilian participation on trial boards. If Young introduced the amendment before an August deadline, the question would make it onto the November ballot.

Kelly, in an interview with Rewire, cited some CJSJ members’ recent meeting with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis as a win for Baltimore citizens. During that meeting, held on June 29, Davis outlined some of his plans for implementing change on the police force and said he supported local citizens participating on police trial boards, Kelly said.

This year, the Baltimore Police Department has also implemented a new use-of-force policy. The policy emphasizes de-escalation and accountability and is the first rewrite of the policy since 2003, according to the Sun.

The ACLU has welcomed the policy as a step in the right direction, but said the new rules need significant improvements, according to the Sun.

For example, the policy requires reporting to the department when an officer flashes or points a weapon at a suspect without shooting; the data will be reviewed by the police commissioner and other city officials. However, it doesn’t require the same from officers who use deadly force.

Notably, the policy requires officers to call a medic if a person in custody requests medical assistance or shows signs that they need professional help. Gray had requested a medic, but officers were skeptical and didn’t call for help until he became unresponsive, according to various news reports.

Rose, who recently received legal assistance from the ACLU to fight criminal charges related to his arrests last year, said citizens should continue to demand accountability and “true transparency” from law enforcement.

In the meantime, with four trials—including Rice’s case—remaining and no convictions, many are looking to see if Mosby will change her prosecution strategy in the upcoming weeks. Roya Hanna, a former Baltimore prosecutor, has suggested Mosby showed poor judgment for charging the six officers without “adequate evidence,” according to the Sun.

Meanwhile, Baltimore City’s police union has urged Mosby to drop the remaining charges against officers.

The trial of Officer Garrett E. Miller is slated to begin July 27; Officer William Porter, Sept. 6, and Sgt. Alicia D. White, Oct. 13. All officers charged pleaded not guilty.

Baltimore Bloc, citing its dissatisfaction with her performance thus far, demanded Mosby’s removal from office last month.

Kelly, who counts Baltimore Bloc among his allies, has a different outlook. Calling’s Mosby’s swift decision to charge the six officers last year  “groundbreaking,” the Baltimore activist said the ongoing police trials are justified and help give attention to police misconduct.

“She should follow through on the charges ….We need that exposure,” Kelly said. “It keeps the debate open and sparks the conversation.”