As we witnessed the surrealism of the recent George Floyd and Breonna Taylor cases, we can unanimously agree that law enforcement death has been in place for far too long and the time for reform is now.
The question is how long "now" will be.
Inside Edition recently recorded the details of the area that led to the 2012 murder of Shereese Francis, who was killed in her home by four NYPD officials. Her best friend Sunshine Smith-Williams, along with Francis' sister and other supporters, has worked tirelessly for the last eight years to achieve justice and drive reform – especially at the legal level.
Smith-Williams, a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, youth attorney, public speaker, film producer, and writer, says no progress has been made in fixing America's broken police system. The judicial and American police systems are built on systemic racism because the system was created by an oppressed foundation itself.
“Police officers should protect and serve. The officers who arrived at my friend's house came in aggressively, unskilled, and untrained to respond to an emotionally disturbed phone call that should have been handled by a psychologist. She screamed that she couldn't breathe like the late Eric Garner before he was murdered, ”says Smith-Williams.
This pursuit of justice brought with it several obstacles and setbacks, such as being inaccessible to see the disciplinary history of the four officers who committed the murder. The repeal of 50-A by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo now allows the public to review the disciplinary behavior of police officers. Knowing who those officers were can show the Queens District Attorney that the aggressive behavior may not have been an outlier.
The old saying goes, "Nothing changes if nothing changes." The repeal of 50-A, the public murder of George Floyd, and a pledge to the Francis family led Smith-Williams to speak publicly and use her voice as an advocate for change. She decided to take action looking for policy changes and wrote a police reform bill called "The Shereese Francis Act." That bill was presented to longtime Queens-based and New York City Council member Adrienne E. Adams, who confirmed she supported the bill.
Smith-Williams has teamed up with Dorothy Toran and Leslie Ferrell of Lauren Grace Media, who owns Toran, a former producer of Bravo's The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Ferrell, a former vice president of production at NBC Universal and Bravo Media. You have a development agreement to create the Shereese Francis life story. The Francis family have been gracious to give their blessings and assist in this endeavor.
“We wanted to tell different stories that people of color can identify with. I am currently a co-executive producer and have a moral duty to shed light on what you did to my boyfriend. "- Sunshine Smith-Williams
Smith-Williams offers advice on how to begin seeking justice when faced with a similar situation:
- Find a civil rights attorney who is willing to step into the trenches and fight for you and with you during this painful ordeal. Please note that a qualified legal professional is required to prove injustice. Your lawyer must be passionate and knowledgeable about civil rights and police policy.
- Build relationships within your community. They want to seek justice in legislation and then start voting! Are you registered to vote? The vote is your vote, not only for the next sitting president, but also for your local candidates such as your mayor, district attorney, attorney general, and councilors.
- Make sure you are actively involved in your community. Create interactive programs that bridge the gap with community and police. "Whenever I go to my old ward or run ward and youth events, I would like to see more officials who look like I'm monitoring my area," says Smith Williams. “My community-based organization, Investing In Us, has relationships with community leaders, activists, and community affairs in the local district. After my professor recently received a Certificate of Family Engagement in Education from Harvard, he learned that advocating for change really begins in the home and in the community. The more we are involved, the more we will evolve! "
Finally, Smith-Williams has some solutions on how we can implement effective police reform in our communities.
- "I would oppose overly aggressive police tactics like 'stop and frisk' or those normally used by police anti-gang units where large numbers of people are contacted, stopped, searched and monitored," says you.
- To avoid access problems, establish independent community inspection bodies with full access to police records, subpoena powers, powers to conduct investigations, and powers to discipline officers and command personnel.
- It all starts with community and prioritizing social services and community development in impoverished neighborhoods over police funding.
- "Our communities need help," concludes Smith-Williams. "Instead of monitoring drug use, let us provide adequate community-based voluntary drug treatment and harm reduction services. In white communities, they treat drug use as a disease. Our communities need the same approach and consideration. Shereese was murdered for using excessive force." and did not follow police policy of answering Emotionally Disturbed Persons (EDP) calls. It is imperative to maintain effective, supportive and voluntary community mental health services rather than responding to mental health problems with policing. "