By Iris Raeshaun
National Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump tag teamed with local activist Tiffany Lee in pressing Houston Police Chief Troy Finner for answers regarding the disproportionate number of African Americans killed at the hands of police officers and what he has done to protect citizens the same way police officers are protected.
Crump, Lee, and Finner talked head-on during Thursday’s Pleasantville Town Hall meeting called by community members angered by the fatal police shooting of Jalen Randle on April 27, 2022, by Officer Shane Privette.
Crump represents the Randle-Rachel family. His firm secured a record $27 million settlement for George Floyd’s family for wrongful death in 2021, $12 million for Breonna Taylor’s 2020 death, $1.5 million for Mike Brown’s 2017 death, and $2 million for Trayvon Martin’s 2021 death. Lee, a parent and resident of Pleasantville, personally knew Randle.
Crump started by addressing white police officers’ selective shooting.
“Let’s just be real about what’s going on here,” said Crump. “There’s a disproportion in the numbers and frequency in which deadly force is used by white officers on Black and brown people and other groups. It’s what black folks are saying every day. You have this young, confirmed mass murderer taken away alive and others who don’t surrender and they are not killed like an unarmed man who is running away,” Crump said referring to a white 18-year-old gunman who targeted and killed Black shoppers last May and 29-year-old Randle, who was running from police.
“We should not see 60 to 75 percent of deadly force served on Blacks when we are only 13 percent of America’s total population. What do you have to say to that?”
A total of 528 civilians have been shot, 35 of whom were Black, as of June 2022, per Statista.com. The site also states in 2021, there were 1,055 fatal police shootings, and in 2020 there were 1,020 fatal shootings. Additionally, the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 40 fatal shootings per million of the population as of June 2022.
“We do look at race and more importantly, the action of our officers first,” said Finner. “We have to continue that, but as a nation, we cannot keep brushing over what you’re saying. Why are the numbers swayed to one side? You have to look at that and I’m not going to cover up for that.”
Crump then asked if white officers receive bias training.
“It is a part of the training, but it shouldn’t be just training, training, training. It should be a part of the department’s DNA and understanding history to help know how we should deal and interact with people,” said Finner.
Lee became increasingly persistent with Finner when he failed three times to answer to her satisfaction or identify what the department does specifically to build a bridge between police and communities for less tragic endings.
“We do not need task forces coming out here killing our loved ones,” Lee said. “I don’t want to be in this same place two to three years from now advocating for the same thing.”
Lee said she and other leaders educate youth about voting processes and police compliance.
“How would you assure us that you’re protecting us the same way police are protected and assure us that you’re not just wearing a suit. Respectfully, right now, we don’t feel like you’re doing anything,” said Lee. “Don’t talk in circles. Don’t tell me what you plan to do. Again, in depth, what are you doing now?” asked Lee.
Finner acquiesced, without pointing to any specific system, but asking Lee if they could sit and talk about what could be done.
“We all have blind spots,” said Finner. “This is something we hadn’t talked about. Where is that bridge? We have to find that not just in this community but in all communities.”