— The National Bar Association’s (NBA) ongoing pursuit of transparency and accountability in law enforcement agencies in every state, this week the NBA highlights incidents involvingindividuals in different states who have suffered from excessiveuse of force at the hands of police, and still have yet to receive a fair legal resolution or outcome.This week, the NBA highlights two families that are victims of excessive force due to lawfully recording police activity in Virginia.
In June 2014, while lawfully recording an arrest, police officer Vance Richards approached 19 year old, Devin Thomas, and asked him his age. At some point during the encounter with police, an online video shows Thomas’s cell phone camera being flipped away and a striking sounds can be heard in the background.
According to Thomas, the striking sounds were him being struck by police.”And then after he did it, he [Officer Richards], whispered in my ear, ‘Now. Record that, B—‘,” Thomas told to a Petersburg NBC12 reporter.
Petersburg NBC12’s media footage showed pictures of Thomas being led away in handcuffs with blood running down his face. In addition, in later interviews with the station, bruises were seen on Thomas’ ear and face. But rather than Officer Richards being prosecuted for excessive force, Thomas was charged for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Several weeks later in Petersburg, Virginia, 17 year old JaQuan Fisher, was standing on his front porch recording police officers arresting neighbors. Fisher’s video footage shows one of the officers entering his yard and approaching the porch to request his phone. Fisher refused to relinquish his phone and thereafter, a struggle ensued between Fisher and the police officer. Fisher’s mother attempted to intervene and at some point, a second officer came onto the family’s front porch and began to spray mace “everywhere.”
Fisher was convicted of a misdemeanor felony assault on law enforcement, and his mother was convicted of obstruction of justice. There is no information available that reveals if either of the officers were criminally charged, investigated by federal or internal authorities, placed on leave, or penalized in any way for the violations of the rights of these innocent bystanders.
“The National Bar is adamant about its desire for transformative justice,” stated Pamela Meanes, President of the National Bar Association. “While we are sadden by the growing number of police brutality cases, we are promoting peace on every street corner in the United States and around the world.”
The only way to foster systemic change is to organize, educate, and mobilize. The NBA encourages everyone to continue to fight against the injustice in Baltimore, Maryland, and throughout the United States by banning together and fighting for: 1) appointment of independent prosecutors and investigators in police involved shooting; 2) enactment of local and state laws requiring monthly diversity bad de-escalation of force training and stricter mental health testing; and 3) enactment of federal laws related to body and desk cameras, definition and training related to elevation and excessive force and making it a felony for another to watch and not another police officer for engaging in police brutality