[JURIST] Democrats in Congress called for hearings [USA Today report] in the wake of police shootings of Alton Sterling [WP report] and Philando Castile [CNN report], two black men, earlier this week. Congressman and House Judiciary Committee member, Cedric Richmond [official website] from Louisiana, the state in which Alton Sterling was killed, stated:
I’m not sure if legislation comes out, but hopefully a hearing will come out where we can talk to law enforcement, victims’ families and other experts on how do we start preventing this and how do we better train our law enforcement officers on de-escalation tactics, on all the other alternatives to deadly force.
Richmond and other lawmakers have been drafting legislation that would give victims’ families the right to independent investigations, independent autopsies and an independent prosecutor. Much concern has been directed to FBI Director James Comey [official profile], asking him to get the current situation under control before civil unrest unfolds. Concerns of civil unrest have already been prophetic, as shooters killed five police officers [CNN report] and injured seven more and two civilians during a protest to the recent police shootings. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus [official website] have also made known their desire to meet with House Republican leaders, as well as Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch [official profile] to discuss the high rate of black men and women killed by police. Several high-profile democratic leaders have also made statements [CNN report] on the killings on social media, including presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The response to the recent shootings comes as national recognition of police use of deadly-force against black citizens increases. In May Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law an amended hate crimes bill [JURIST report], referred to as the “Blue Lives Matter” law, including police, EMS personnel and firefighters in the category of those protected. The bill has drawn the contempt of some civil rights groups, including the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Earlier this year the US Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation [JURIST report] of the San Francisco Police Department following the shooting of an unarmed African American. In December an Ohio grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] two officers involved in a 2014 shooting resulting in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Earlier that month the DOJ announced that it would be opening a full investigation [JURIST report] into the Chicago Police Department following the 2014 police shooting death of a black teenager.