More protests against systemic racism and police brutality are expected across South Florida this weekend.
The rallying cry — “no justice, no peace” — echoed the sadness and frustration of demonstrations around the country. The ongoing struggle against racism and police brutality erupted again after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
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Protesters have also been calling for justice for Breonna Taylor, who would’ve turned 27 years old Friday. She was killed by Louisville police in March.
Some activists are demanding change from the criminal justice system. Florida law gives a lot of latitude to law enforcement officers involved in on-duty shootings and deaths.
“We do prosecute police,” said Katherine Fernandez Rundle on the South Florida Roundup on Friday. "We don't like to because most of them are good and honorable. But when they cross the line, when they break the trust with the people, and they commit a crime, we do prosecute them."
Some advocates have criticized Rundle's record for rarely bringing charges on officers involved in on-duty shootings and deaths.
The Roundup also had a panel conversation with Tifanny Burks, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, Lonnie Lawrence, a former Miami-Dade police officer and an executive board of the South Florida chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. They were joined by Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee, who represents parts of southern Miami-Dade County.
Here’s an excerpt of their conversation:
TIFANNY BURKS: What we're really calling for when it comes down to police accountability is for defunding to happen. How do we actually divest resources from police departments and actually invest it into community initiatives that keep our communities safe? About four years ago, after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were murdered by the police, some of our demands were community oversight boards and having more access to body cameras, de-escalation training and implicit bias training. But on a local level, we got a lot of those things. And police violence on a local and a national level still continues to be a public health crisis.
TOM HUDSON: When you're talking about defunding, is that zero dollars? Or is that a decrease in current funding for law enforcement and police departments?
BURKS: It's both. It is calling for a decrease, but it is the eventual complete defunding of police departments? And just to make clear, I am a prison and police abolitionist. That means that I look forward to the day where we don't have to rely on police, prisons and punishment, and instead, our communities actually have all the resources that they need to keep us safe. We believe in the ending of violence and we don't think that prisons and police actually end violence.
We actually think that they recreate and make violence worse in our communities. And so the goal is to decrease, but it's also to completely defund and take those billions of dollars of resources and pour it into community programs that uplift and keep our communities safe.
LONNIE LAWRENCE: One of the things that cannot be legislated is heart, compassion. You can't train anybody to do that. When you're dealing with the human element, these things happen. I'm not saying they should happen, and we need to find a way to address it. But you know the old saying, you don't throw out the baby with the bath water. However it goes. That's what we have to keep in mind. We have to make sure that the resources are there for programs designed to keep people out of the criminal justice system.
HUDSON: Tiffany, I'm wondering how you're hearing Lonnie talk about the need for systemic change within the system and some of your ambition to, in my words, I suppose, scrap the system.
BURKS: I think that we have to think radically different about the current systems that are in place, or like the possibilities of different things in place. When community policing was referenced earlier, what I was thinking about was more of restorative justice, and not from the criminal justice point of view.
I'm a trained restorative justice circle keeper and I've been trained for a little bit over three and a half years. This is a community, non-punitive approach to handling conflict, trauma and harm. What would it look like to have self-reliant communities that could actually address and deal with the root cause of why somebody is acting a certain way that does not have to include policing at all?
And I think that the possibilities are very real. We did a lot of the things that call for reform. I remember speaking at an action years ago. I was calling for all these things to reform police departments, and a lot of those things happened. We got more body cams. We got de-escalation training. We got racial bias training. Police violence, even on a local level, is still rising, so we're looking for other possibilities.
The transcript of this interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.