Durham County

They call themselves Stop Killing Us. Here’s what they want

A new organization is calling for universal standards for law enforcement across the nation to reduce fatal shootings by police and others.

The Rev. Curtis E. Gatewood, founder of the recently formed Stop Killing Us organization, and others are calling for a national day of action Aug. 28 in commemoration of the 54th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

Gatewood, former second vice president of the N.C. NAACP and former president of the Durham NAACP, called for rallies and events at 6 p.m. that day outside state justice departments and local police departments. He is asking participants to promote 18 universal standards for law enforcement in the U.S., including:

▪ eliminating searches of residences in which officers don’t knock.

▪ eliminating written and unwritten loyalty oaths within law enforcement agencies.

▪ prohibiting any form of choking people during arrests.

▪ requiring all law enforcement agencies to have and enforce a clear de-escalation policy.

The demands also seek the use of minimal deadly force, including not shooting people who have no firearm and those running in an opposite direction. The demands ask that officers who shoot unarmed individuals multiple times be prosecuted.

Gatewood held a press conference outside the Durham Police Department on Monday with Mark-Anthony Middleton, senior pastor at Abundant Hope Christian Church and radio talk show host on Choice FM, and Abdul Burnettte, who has concerns about the treatment of his son in an April incident.

“What better way can we celebrate or commemorate those great people that came before us ... by making sure this generation, they’re not being victim of another form of lynching,” Gatewood said.

“Organizations like the NAACP, other organizations, they were basically founded around stopping killings, stopping lynchings,” he said. “Similarly, in this generation you have new faces, new organizations that are going to be merging to say we don’t want to be killed in this generation, whether you are wearing a hood, whether you are carrying a rope, whether you are wearing a police gun and badge.”

The Aug. 28 action also falls on the date of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who was lynched in Mississippi after he was thought to have offended a white woman.   

Gatewood described the Stop Killing Us organization as a budding network of individuals and organizations across the nation.

The campaign stands in solidarity with Jamal Johnson, a Stop Killing Us representative in Philadelphia who is on a 150-day walk to Washington, D.C. Gatewood plans to meet Johnson in Washington at the U.S. Justice Department at 6 p.m. Aug. 28 to deliver the universal standards for law enforcement.

The movement also calls for more community policing and having officers live where they work.

“It’s easier to shoot Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun if you don’t know the family,” Gatewood said, referring to the 2014 fatal police shooting of a 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, who was holding a toy gun.

Since 2013, there have been six fatal law enforcement shootings in Durham. District Attorney Roger Echols ruled four of those cases didn’t warrant criminal prosecution. He hasn’t ruled on two that occurred this year.

The Stop Killing Us movement overlaps with some of the work Middleton is doing in the city, said Middleton, who is running for Durham City Council in Ward 2.

It also seeks the demilitarization of the police department and preventing officers who have violated their authority through an inappropriate shooting or police brutality from transferring to another department.

Durham Police Department spokesman Wil Glenn declined to comment on the proposals. A representative of the International Association of Chiefs of Police couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The Durham Police Department been working to encourage officers to move into the city by offering incentives, such as take-home cars. Some of the universal demands would be prevented by North Carolina law, including allowing individuals immediate access to footage recorded by officers. Some of the demands, Durham already meets, at least in part, including having a civilian review board.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges


For more information go to http://curtisgatewood.com/justiceministration/.