WASHINGTON DC: Pan-African Community Action (PACA), the organization of Beverly Smith, mother of Alonzo Smith who was killed by special police November 1, 2015, responded to the announcement of Mayor Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier, and Director of the Department of Consumer of Regulatory Affairs Melinda Bolling proposing changes to the training requirements for commissioned special police officers (SPOs) in the District.The proposed changes are said to be in response to the circumstances in the cases of Alonzo Smith and of 74-year-old MedStar patient James McBride, also killed by SPOs Sept. 29, 2015 at Washington Hospital Center.
It is the position of PACA that yesterday’s announcement was public relations ploy clearly timed so that the City could convolute the issue with the unrelated tribute to Stephen T. Johns, a SPO killed in the line of duty at the Holocaust Museum on June 10, 2009. The underlining message: “Regardless of any state of affairs the sanctity of and benevolent regard for police and security officers who protect the system is paramount.”
In Alonzo Smith’s case the fact of the matter is that there appears to be no justifiable reason for arresting him in the first place. Authorities and the press consistently ignore that it was an unarmed Alonzo last heard crying out “Help! Help! They are trying to kill me!” which was the reason the MPD was called to the scene by Marbury Plaza apartment residents where he was killed. Not by the officers in question.
The proposal for new and improved training of special police by the Mayor is yet again more smoke and mirrors from the demand of the Justice 4 Zo campaign for a full account of what happened that night. Video made public by the DC government shows that Alonzo was shirtless and shoeless when the MPD found him laying face down with one of the SPO’s on top of him with the officer’s knee pressed into his back. MPD immediate complicity can be witnessed in the video by their treatment of the SPO’s false claim that Alonzo was “on K2,” a term referring a synthetic drug that causes hallucinations. MPD called in the claim as fact, later to be disproven by the coroner’s report.
To keep tunnel focus on the actions that caused Alonzo’s death, while neglecting the broader circumstances and motive can serve as a cover up of what could well be outright murder by the officers, who for untold reason remain unidentified.
The City’s proposal for training, following the May 17, 2016 DC Superior Court grand jury indictment of SPOs Clifton Montgomery and Charles Brown for involuntary manslaughter of McBride, is suspected of being a political maneuver to prepare the public and the community concerned with the case of Alonzo to accept a similar outcome without question.
Mayor Bowser’s announcement reduces the issue of an epidemic of killings of Black people by police and security guards to a question of inadequate training and ignores the fact that these cases reflect a nationwide practice from which rich white communities are immune. Over the last couple years, local district attorneys and the Department of Justice have demonstrated their
inability to hold violent police officers, security guards and vigilantes accountable for their discriminatory actions.
“Unfortunately we continue to get these inadequate public responses to the homicide of my son,” says mother of Alonzo, Beverly Smith “which is part of a larger crisis of Black people, men, women and children dying at the hands of those put in charge of protecting a system that only respects rich people and their property.”
The weak recommendations for more training of SPOs will not in the least bit alter the pattern and practice of Black people being murdered by guards of the status quo, whether MPD, neighborhood watch, Metro Transit Police or so called “Special” Police Officers. Therefore, we of the Justice 4 Zo campaign reaffirm our call for community control over the police as the only solution for ending this crisis. Additionally the announced proposal is further proof that an independent dual track investigation by the United Nations and/or the Organization of Independent States is necessary.
For interviews with Beverly Smith or any other member of Pan-African Community Action send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Netfa Freeman on 301-938-4628.