is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are
all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
-Jesus, as recounted in Luke 12:6-7 (NRSV)
The decision of a Staten Island grand jury not to indict police officer Daniel Panteleo in the death of Eric Garner, coupled with the recent decision of a St. Louis grand jury not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, has sparked nationwide outrage and protests.
The National Council of Churches calls upon prosecutors and police forces, juries and judges, to hold police officers accountable when they kill. The appropriate place to judge innocence or guilt is not in the grand jury but in a trial setting where defense and prosecution come together to carefully present the facts of a case.
On December 2, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an analysis of 105 police departments from 2007-2012 and found that 550 police killings were missing from the national total. Further, the Journal found that in those 105 police agencies at least 1800 people were killed by police. The current indignation is not based only on the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
We believe that no one can be above the law, including one whose job it is to enforce it. We are deeply concerned about the ways the grand jury process is repeatedly producing the outcomes seen in Ferguson and now New York.
“While we support the use of body cameras by police, the case of Eric Garner clearly shows that a camera would not have prevented Mr. Garner’s death, nor would it ensure that the officers involved in his death would be held accountable for their abuse of power,” said NCC General Secretary Jim Winkler. “As a society we must rid ourselves of the notion that one life is worth more than another.”
We continue to strive for a society in which every life, precious to God, is valued and cherished.