Activists, police officers and scholars from across the country packed yesterday's opening panel on "Race, Police and the Community," part of a conference on race and police brutality sponsored by Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice Institute (CJI).
About 400 people are expected to participate in the three-day conference, which features panels on racial profiling, the juvenile justice system, police leadership and police brutality.
The nine-member panel, which included political activist Rev. Al Sharpton, Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney and Boston City Councillor Chuck Turner, condemned racism across the law enforcement system.
CJI Director and Climenko Professor of Law Charles J. Ogletree, the panel's moderator, said in his opening remarks that people of color face discrimination in the criminal justice system.
"Hispanics and people of African descent are disproportionately represented in every aspect of the criminal justice system," Ogletree said. "As we begin a new century, it is appropriate for CJI to revisit this discussion and bring together a broad cross-section of activists, academics, members of law enforcement, and others to seek solutions."
Iris Baez, whose son was fatally choked by a NYPD officer in 1994, started the discussion by saying that police seem to be above the law.
"I figured this police officer who murdered my son would go to jail, because if my son murdered a police officer he would go to jail," Baez said. "It's a double standard."
Sharpton, a well-known activist against police brutality in New York City, urged minorities to take a more active role in their self-defense.
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