United Nations Asked for Help in Federal Prosecution of Chattanooga Police Officers
United Nations Asked For Help
In Federal Prosecution
Of Chattanooga Police Officers
(Nashville, Tenn.) â€“ A complaint sent Nov. 5 to the U.N. Human Rights Council accuses the U.S. Department of Justice of failing to protect the civil rights of African Americans in Chattanooga and Hamilton County by refusing to prosecute law enforcement officers who have used deadly force to kill 61 people, most of whom were black, since 1983.
The over five dozen murders of citizens by Chattanooga area police are examples of a long history of â€œracialized policingâ€ in the United States that will not end without the â€œexternal proddingâ€ of the U.S. judicial system from international bodies like the UNHRC, according to the 14-page complaint. It asks the human rights council to urge the DOJ to sue the city of Chattanooga for engaging â€œin a pattern and practice of police misconductâ€ against black people, and asks for the long-sought criminal prosecution of two ex-jailers.
Chattanooga ranks No. 1 in the United States in incidents of police brutality in cities of less than 200,000 people and No. 7 for fatal encounters with police, according to DOJ and FBI reports.
The complaint was filed by Power to the People, a Nashville-based non-profit, human rights organization, and Maxine Cousin, co-founder of Concerned Citizens for Justice, a Chattanooga civil rights group. The legal redress chairman of Power to the People, Lorenzo Ervin, is a former president of Concerned Citizens for Justice and was an activist against racism and police brutality in his hometown of Chattanooga for 18 years.
Cousinâ€™s father, Wadie Suttles, a 66-year-old black man, was beaten to death while a prisoner at the Chattanooga City Jail in December, 1983. According to an FBI investigation, Suttles was killed by Mike Williams, who is now the assistant chief of the Chattanooga Police Department, and ex-CPD officer Melvin Carson.
A civil rights lawsuit filed by the Suttles family in 1984 revealed the names of Williams, who was then a CPD sergeant, and Carson. Carson held Suttles down while Williams beat him to death, according to the FBI.
The FBI claimed it provided the names of Williams and Carson to local officials, with the understanding that the DOJ would not prosecute the two men.
Charging that the criminal investigation and the lawsuit of the Suttles family was â€œsubverted by a corrupt judicial process,â€ with the aid of then Mayor Gene Roberts, a former FBI agent, and other local officials, the petition asks the UNHRC to demand that the case be reopened and that Williams and Carson are prosecuted.
Federal law gives the DOJ the authority to criminally prosecute law enforcement officers who violate the civil rights of citizens. The law has never been used in Chattanooga and only sparingly used in the United States over the past 50 years, the petition states.
A federal civil rights law allows the DOJ and other federal agencies to suspend or cut off federal funding to police agencies or city governments which use racial discrimination or abusive and racist policies.
The 47-member UNHRC, which includes the United States, was created by the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 to make recommendations on cases of human rights violations around the world.
In 2007, following a complaint to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by a coalition of U.S. civil rights groups, the U.S representative to the CERD acknowledged many â€œerrorsâ€ in law enforcement practices against racial minorities in the United States.
A copy of the complaint to the UNHRC was sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.