Boldin among players pressing for criminal justice fix
Washington — Former Detroit Lion Anquan Boldin and other pro football players pushed lawmakers to revive criminal justice reform legislation that has stalled in Congress at a Thursday forum on “building trust between communities and police.”
Boldin, a free-agent wide receiver who played last year for the Lions, invoked the death of his cousin, Corey Jones, who was killed a year and a half ago by a police officer in Florida while he was waiting on a highway for roadside assistance. Boldin said the officer was in plain clothes and arrived at the scene in a van that did not have any police markings.
“In October of 2015, my cousin … was driving home from a show with a band. Around 2 a.m., his car broke down on the side of highway. While he was waiting for help, a cargo van pulled up. Not a police car, a van,” Boldin said. “My cousin had no way of knowing that he was dealing with a police officer. Moments later, my cousin was dead.”
The comments came during a forum that was organized by minority Democrats in the House, including Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit. No Republican lawmakers attended Thursday’s proceedings, but at least two House committee chairmen met with Boldin and the other National Football League players on Wednesday.
Boldin said changing the way minority communities are policed is essential to restoring trust between law enforcement officers and populations that are usually suspicious of them.
“The community I come from wants and needs to know that they are being heard,” he said. “We certainly do not feel that we’re being heard right now, especially when it comes to law enforcement and police.
“Our neighborhoods are feeling hurt right now, and we want to see changes, which is where you come in. ...This is work to be done on both sides because there’s mistrust on both sides.”
Boldin was joined on the panel by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who cited high incarceration rates as a problem that prevents more cooperation between police and minority communities.
“We spend $80 billion a year locking our own citizens up,” Jenkins said. “We lead the civilized world in incarceration. There’s no way to build trust when our police are the front line of a broken system.”
Democrats who attended the forum largely agreed with the players, but they pushed the athletes to create proposals that could be included in legislation if Congress revives talks on a criminal justice reform package.
“For the better part of two decades, the relationships between African-American communities and their police departments across the nation have hovered in a state of volatility, awaiting a single incident to combust,” said U.S. Rep. Conyers, who is the longest-serving member of Congress.
“This is the ‘what do we do about this’ part of our coming together today,” he added.
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, expressed her fears about current relations.
“Two-thirds of young African-Americans and four in 10 Hispanics say they or someone have experienced violence or harassment at the hands of police,” Lawrence said. “I’m a mother of a son, and did I have that conversation with him about how to conduct himself (with police)? I had that fear raising my son.”