Justin Hansford, executive director of the Howard University School of Law Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, sat with The Informer for a brief Q&A session on civil and human justice issues:
Washington Informer: Many cities are conducting anti-bias/sensitivity training for local law enforcement to improve relationships in the community. What do you think about this approach?
Justin Hansford: We oppose sensitivity training. Police who brutalize Black youth in Ward 8 would never brutalize a kid in Chevy Chase, Bethesda, or Capitol Hill. They already know how to be sensitive when the citizen is White and rich, so training is worse than useless because it is a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be invested in the schools, hospitals, or underfunded social services for the homeless. The city should divest from police and invest in the people — schools, hospitals, shelters for the homeless and other social services that actually help people instead of harming them.
WI: How is the center working on civil and human rights with the D.C. Council?
JH: We experienced progress in our meeting with Ward 5 City Council member Kenyan McDuffie, a Howard University alumnus and friend of the center’s human rights work. We spoke to Ward 8 City Council member Trayon White, who pledged to help in any way he can. I am on the board of the Mike O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons and Daughters Foundation, a national advocacy organization. We will continue to support relief in the form of mental health care for families of those victimized by police violence. Regardless of who is at fault, families in the District deserve to be healed when the government hurts families through the mechanism of the police.
WI: Who will the center partner with to carry out its civil and human rights work?
JH: We are open to working with all city agencies, but the type of agency we are most concerned with is a citizen agency. We must exercise our own independent vision unchained by narrow electoral political mechanisms. We primarily want to work with citizens organized in the form of nonprofit organizations, community organizers, and the youth of the district in the public schools.