Statement of Intent: Baton Rouge incidents
There are several incidents that have occurred in recent weeks in Baton Rouge that have led to the need for the activation of Foundation for Louisiana’s Rapid Response Fund (RRF).
Shootings of Alton Sterling and Police Officers
Along with many other residents of Baton Rouge, throughout Louisiana and across the United States, all of us at Foundation for Louisiana were shocked and saddened by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Deputy Brad Garafola with East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and officers Matthew Gerald and Montrell Jackson of the Baton Rouge Police Department, as well as three other injured police officers.
On July 5, Alton Sterling was killed by police officers with the Baton Rouge Police Department in front of the Triple S Food Mart where he was selling CDs. The shooting is now being investigated by the Department of Justice at the request of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.
In the days immediately following his death more than 100 people were arrested in Baton Rouge in one weekend as they engaged in peaceful protests demanding reform of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Similar protests and arrests also occurred in Minnesota, which followed the police-involved shooting death there of another African-American man, Philando Castile, on July 6.
On Sunday, July 17, three Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge police officers were shot and killed and three more were injured just weeks after a similar shooting took place in Dallas, Texas. These incidents, although orchestrated by individuals who targeted police, have left the law enforcement community feeling like they are under siege. Gov. Edwards in a press conference said, “This is an unspeakable and unjustified attack on all of us at a time when we need unity and healing.”
Background on the Issues
Police Shootings in the US vs. Other Developed Countries
The numbers of individuals killed by police in the United States in 2015 are estimated to be 930 according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. But, this isn’t the reality in other countries. According to the Free Thought Project, shootings by police in the U.S. are more than 70 times greater than many other “first world” countries. In the United Kingdom only one person was killed by police in 2014 and none in 2013. In England alone (a population about 52 million) only four people were fatally shot by police between 2010 and 2014.
Alternative Police-Community Relations
There are law enforcement agencies in the U.S that are trying new approaches. Efforts such as these are important part of addressing inequity in our communities. Police Chief David Brown in Dallas has made great strides over the past several years to develop better relationships with the community. In fact, right before the shooting, the Dallas Black Lives Matter protest was an excellent example of police and community working hand-in-hand to honor the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
The former police chief of Richmond, California, Chris Magnus marched with Black Lives Matter last year demonstrating the significant improvement in police-community relations in that city following its focus on community policing. Not only had there been no police-involved shootings during his tenure but homicide rates also dropped dramatically.
Police Violence and Communities of Color
The longstanding distrust between police and communities of color, at times like this, is most evident. We recognize that this distrust is the result of the unresolved legacy of slavery and racism, which has resulted in the criminalization and mass incarceration of black and brown people at alarmingly disproportionate rates. This is particularly true in Louisiana where there are well-documented cases of police brutality, that are illustrative of the troubled history between police and people of color that dates back hundreds of years.
That is why, even during difficult times like these, we stand in solidarity with those demanding justice and who are pushing honest conversations that will bring about solutions. While we grieve the loss of lives, we must also continue to demand an end to police violence, eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system and build trust between police and the communities they serve.
To that end, we see the following four areas as opportunities to support the Baton Rouge community in seeking an end to this injustice and pivot towards long-term systemic change:
• Grassroots community organizers are essential to reform efforts. We want to support local organizing infrastructure by building capacity while creating spaces for organizers to come together to develop collective strategies.
• Strategic communications are crucial to ensure that there is accurate and appropriate representation of on-the-ground activities by activists. Additionally, it is important that the voices of people in the community dealing with the impact of police violence are elevated and amplified.
• Developing policy changes that are evidence-based and creating opportunities to respond to policies that further hinder community and police relations.
• Activists and protestors need significant support and resources to be able to participate in civil actions. For those who were arrested, who have previous interactions with police, we want to ensure that they have the long-term legal help they need.
Rapid Response Fund Information
Urgent situations such as these require swift, on-the-ground philanthropic responses and ongoing strategic analysis. As a result, the foundation is activating a Rapid Response Fund (RRF) to support those situations that require a faster and more nimble response than is available through a normal grant process.
FFL believes that there needs to be holistic and whole community support in response to these shootings. We anticipate funding activities and organizations that work with police officers and community members.
There are a number of activities that can be funded through this current activation of the RRF, and the foundation welcomes creative ideas. We are particularly interested in supporting projects that:
• Build partnerships to improve relationships between the Baton Rouge Police Department and the communities it serves.
• Monitor the Department of Justice investigation of the killing of Alton Sterling.
• Develop skills and provide resources for ongoing mobilization efforts (for example, legal fees and services, supplies).
• Provide emotional support and/or spiritual care for anyone who is affected – community members, police and families.
• Support activities that strengthen the core organizing groups and create sustainable grassroots leadership.
• Build engagement in policy efforts toward systemic reform including advocacy and policy change.
• Engagement in training and education (workshops, public meetings)
• Development and distribution of print and/or audio-visual materials (for example, Rights and Responsibilities during a police stop).
• A variety of documentation efforts such videography, photography, and other methods to capture the voices of people impacted by police violence.
The fund is accepting investments from both institutional and individual donors who are interested in supporting individuals and organizations who are on the front lines in organizing efforts.
To support the fund, visit www.foundationforlouisiana.org/donate
A Rapid Response Fund is designed to provide short term, immediate support for time-limited projects and activities. For this current activation grant activities must be completed by Feb. 15, 2017. The fund will accept applications on a revolving basis as long as funding is available.
Click here for the guidelines
Click here for grant application form
About Foundation for Louisiana
The mission of the Foundation for Louisiana is to invest in people and practices that work to reduce vulnerability and build stronger, more sustainable communities statewide. The board and staff of the Foundation for Louisiana are guided by a set of core values and beliefs:
• Increased access to resources and opportunity strengthens vulnerable communities and improves qualify of life for all residents.
• The grassroots wisdom of Louisiana residents is one of our most valuable resources.
• Growing economic opportunity spurs innovation and creates shared prosperity.
• Individuals and families have the right to maintain their dignity amidst disaster.
• Achieving equity and inclusion for all Louisianans requires effective public policy and systemic change.
• Given appropriate resources and support, communities are able to solve their own problems and chart their own futures.
• Transparency and accountability are cornerstones of integrity and institutional success.
• Collaboration and continuous learning improves the reach and quality of our work.
• A diverse board and staff, representative of the diversity of our state, provide the best leadership for the Foundation.
Foundation for Louisiana views people from diverse backgrounds as partners, not just clients or recipients of services and does not discriminate against employees, volunteers, board members, grant applicants or any of our other constituents on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, medical condition, veteran status, marital status, mental or physical disabilities, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other characteristic protected by law.