Seven years ago this April, Emma Jones’ son Malik, was killed by a police officer. This April, she will try to add one more success to her mounting campaign to prevent future acts of police brutality.
At a meeting on Sunday attended by about 25 people, Jones, and the organization she founded in her son’s memory — the MALIK Organization — discussed their proposal for an all civilian police complaint review board. They discussed their upcoming public hearing before the Board of Aldermen and went over demands for their complaint review board: that it be separate from the police department; conduct independent investigations; and have genuine community representation, the power to subpoena and sanction, time limits for investigations, and informative public meetings. The group also decided to refuse to compromise.
“I know what works, and this is the only thing that will work,” Jones said.
Malik Jones, an African-American New Haven resident, was fatally shot by white East Haven police officer Robert Flodquist on April 14, 1997. A state police investigation ruled that Flodquist was acting in self-defense and after a short suspension, he returned to the police force. In April 1999, Emma Jones filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court against the town of East Haven for violating her son’s civil rights by failing to stop police from racially profiling him — chasing him from the New Haven border and using excessive force based on the color of his skin. In July, 2003, the jury ruled in her favor and she was awarded $2.5 million.
Jones founded the MALIK Organization, named in her son’s memory, which aims to make police accountable for their actions. Jones said the group draws its power from the fact that its members “speak from experience,” and that in her community, anyone with a son fears police brutality.
“You are terrified when they go out because you have no idea what’s going to happen to them,” she said.
Jones described the group as a small core of “innovative, creative, strategic thinkers,” who bring together other members from all over to help carry out their plans. The group’s latest proposal, an all-civilian police complaint review board, has been sitting on the table for three years. Currently, the police review themselves, and thus there is no accountability to the community, she said.
“Before, it was useless to complain,” Jones said. “We have to figure out some rational ways to hold police accountable for their conduct.”
In addition to the review board, the MALIK Organization is also trying to battle police brutality by mobilizing task forces that deal with racial profiling, accountability, and police and block watches, as well as developing solid court, prison and family support networks. MALIK not only limits itself to the issue of police brutality, but the group has also brainstormed solutions to keeping young people off the streets and various forms of prison reform.
Kevin Muhammad, a MALIK committee leader since 1997 said he is optimistic about the MALIK Organization’s current review board proposal.
“MALIK’s [past] success in getting justice and publicity will lend a hand to what we’re trying to do in ending police misconduct,” he said.
Edith Hunter, a New Haven resident of 44 years who has been with the group since its conception, said she is tired of waiting for justice.
“We’re tired of them doing nothing. We’re bringing about a change,” she said.
Jones expressed similar emotions and confidence.
“We’re no where near through. This is just the beginning,” she said.
The Board of Aldermen will consider the proposal at a public hearing on April 8.