By Collette Flanagan
In just a few weeks, I will join a delegation of mothers who have lost children at the hands of the police. We will descend upon Washington DC demanding justice and accountability. We will meet with elected officials, participate in strategy meetings, and have public events to tell our stories. This is my story.
On March 10, 2013, my only son, Clinton Allen, was murdered while unarmed in Dallas, Texas. He was shot seven times, once in the back. Clinton was at a residence where he had previously lived and he went there to retrieve his television. The young lady at the apartment would not open the door because her boyfriend was irritated that Clinton was there knocking, so to appease her boyfriend, she called the police. Clinton’s misfortune was that the policeman who answered the call was an eight-time excessive force abuser. Within six minutes of arriving on the scene, he had “hunted” Clinton down (Clinton had already left the home and was going to his car). Not only did he shoot Clinton seven times, he reloaded his service weapon and shot him again. This police officer is now on administrative leave, and thankfully has been kept off the streets with no badge and no gun since killing Clinton because our family demanded accountability.
In our time of grieving and looking for help, our family quickly realized that there was no help. Our elected city council members, our religious leaders, our public attorneys––none of them came forward to offer sympathy and support us in our quest for justice. As is usually the case, the media quickly sided with the police department and the character assassination of my son started immediately.
I began to understand that the killing of our young boys was some type of normalcy, not only in Dallas, but in other cities. With this revelation, my grief turned into fuel to fight for justice not only for my son, but for the many other mothers who have lost their children to police brutality and did not have a voice. That’s why I started Mothers Against Police Brutality.
We have District Attorneys in every state who circumvent justice from families –– no matter how egregious these police killings are –– and deliver impunity to policeman every single day. We don’t even have a national registry of how many people have been killed by police.
Our politicians have been epic failures in ensuring that justice is served. We have laws that protect policeman, but no laws that protect our families when someone is unjustly killed by a policeman. Our elected officials often turn a blind eye to the killing of our children. They need to understand that these families are real. The need to understand that the lives of our children matter.
History tells us that we are not dealing with a few bad apples anymore. We’re dealing with a police culture that is trained to kill and accustomed to having impunity. It’s a police culture created by years of cover-ups, with police investigating themselves. It’s a police culture where criminal officers who should be indicted and prosecuted are instead allowed to keep their badges and return to the street. It’s a police culture forged through years of no local or federal accountability.
Our local politicians, our Congressmen and women, our Senators, our President—all must speak out and act out against these egregious crimes of police brutality. This is not a black problem, a Hispanic problem, a white problem, a poor people’s problem. This is our problem.
It’s important for me to be a part of this delegation to Washington so our lawmakers understand that this is a systemic problem nationwide. If different policies and procedures were in place when it comes to the use of deadly force, if there were better police trainings focused on preserving life instead of taking life, and if there was real accountability for policeman who unjustly take lives, then the sons and daughters of the mothers in this delegation would be alive.
It’s time that we, as grieving mothers, know who is on our side and who is not, who believes in justice and who supports the status quo. That’s why we are going to Washington DC. We want answers, we want justice, we want accountability, we want to be heard. Hear us roar.
Collette Flanagan from Dallas, Texas, is founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, which lobbies for change in police enforcement practices and accountability measures.