As protests against police brutality and systemic racism filled streets across the country this summer, a group of Black prosecutors in the nation’s capital began thinking about how they, too, could take a stand.
They shared the outrage over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people at the hands of police. But the demands for change also sparked soul-searching about their own roles in a massive criminal justice system that some had been a part of for decades.
What began with a few emotional phone calls and emails quickly became a more organized effort of heart-wrenching, reflective Web meetings and detailed policy discussions.
In the end, 32 Black federal prosecutors in Washington signed a 10-page memo to acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin outlining changes they say will help ensure that prosecutors make the fairest decisions, void of nonlegal influences and biases.
They called for implicit bias training for prosecutors and the end of a strategy for gun-crime prosecutions they said disproportionately targets Black communities. They also called for a new focus on alternatives to incarceration.