The Congressional Black Caucus will focus on criminal justice reform, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina said in a speech on Tuesday at a ceremony where he was sworn in as the group’s new chairman.
“There is a well-founded mistrust between the African American community and law enforcement officers,” Butterfield said in a speech. “The statistics are clear. Video clips are clear.
“We recognize that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities. Unfortunately, there are some officers who abuse the sacred responsibility to protect and serve by using excessive, and sometimes deadly force when a less severe response is warranted,” the North Carolina Democrat said. “The CBC will seek legislative action to reverse this terrible trend.”
The Congressional Black Caucus also would work to try to change sentencing laws, hold prosecutors to ethical standards, and ensure that defendants have competent lawyers, Butterfield added. The CBC’s other tasks will include trying to get federal funds for communities where at least 20 percent of the population has lived in poverty for 30 years; fight budget cuts that reduce the social safety net; support legislation that improves education for African American students; and try to get legislation passed that would restore protections that the Supreme Court suspended in the Voting Rights Act.
In his speech ( text here), Butterfield spoke about growing up in Wilson, N.C., during the period of segregation. He recalled unpaved streets where black people lived, the low pay for domestic workers and tobacco laborers, and inferior black schools.
“Those experiences have helped mold my perspective and make me determined to fight every day to expose and defeat racism and discrimination wherever it may exists,” he said.
The Congressional Black Caucus welcomed five new members at the ceremony where Butterfield spoke, including one Republican, conservative Mia Love of Utah, and Democratic Reps. Alma Adams of North Carolina, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Brenda Lawrence of Michigan and Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands.