At Philly forum, civil rights attorney Crump addresses community-police relations

Benjamin Crump was in Philadelphia Wednesday to discuss the state of community-police relations — and how to make them better. (AP file photo)

Benjamin Crump was in Philadelphia Wednesday to discuss the state of community-police relations — and how to make them better. (AP file photo)

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and Philadelphia’s former Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison shared a table in West Philadelphia on Wednesday to discuss the state of community-police relations — and how to make them better.

Inside an auditorium at University of Pennsylvania Law School, Crump and Gillison took turns offering solutions to one of the hottest of hot-button issues.

Crump has been at the center of the debate as an attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, black teens who were killed while unarmed.

To him, those shootings are part of a systemic problem that won’t stop until police officers are held accountable.

“Unless some of these police officers who break the law have to do the perp walk, then there’s no deterrent value to an officer thinking twice about whether to shoot a black boy or a brown boy in the back as he’s running away,” Crump told a full house of law students.

Gillison, also a former public defender, said police departments have to do a better job of self-regulation, particularly when it comes to weeding out problem officers.

At the same time, Gillison said, police have to be the ones to start the process of rebuilding trust in the community.

“The police have to go first because there’s a lack of trust. If we wait for the community to say, ‘OK, we trust you’ without any demonstrable action, nothing is going to go on,” said Gillison.

Penn Law invited Gillison and Crump as part of its eighth annual Public Interest Week.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.