FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2020
Contact: Juan Ramiro Sarmiento
(785) 760-6567 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement on the Killing of Walter Wallace Jr.
Washington, DC – On Monday, officers with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man carrying a knife while experiencing a mental health crisis in West Philadelphia, fueling street protests across the nation for a third consecutive day. Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) has ordered the Pennsylvania National Guard to be deployed to Philadelphia as demonstrations intensify across the city. The PPD has yet to release body camera footage from the incident and signaled an ongoing investigation.
In response, Rachel Fleischer, Executive Director for Young Invincibles, issued the following statement.
“Our hearts break for Walter Wallace Jr., his family, and his community. This week brings us yet another cell phone video capturing the brutal murder of a black man at the hands of police, retraumatizing Black Americans and reminding us all of the pervasive injustice in our country. Mr. Wallace’s death is the latest fatal example of a long history of systemic police violence against black bodies across this nation. Walter Wallace Jr. tragically joins 994 people killed at the hands of police so far this year, including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, George Floyd in Minnesota, and Rayshard Brooks in Georgia.
This is not about a particular police officer or department, but rather a broader system that facilitates routine murder and impunity. Incremental police reform has failed. We have tried this approach by pouring resources into departments with robust funding to improve policing. Police killings, however, continue unchecked. It is not possible to reform the rot of systemic racism.
This recent incident of police violence highlights the dire need to shift funding priorities across the nation. Mental health is a prime example of underfunded public services sacrificed to further increase police department budgets. The largest mental health provider in the United States is the prison system. Failure to fund basic mental health services has effectively criminalized mental health. Each year, state and local governments spend upward of $100 billion dollars on law enforcement at the expense of critical and desperately needed public services. It’s time to divest from police departments with exorbitant budgets and invest in our communities. It’s time to create communities where Black people and communities of color more broadly will not only survive but thrive. It’s time to create communities where people like Mr. Wallace, who need mental health services, can easily access and afford them. Mental health, school counselors, after-school care, job-training programs, and affordable housing are public priorities that create safe and healthy communities instead of police in schools, criminalization of mental health, homelessness, and poverty.
We cannot rely on police forces to resolve societal ills by reflexively throwing tax dollars to no avail. Access to mental health services is violence prevention. Quality education is violence prevention. Affordable housing is violence prevention. Enacting a living-wage is violence prevention. A police-state is not violence prevention.”