President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) Sherrilyn Ifill issued the following statement regarding the police-involved shooting death of Ms. Deborah Danner, a 66-year-old Black woman and Bronx resident with a history of mental illness:
“The tragic shooting death of Deborah Danner starkly demonstrates the all-too-real potential for fatal outcomes when inadequately trained law enforcement officers rely on excessive force and little else. Based on the developing facts, it seems clear that there were non-lethal tactics that the officer could have employed, including standing down and creating distance from the perceived threat. Yet the poor judgment displayed by this officer has resulted in the death of an elderly Black woman with a mental illness.
“While I am encouraged that the mayor and police commissioner have promptly recognized the failures of policing in this case, words will not be enough. We must see a commitment to real and lasting policing reform and a new vision for public safety that begins with tackling all forms of bias at the root and reimagines how officers are trained to engage with the public. We believe that all federal grants received by the NYPD should be conditioned on these reforms.
“Accountability is also critical in order to reestablish communities’ faith in the criminal justice system and the law enforcement agencies that are sworn to protect and serve them. Ms. Danner’s death already bears too many hallmarks of the tragic shooting death of Eleanor Bumpurs in 1984. Ms. Bumpurs was also an elderly Black woman with a history of mental illness shot and killed by police in the Bronx. Ultimately, no officer was held accountable for her death. More than three decades later, we can and must do better. There must be a full, robust, and transparent process to ensure that some measure of justice is served for Ms. Danner and her community.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.