Fighting for Change
10 years ago, Wanda Johnson’s son, Oscar Grant, was fatally shot by a police officer at a BART station in Oakland, California. Since his tragic death, Wanda has been fighting for police reform to ensure that all police officers are properly trained. Together with Ron Davis – a former police officer and Director of the Office of Community Oriented Police Services of the United States Department of Justice – she has been working to help bridge the gap between police and community. Chanda sat down with Wanda and Ron to talk about what’s broken in the justice system, what changes need to be made, and how anger can be turned into purpose.
The Rev. Wanda Johnson is a voice of compassion and hope for individuals having lost loved ones due to violence. Her heart-breaking story made worldwide news on January 1, 2009, when her unarmed son, Oscar J. Grant III, was shot and killed by a local transit peace officer. Since then, her mission has been to work tirelessly to undo the negative stereotyping of at-risk youth, to comfort grieving families, and to improve policy and procedure in the criminal justice system.
In 2014, Rev. Wanda began serving as President and CEO of the Oscar Grant Foundation, a 501c3 Non-Profit tax-exempt corporation. Since that time, Rev. Wanda has hosted a number of events and activities at which law enforcement officers have participated, with the goal of bridging the gap of distrust between at-risk youth and the law enforcement community. Those activities include a School Supply Drive, Scholarship Awards Ceremony and Annual Vigil. Additional Foundation Programs for at-risk youth include an after-school Homework Club, Friday Film Festival and Youth Panel Discussion, and several AAU Basketball Teams for boys and girls.
In 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Ronald L. Davis to serve as Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2014, President Obama appointed Ron to serve as Executive Director of the newly created President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a group charged with developing concrete recommendations to improve community trust in the police while enhancing public safety.
Prior to serving as COPS Director, Ron had a distinguished career in law enforcement, serving eight years as Chief of Police of East Palo Alto and 20 years with the Oakland Police Department. He served on two federal monitoring teams with oversight of police-reform consent decrees between the Department of Justice and the Washington, D.C., and Detroit police departments. He co-authored the Harvard University and National Institute of Justice publications Race and Policing: An Agenda for Action, and Exploring the Role of the Police in Prisoner Reentry. He is also a co-author of the Department of Justice publication How to Correctly Collect and Analyze Racial Profiling Data: Your Reputation Depends on It and a contributing author to several Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) publications.