Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Hosts Private Screening of Texas Premiere of History-Based Drama ‘Detroit’

This past Monday, July 31, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), hosted a private screening of the only Texas premiere for the history-based drama ‘Detroit’, which was preceded by a probing discussion about criminal justice reform and community-based policing.

Taking part in the panel conversation were Congresswoman Jackson Lee, Harris County Precinct One Commissioner Rodney Ellis, HPD Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner, and Reverend Dr. Marcus Cosby of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church.

The emotionally-charged film, directed by Oscar award-winner Kathryn Bigelow, depicts a police raid in 1967 in which three African American men were killed and several others were brutally beaten at the Algiers Motel in the city of Detroit, during several days of intense rioting.

The resulting urban tumult mirrored similar disruptions in other American cities during the 1960s, and foreshadowed more recent incidents in which Black people have been brutalized and even killed by members of law enforcement.

“Five decades have passed since the horrific events graphically depicted in ‘Detroit’, yet our criminal justice system is still grappling with some of the same issues regarding its treatment of minorities,” said Jackson Lee. “We must continue the conversation and work toward building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

The Houston showing of the movie ‘Detroit’ is one in a series of premiers being held by members of Congress around the nation.

Congresswoman Jackson Lee believes valuable lessons will be learned from the movie that will provoke dialogue and fuel the push to find solutions. Jackson Lee also believes that police-community relationships lie at the heart of our constitutional system and are critical for establishing effective law enforcement.

“Former Houston Mayor Lee Brown has said ‘community policing is the most effective and prudent method of policing that will work in our country’ and I believe that,” said Jackson Lee.

As in the movie, some of these events have been followed by civil unrest and large protests, as with:

  • Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
  • Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York
  • Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Sandra Bland in Prairie View, Texas

Another issue plaguing the criminal justice system surrounds the inequality in the bail system, which results in lower-income defendants serving long pretrial jail terms for minor offences.

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who has worked to address the disparities, spoke to this issue during the panel.

“It’s necessary to protect the rights of Harris County residents who are kept in a modern day debtor’s prison-locked up because they are poor,” said Ellis.

Rev. Cosby stated that the faith-based community must play an integral role in addressing the issue of criminal justice reform.

Chief Finner stated that there must be a better relationship between law enforcement officials and the community, and believes that there must be continued accountability for any officers who are not exhibiting the qualities and characteristics worthy to wear the uniform.

In April of this year, Congresswoman Jackson Lee led the Policing Strategies Working Group to Houston in its fact-finding mission to address matters surrounding law enforcement. She has been a vigilant advocate for criminal justice reform and community-oriented policing, and has introduced or cosigned a number of bills designed to address the issue, including;

  • The Effective Humane Treatment of Youth Act or Kalief’s Law
  • The Fair Chance Youth Act
  • The Sentencing Reform Act
  • The Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act
  • The End Racial and Religious Profiling Act
  • The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act

The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act is a joint effort by Congresswoman Jackson Lee and Congressman John Conyers, who is portrayed as a younger version of himself in the film. The Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act seeks to establish benchmarks for restoring trust and increasing respect between members of law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect. Congressman Conyers has said that “…recent incidents of police-involved violence have severely damaged the ties between community and law enforcement to the degree that federal action is needed to address the core issue.”