Board of Directors

Steve Shaff

Stephen Shaff is a community and political organizer, social entrepreneur, and the founder of Community-Vision Partners (C-VP), a community and social solutions Benefit LLC whose mission is to initiate, facilitate and agitate for the Common Good. A significant project of C-VP has been the establishment and development of the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Council (CSBC), a business-led educational and advocacy organization whose mission is to promote and expand sustainable business viability, awareness, and impact within the Chesapeake region (MD, DC and VA). Shaff’s background represents an unusually broad but interrelated series of accomplishments along with a multi-sector network of relationships and contacts. His areas of expertise include inner-city Washington, DC Affordable Housing & Real Estate Development; Community Development and Activism; Green & New Economy Advocacy; Civic & Political Advocacy Leadership and other national movement initiatives.

Steve Shaff

Secretary - People Demanding Action
Executive Director Community Vision Partners
Maryland

Executive Director

Alex Lawson is the executive director of Social Security Works, the convening member of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition— a coalition made up of over 300 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans. Lawson was the first employee of Social Security Works, when he served as the communications director, and has built the organization alongside the founding co-directors into a recognized leader on social insurance. Mr. Lawson is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. Mr. Lawson is also the co-owner of We Act Radio an AM radio station and media production company whose studio is located in the historic Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC. We Act Radio is a mission driven business that is dedicated to raising up the stories and voices of those historically excluded from the media. We Act Radio is also an innovator in the use of online and social media as well as video livestreaming to cover breaking news and events. Most recently, producing video livestreaming from Ferguson, MO as the #FergusonLive project sponsored by Color of Change.

Alex Lawson

Treasurer - People Demanding Action
Social Security Works
Washington, DC

Rev. Rodney Sadler

Dr. Sadler's work in the community includes terms as a board member of the N.C. Council of Churches, Siegel Avenue Partners, and Mecklenburg Ministries, and currently he serves on the boards of Union Presbyterian Seminary, Loaves and Fishes, the Hispanic Summer Program, and the Charlotte Chapter of the NAACP. His activism includes work with the Community for Creative Non-Violence in D.C., Durham C.A.N., H.E.L.P. Charlotte, and he has worked organizing clergy with and developing theological resources for the Forward Together/Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina. Rev. Sadler is the managing editor of the African American Devotional Bible, associate editor of the Africana Bible, and the author of Can a Cushite Change His Skin? An Examination of Race, Ethnicity, and Othering in the Hebrew Bible. He has published articles in Interpretation, Ex Audito, Christian Century, the Criswell Theological Review, and the Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and has essays and entries in True to Our Native Land, the New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, the Westminster Dictionary of Church History, Light against Darkness, and several other publications. Among his research interests are the intersection of race and Scripture, the impact of our images of Jesus for the perpetuation of racial thought in America, the development of African American biblical interpretation in slave narratives, the enactment of justice in society based on biblical imperatives, and the intersection of religion and politics.

Rev. Rodney Sadler

Co - Chair - People Demanding Action
North Carolina Forward Together/Moral Monday Movem
Radio Host: Politics of Faith - Wednesday @ 11 am

Executive Director and Executive Producer PDA Radio

Andrea Miller is the Executive Director of People Demanding Action, a multi-issue advocacy group. Andrea is both an organizer as well as a digital advocacy expert. She has appeared on the Thom Hartmann show, hosts the Progressive Round Table and is Executive Producer or PDAction Radio. As an IT professional she is also responsible for PDAction's digital strategy and customizes advocacy tools for small to medium size organizations through the Progressive Support Project. She is the former Co-Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America, was the Democratic Nominee in 2008 for House of Representatives in the Virginia 4th District. Running on a Medicare for All and clean energy platform, Andrea was endorsed by PDA, California Nurses and The Sierra Club. Prior to running for office, Andrea was a part of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign, first as Statewide Coordinator for Virginia and subsequently as Regional Coordinator. From 2006 until leading the VA Kucinich camppaign Andrea was MoveOn.org’s Regional Coordinator for Central, Southwest and Hampton Roads areas of Virginia and West Virginia.

Andrea Miller

Board Member and Executive Director
Spotsylvania, VA

President and Executive Director

Since September 2013, Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus has served as the President of Progressive Congress. Dr. Lemus served as Senior Advisor to Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and was Director of the Office of Public Engagement from July 2009 until August 2013. Prior to her appointment, she was the first woman to hold the position of Executive Director at the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) from 2007-2009, and the first woman to chair the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) from 2008-2009. During her tenure at LCLAA, she helped co-found the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC) and was a Commissioner for the Commission to Engage African-Americans on Climate Change (CEAAC). She served 3-year terms on the advisory boards of both the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) from 2005-2008 and the United States Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) from 2006-2009. In January 2013, she was confirmed by the DC Council to sit on the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia. From 2000-2007, she served as Director of Policy and Legislation at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) where she launched the LULAC Democracy Initiative - a national Hispanic civic participation campaign and founded Latinos for a Secure Retirement - a national campaign to preserve the Social Security safety net. Dr. Lemus was adjunct professor of international relations and border policy at the University of Memphis, San Diego State University, and the University of San Diego; as well as a Guest Scholar at the University of California, San Diego – Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies. Dr. Lemus has appeared in both English and Spanish language media outlets, including CNN, CNN en Español, C-SPAN, MSNBC, NBC's Hardball, Fox's Neil Cavuto, Univision and NBC-Telemundo among others. She received her doctorate in International Relations from the University of Miami in 1998.

Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus

Co - Chair - People Demanding Action
President and Executive Director
Progressive Congress

Team Leader and Climate Action Radio Host

Russell Greene has been focused on the climate crisis since 1988. He leads the Progressive Democrats of America Stop Global Warming and Environmental Issue Organizing Team, is Advisory Board Chair for iMatter, Kids vs. Global Warming, vice-chair legislation for the California Democratic Party Environmental Caucus and has been an executive in the restaurant industry for over 30 years, with a current focus on the impact of sustainability in business.

Russell Greene

President, People Demanding Action

President & CEO

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, is a minister, community activist and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. He works tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice.

 A national leader and pacemaker within the green movement, Rev Yearwood has been successfully bridging the gap between communities of color and environmental issue advocacy for the past decade. With a diverse set of celebrity allies, Rev Yearwood raises awareness and action in communities that are often overlooked by traditional environmental campaigns. Rev Yearwood’s innovative climate and clean energy work has garnered the Hip Hop Caucus support from several environmental leaders including former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Bill McKibben’s 350.org. Rolling Stone deemed Rev Yearwood one of our country’s “New Green Heroes” and Huffington Post named him one of the top ten change makers in the green movement. He was also named one of the 100 most powerful African Americans by Ebony Magazine in 2010, and was also named to the Source Magazine’s Power 30, Utne Magazine’s 50 Visionaries changing the world, and the Root 100 Young Achievers and Pacesetters. Rev Yearwood is a national leader in engaging young people in electoral activism. He leads the national Respect My Vote! campaign and coalition (www.respectmyvote.com). In the 2012 Elections, numerous celebrity partners have joined the campaign to reach their fan bases, including Respect My Vote! spokesperson 2 Chainz. The Hip Hop Caucus registered and mobilized tens of thousands of young voters to the polls in 2012. In 2008, the Hip Hop Caucus set a world record of registering the most voters in one day: 32,000 people across 16 U.S. cities. This effort was part of the Hip Hop Caucus’ 2008 “Respect My Vote!” campaign with celebrity spokespeople T.I., Keyshia Cole and many other recording artists, athletes, and entertainers. Rev Yearwood entered the world of Hip Hop Politics when he served as the Political and Grassroots Director of Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004. In 2004 he also was a key architect and implementer of three other voter turnout operations – P. Diddy’s Citizen Change organization which created the “Vote Or Die!” campaign; Jay Z’s “Voice Your Choice” campaign; and, “Hip Hop Voices”, a project at the AFL-CIO. It was in 2004 that he founded the Hip Hop Caucus to bring the power of the Hip Hop Community to Washington, DC. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Rev Yearwood established the award winning Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign where he led a coalition of national and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Katrina survivors. The coalition successfully stopped early rounds of illegal evictions of Katrina survivors from temporary housing, held accountable police and government entities to the injustices committed during the emergency response efforts, supported the United Nations “right to return” policies for internally displaced persons, promoted comprehensive federal recovery legislation, and campaigned against increased violence resulting from lack of schools and jobs in the years after Katrina. Rev Yearwood is a retired U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer. In the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq he began speaking out against such an invasion. He has since remained a vocal activist in opposition to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007 he organized a national pro-peace tour, “Make Hip Hop Not War”, which engaged urban communities in discussions and rallies about our country’s wars abroad and parallels to the structural and physical violence poor urban communities endure here at home. Rev Yearwood is a proud graduate of Howard University School of Divinity and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), both Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He served as student body president at both institutions. As a student at UDC, he organized massive student protests and sit-ins, shutting down the school for ten days straight, and achieved victory against budget cutbacks. After graduating from UDC he served as the Director of Student Life at a time when the city was attempting to relocate the school, under his leadership the city was forced to rescind its effort to marginalize and move the campus. Rev Yearwood went on to teach at the Center for Social Justice at Georgetown University, before entering the world of Hip Hop politics with Russell Simmons and civil rights activist, Dr. Benjamin Chavis. He has been featured in such media outlets as CNN, MSNBC, BET, Huffington Post, Newsweek, The Nation, MTV, AllHipHop.com, The Source Magazine, Ebony and Jet, Al Jazeera, BBC, C-Span, and Hardball with Chris Mathews and featured in the Washington Post, The New York Times and VIBE magazine. He was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. The first in his family to be born in the United States, his parents, aunts, and uncles, are from Trinidad and Tobago. Rev Yearwood currently lives in Washington, DC with his two sons, who are his biggest inspiration to making this world a better place.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood

Board Member
President and CEO
Hip Hop Caucus

Board Member

Marc Carr’s passion for social justice and entrepreneurship has led him to work on civil rights campaigns in the Deep South and organize community forums in the U.S. and West Africa. His professional experience includes heading the sales division of a major international corporation in West Africa, consulting for the United Nations Foundation, and working as a Social Media Analyst for McKinsey & Co. Marc is the Founder of Social Solutions, an organization devoted to crowd-sourcing tech solutions to solve intractable social problems. Social Solutions produces a monthly event series, the Capitol Innovation Forum, and the yearly Social Innovation Festival, along with a podcast series, the Capitol Justice Podcast. Social Solutions also spearheads the Capitol Justice Lab, an initiative to reduce the incarceration rate in the nation’s capital by half in five years. Marc is expecting his Master’s Degree in Social Enterprise in 2016 from the American University School of International Service.

Marc Carr

Board Member
Social Solutions
Washington, DC

Board Member

Lise received her Doctorate in Medicine in 1982 from the University of Paris. After interning at hospitals in Paris and Lome, Togo, she completed her residency in psychiatry at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. Board certified in both general and forensic psychiatry, Lise worked as a staff psychiatrist in public mental health centers in Alexandria and Fairfax, Virginia. For more than twenty years Lise has maintained a private practice in psychiatry. An Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University and an active member of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, she has worked to educate the public on mental health issues through writing in professional journals, the press and other media outlets. A frequent guest on local and national radio and television, Lise has addressed a range of issues on violence, trauma, and mental illness. Through Physicians for Human Rights, she conducts evaluations of victims of torture seeking asylum in this country and advocates on their behalf. She has served as a consultant to the CIA where she developed psychological assessments of world leaders. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti Lise provided mental health services to those traumatized by the events. In 2005, concerned about the direction the country was taking -- and believing that a background in science and human behavior would strengthen the political process -- she ran for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland. In September, 2006, she was chosen as one of the first fifty persons to be trained in Nashville by Al Gore to educate the public about global warming. Lise is an expert on climate change and public health, with a particular interest in the psychological impacts of climate change. She frequently writes and speaks about these issues. In collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation she organized a conference held in March 2009 on the mental health and psychological impacts of climate change. Lise is on the board of The Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard School of Public Health, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the International Transformational Resilience Coalition.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren

Board Member
Moral Action on Climate
Maryland
Friday, 07 November 2014 00:00

Massachusetts SWAT teams claim they’re private corporations, immune from open records laws

Written by Radley Balko | The Washington Post

As part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s recent report on police militarization, the Massachusetts chapter of the organization sent open records requests to SWAT teams across that state. It received an interesting response.

As it turns out, a number of SWAT teams in the Bay State are operated by what are called law enforcement councils, or LECs. These LECs are funded by several police agencies in a given geographic area and overseen by an executive board, which is usually made up of police chiefs from member police departments. In 2012, for example, the Tewksbury Police Department paid about $4,600 in annual membership dues to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC. (See page 36 of linked PDF.) That LEC has about 50 member agencies. In addition to operating a regional SWAT team, the LECs also facilitate technology and information sharing and oversee other specialized units, such as crime scene investigators and computer crime specialists.

Some of these LECs have also apparently incorporated as 501(c)(3) organizations. And it’s here that we run into problems. According to the ACLU, the LECs are claiming that the 501(c)(3) status means that they’re private corporations, not government agencies. And therefore, they say they’re immune from open records requests. Let’s be clear. These agencies oversee police activities. They employ cops who carry guns, wear badges, collect paychecks provided by taxpayers and have the power to detain, arrest, injure and kill. They operate SWAT teams, which conduct raids on private residences. And yet they say that because they’ve incorporated, they’re immune to Massachusetts open records laws. The state’s residents aren’t permitted to know how often the SWAT teams are used, what they’re used for, what sort of training they get or who they’re primarily used against.

From the ACLU of Massachusetts’s report on police militarization in that state:

Approximately 240 of the 351 police departments in Massachusetts belong to an LEC. While set up as “corporations,” LECs are funded by local and federal taxpayer money, are composed exclusively of public police officers and sheriffs, and carry out traditional law enforcement functions through specialized units such as SWAT teams . . .

Due to the weakness of Massachusetts public records law and the culture of secrecy that has infected local police departments and Law Enforcement Councils, procuring empirical records from police departments and regional SWAT teams in Massachusetts about police militarization was universally difficult and, in most instances, impossible . . .

Police departments and regional SWAT teams are public institutions, working with public money, meant to protect and serve the public’s interest. If these institutions do not maintain and make public comprehensive and comprehensible documents pertaining to their operations and tactics, the people cannot judge whether officials are acting appropriately or make needed policy changes when problems arise . . .

Hiding behind the argument that they are private corporations not subject to the public records laws, the LECs have refused to provide documents regarding their SWAT team policies and procedures. They have also failed to disclose anything about their operations, including how many raids they have executed or for what purpose . . .

METROLEC, one of the largest of the law enforcement councils covering the metropolitan Boston area, operates a range of specialized resources, including a Canine Unit, Computer Crimes Unit, Crisis Negotiation Team, Mobile Operations Motorcycle Unit, and Regional Response Team, in addition to its SWAT force. The organization maintains its own BearCat armored vehicle, as well as a $700,000 state of the art command and control post. In 2012, METROLEC reportedly used its BearCat 26 times, mostly for drug busts, and applied to the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain a drone license.

The North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) similarly operates a SWAT team, as well as a Computer Crime Unit, Motorcycle Unit, School Threat Assessment & Response System, and Regional Communications and Incident Management Assistance Team. Its SWAT team members are trained and equipped to “deal with active shooters, armed barricaded subjects, hostage takers and terrorists,” and they dress in military-style gear with the words “NEMLEC SWAT” emblazoned on their uniforms. Given this training, it is not surprising that the NEMLEC SWAT team has over the past decade led numerous operations that involved armored vehicles, flash-bang devices, and automatic weapons.

(Note: In addition to the LEC SWAT teams, the ACLU notes that at least 25 other Massachusetts cities and towns have their own SWAT-like units, along with the state police and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.)

Massachusetts also has a long history of accountability and excessive force problems with SWAT teams. A few examples:

  • In 1988, Boston Det. Sherman Griffiths was killed in a botched drug raid later revealed to have been conducted based on information from an informant a subsequent investigation revealed that the police had simply made up.
  • Six years later, the Rev. Accelyne Williams died of a heart attack during a mistaken drug raid on his home. The Boston Globe found that three of the officers involved in that raid had been accused in a 1989 civil rights suit of using fictional informants to obtain warrants for drug raids. In testimony for that suit, one witness testified that after realizing they’d just raided the wrong home, a Boston police officer shrugged, apologized and said, “This happens all the time.” The city settled with the plaintiffs.
  • In 1996, the Fitchburg SWAT team was already facing a lawsuit for harassing a group of loiterers when it burned down an apartment complex during a botched drug raid. The SWAT team subsequently faced a number of other allegations of recklessness and misconduct.
  • In January 2011, a SWAT team raided the Framingham, Mass., home of 68-year-old Eurie Stamps at around midnight on a drug warrant. Oddly, it had already arrested the subject of the warrant — Stamps’s 20-year-old stepson — outside the house. But because he lived in Stamps’s home, the team went ahead with the raid anyway. When the team encountered Stamps, it instructed him to lie on the floor. He complied. According to the police account, as one officer then moved toward Stamps to check for weapons, he lost his balance and fell. As he fell, his weapon discharged, sending a bullet directly into Stamps’s chest, killing him.

“You can’t have it both ways,” Jessie Rossman, a staff attorney for the Massachusetts ACLU, told me in a phone interview. “The same government authority that allows them to carry weapons, make arrests, and break down the doors of Massachusetts residents during dangerous raids also makes them a government agency that is subject to the open records law.”

In some states, police agencies can claim exemptions from open records legislation for certain types of requests, such as for internal personnel files, or investigation documents that could reveal the identities of witnesses or informants. In some parts of the country, like the Virginia suburbs of Washington, police agencies have broadly interpreted open records laws to allow them to turn down just about every request. But this claim in Massachusetts is on a whole different scale.

“They didn’t even attempt to claim an exception,” Rossman says. “They’re simply asserting that they’re private corporations.”

The ACLU is now suing NEMLEC. It’s worth noting that in addition to receiving taxpayer funding from its 51 member police agencies, NEMLEC has also received significant federal funding over the years, particularly from the Byrne Grant program. In fact, just last April, NEMLEC made a series of drug busts across the state in an investigation funded at least in part with Byrne Grants. (NEMLEC seems to be involved in a lot of drug raids.) In 2010, NEMLEC received an $800,000 Byrne Grant earmarked by then-Sen. John F. Kerry.

Interestingly, in 2009, NEMLEC had to pay out $200,000 “to settle allegations that it made false claims related to the use of Justice Department grant funds” — specifically, funds obtained through the Byrne Grant program. That sounds like an agency that could use a little oversight.

The argument that the LECs in Massachusetts are private corporations and therefore immune to the state open records law was made by Jack Collins, the general counsel for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. I have contacted his office to request an interview but haven’t yet heard back.

Link to original article from The Washington Post

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