We can still ensure Michael Brown and Eric Garner didn't die in vain.
In order to do so, we must take specific steps to ensure similar tragedies don't keep occurring.
Brown's killing and lack of an indictment have galvanized protests around the country. And, yes, we should protest loudly.
But we also must make demands for specific reforms now or we will miss this opportunity that is born of tragedy. That would be a tragedy, too.
1. We have a right to know what the police are doing.
Phil Stinson, a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, says all police officers should have to wear cameras. Stinson, who has extensively researched statistics on police arrests, also calls for replacing dashboard cameras with devices that record "video 360 degrees," along with "audio recording devices" mounted on the roof of all patrol vehicles.
2. Police departments have to be demilitarized
As a result of the U.S. Department of Defense making sophisticated military hardware available to police departments around the country, police are patrolling residential neighborhoods like war zones, and they are too often treating residents like the enemy. This has got to end.
3. Racial profiling should be made illegal.
Racial profiling should be made illegal everywhere in the United States. Police are disproportionately singling out African-Americans for "stop and frisk," as well as for arrests, often for the most minor of alleged infractions. This contributes to the fear and hostility that mark many interactions with the police.
4. We need to stop filling up our prisons.
Mass incarceration is not an answer. Today, there are more than 2 million people locked up in the United States. They are disproportionately black or Latino, and a large number of them are behind bars for nonviolent, low-level drug offenses. Ironically, many of them are incarcerated for marijuana offenses at a time when our country is quickly legalizing this drug.
5. Address job opportunities for minorities.
We need to address the lack of decent job opportunities for African-Americans. While the overall unemployment rate in October was 5.8 percent, for African-Americans it stood at 10.9 percent. African-American communities need economic opportunity so the residents can build a decent life and make their neighborhoods better.
Brian Gilmore is a poet and public interest law professor. His latest book is "We Didn't Know Any Gangsters."