Paul R. Lehman, Ignorance of reality in “Report undermines claims of police bias”

July 29, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, Minnesota, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, social justice system, The Oklahoman, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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A recent article on the “OPINION” page of the Oklahoman (7/27/2016) entitled, “Report undermines claims of police bias,” represents the very kind of bigotry that serves to keep the communities and citizens in a state of disunity. One has to question the accuracy of the data presented by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reporting on itself because human nature and self-preservation favors embellishing the positive and minimizing the negative relative to self-examination. The report focused on police-involved shootings and revealed the following facts: “Such shootings are not common, although they have increased; those killed are typically to blame for their own fate; and most importantly, appearance of racial disparities can be created by a literal handful of cases.”The Opinion writer of this article has, seemingly, little or no sense of reality if he or she believes that these comments do not show the ignorance and bigotry of all of the aforementioned relative to the challenge for unity between the African Americans and the law enforcement agency.

The first statement made: “Such shootings are not common, although they have increased,” suggests that the Opinion writer is apparently fully aware of all the shootings, those reported and those not reported in the African American community.  Evidently, the accuracy of that statement depends on how long the data has been collected and recorded and by whom. When we look back briefly at a recent case where thirteen African American females were sexually assaulted by Daniel Holtzclaw, a member of the Oklahoma City Police Department, we know why nothing was done by the police department until one of the thirteen assaulted women had the courage to reported the assault. Being assaulted by an officer of the law gives African American females little room relative for reporting the incident. Many African Americans will generally avoid contact with the police unless absolutely necessary because of the history of disrespect and abuse relative to the way they have been treated in the past.

Also, the Opinion writer misses the actual problem of concern between the law enforcement agency and the African American community—a failure to communicate. The shootings are only part of the problem; respect for and value of the citizens of color have been problems from the very beginning of statehood because bigotry by European Americans against African Americans is a seemingly natural occurrence. Until just recently, when the protest marches against police shootings began, the criminal justice problems of the African American community were ignored because they, evidently, according to the Opinion writer and the data, did not exist.

The second statement shows a total lack of understanding of the communication problem: “those killed are typically to blame for their own fate.” In other words, the police are perfect; they never make a mistake even when they are afraid of the victims because of their color. So, the Opinion writer is saying that people of color that follow or try to follow the orders of policemen, cause their own deaths. How ignorant can one be to believe that a police officer, one who is afraid of people of color, does not experience a behavioral change when having to confront one? In a recent video, a police officer shot a young African American man, Philando Castile; the officer ordered him to get his license. When Castile proceeded to get his license, the officer gave him another order. When Castile did not respond quickly enough to suit the officer, the officer shot him. Why? From the viewpoint of the Opinion writer, Castile caused the officer to shoot him because the officer thought he was reaching for a gun—a gun which was legal for him to carry and for which he had a license. Seemingly, because of the officer’s fear of Castile, his stress level increased from the normal level of stress that goes with the job and contributed to his quick, training-based, reactions. Castile died.

In another recent incident, Charles Kinsey, a physical therapist, was lying on his back with both empty hands extended up, asked the officer not to shoot him. The officer shot him. But, we must assume according to the Opinion writer that Kinsey caused the officer to shoot him, so it was his fault that he was shot. We are led to believe that officer behavior is always calm, deliberative, measured, and in the best interest of the citizens, they have volunteered to serve and protect. Unfortunately, with the help of videos we are able to witness officer behavior that does not fit that model, because they are human beings, and we humans make mistakes.

The third statement underscores a serious problem in the Opinion writer’s understanding of the conflict and protests: “and most importantly, appearance of racial disparities can be created by a literal handful of cases.” The statement basically implies that based on the data from the report that the history of police actions of abuse, intimidation, mistrust, injustice, and shootings are all figments of African American imagination; that the instances of lynching’s in Oklahoma and America were simply minor and rare occurrences; that the massacre of the Greenwood section of Tulsa in 1921 really did not happen. We must question again about where the data was acquired when it was acquired and by whom, and if the focus was restricted to shootings.

The Opinion writer’s last statement shows a blind respect for law enforcement and data and a total disregard for history and ethnic bias: “In short, any racial disparities in police shootings appear the result of statistical noise, not deliberate bias.” Continuing, the article states: “And the fact that Oklahoma law enforcement officers resort to lethal force so infrequently is a testament to their integrity and courage.”The Opinion writer fails to understand that the problem is not with a single police force in Oklahoma, but it is a culture within law enforcement and the entire criminal justice system that must be replaced.

Nothing is gained in closing the gap of disunity between the law enforcement agencies and the African American community when honest and clear communication is not achieved. A better understanding of the problems involved in the shootings from both sides would go far in bridging that gap of fear and mistrust. For clear communications to take place both sides need to recognize that there are preconceived ideas and beliefs that must be confronted and replaced before any progress can be made. The attitude, ignorance, and tone of the Opinion writer shows just how much work lies before us in recognizing that we are not really communicating with one another if we still live in a world of make-believe.

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  1. Well argued, sir.


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