Paul R. Lehman, Reasons why European American (white) police shoot and kill African Americans

March 31, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Norm Stamper, Race in America, social conditioning, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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The police officers shooting and killing an unarmed African American man in Sacramento, California recently should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the news the last four to five years. The excuses for the shootings are always the same: the officers reveal that they feared for their lives or they felt their lives were threatened, or the victim made a threatening gesture or movement towards them or they thought he or she had a gun in their hands. All of these reasons are viewed as justifiable for the shooting of a suspect. On the other hand, the family of the victim always asks the questions: why did you not wait to assess the situation before you fired shots? Why did you not use another of the tools available to you like the tazer, rubber bullets, nightstick, and bean bags? Why could you not have shot him or her in the arm or leg or some non-deadly place? Why did you not give the victim time to respond to your commands?

The fact that this scenario keeps happening over and over again is not an accident or the action of a few bad officers but part of a culture that permeates the entire criminal justice system. Most officers know that regardless of their actions, their department and union will always take their word as valid over any citizen, so the fear of serious repercussions for a wrong deed does not represent an impediment to their actions. The American public has witnessed many times the results of a police shooting via video that contradicts the report of the officers. Yet, the officers walk away without being held responsible for the misdeeds committed. To blame be officers for not being held responsible for their deeds is not their fault but the system that supports them including the Attorney General, District attorney, prosecutor, judge, jury, and society.

What many African Americans understand about the criminal justice system in American is that it has always been biased against them as clearly recorded by history from before Reconstruction, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow. Many European Americans generally support law enforcement actions without question and by doing so allow injustices to continue against people of color. Some present and former police officers have readily admitted that a culture of hate, fear, anger, and bigotry against African Americans exist in law enforcement.  From where do these feelings derive? The most obvious answer identifies social conditioning as the primary contributor to ethnic bias in American society that is retained by people who become part of the criminal justice system directly and indirectly.

Norm Stamper, a former police officer and author of the book Breaking Rank (2005) underscored the European American law officers’ perception of the African Americans: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘colorblindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”These feelings are not reserved for European American law enforcers only. Paul Butler, in his book Choke Hold (2017), noted that recent scientific research shed some light on how many African Americans are generally perceived: “When people see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more. When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” Earlier studies also indicated that the negative reactions of European American law officers towards African American males may because by unconscious social bias rather than deliberate actions.

Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow (2013) noted that a number of studies showed how some European Americans reacted to images of European Americans and African Americans in an exercise that considered observation, interpretation, and reaction. She noted, “that racial schemas operated not only as part of conscious, rational deliberations, but also automatically—without awareness or intent.” This study might possibly explain why some European American police officers act irrationally when having to deal with African Americans and people of color in general:

One study, for example, involved a video game that placed photographs of white and black individuals holding either a gun or other object (such as a wallet, soda can or cell phone into various photographic backgrounds. Participants were told to decide as quickly as possible whether to shoot the target. Consistent with earlier studies, participants were more likely to mistake a black target as armed when he was not, and mistake a white target as unarmed, when in fact he was armed. This pattern of discrimination reflected automatic, unconscious thought processes, not careful deliberations (p. 107)

The fact that ethnic bias is central to the social conditioning in America accounts for the unconscious bias of many European Americans; that bias can be manifested either implicitly, explicitly or both. Consequently, many European Americans can honestly believe that they are not biased against African Americans because many of their friends, relatives, and associates are African American, however, that fact does not mean they are free of biases.  Alexander noted that “Implicit bias test may still show that you [European Americans] hold negative attitudes and stereotypes about blacks, even though you do not believe you do and do not want to. In the study described above, for example, black participants showed an amount of ‘shooter bias’ similar to that shown by whites” (107). Of course, fewer European Americans are shot and killed by African American police officers than by European American officers.

Armed with the scientific information from the various studies mentioned, we can assert that much more than police training is necessary to replace the biased ethnic culture in our criminal justice system. The problem of ethnic bias must be the first item on the agenda to be addressed, not through training, but education. Society must fully understand and reject the bias before it can begin to replace it.

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Paul R. Lehman, Police unions try to control department culture which can create problems

September 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Baltimore, Bigotry in America, Breaking Ranks, chicago, Colin Kaepernick, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, Football, justice, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Norm Stamper, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, protest, race, social justice system, The U.S. Constitution | Leave a comment
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The time has come for Americans to take a look at the arrogance, ignorance, and bigotry exhibited by members of the law enforcement establishment, in particular, the police union representatives. Santa Clara Police union and Police Chief differ on their responsibility: “The Santa Clara police chief has vowed to continue providing a safe environment at San Francisco home games after the union representing his officers threatened to boycott policing the stadium if the San Francisco 49ers don’t discipline Colin Kaepernick for criticizing police and refusing to stand during the national anthem.” (AP 9-4-2016) The union took the first action relative to Kaepernick’s protest by sending a letter to the 49ers.

The police chief understands and accepts Kaepernick’s Constitutional right to protest: “As distasteful as his actions are, these actions are protected by the Constitution. Police officers are here to protect the rights of every person, even if we disagree with their actions.” On the other hand, the union representatives letter requested that action is taken against Kaepernick or else “it could result in police officers choosing not to work at your facilities.”The union does not work for the city, the chief does.

If we were to go back and examine each of the cases of African Americans being killed or treated unjustly by law enforcement agents in cities like Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Los Angeles, etc…, we would also find a representative of their union stepping into the situation and doing a number of irrational things in favor of their officers. First, the union wants to separate the victims from the officers by underscoring the dangers involved in police work and the obvious disregard for the law by the victims. A picture of the police officers is painted of them being above the law and not worthy of criticism by the victims or the public; they are held as sacrosanct.

Once this picture of the police officers is presented, the union then attempts to turn the victim into the villain by checking to see if he or she has a police record that can be used to vilify him or her to the public. Although any information on a victim’s record might not be pertinent to the incident in question, if it will cast a negative image of the victim, it will be used. The objective is to question the worthiness of the victim or the public to challenge the character of the police and turn the process of the public having to choose the “good guys,” police, over the ”bad guys,” the victims. In any event, any aspersions cast upon the police officers are taken as criticism against the entire law enforcement establishment with no middle ground. The union knows that in the past, most people believed the police over the victim.

With Kaepernick’s protest, the union had already decided that he was wrong and a villain to the point that if nothing was done by the 49ers organization to punish him, his entire team would suffer as well as all the people associated with their home games. The union totally disregarded Kaepernick’s Constitutional right to protest in the manner he chose and because they did not approve of it, it was unacceptable. Fortunately, the police chief used better judgment and knowledge of the law to handle the situation. The chief’s letter probably did not sit well with the union because it took away the union’s power to instill fear in and to coerce victims of police misdeeds.

At times it seems that the union representative wants to take charge of any negative situation involving police officers and usurp the powers of the chief. For example, in Oklahoma City, the question of how police body cameras are to be used has caused some disagreement between the union representative and the chief. The union wants the police to have total control of the pictures recorded by these cameras—what is seen and by whom. The chief disagrees with that notion because the public would argue the benefits of the cameras if the pictures could be censured by the officer before, during and after a police action. The concept of transparency would be lost if the pictures could be altered before anyone other than the police could see them. No decision has been made in this case and because no decision has been made, the cameras are not being worn.

Often what the union representative does is to try and convince the public to believe the opposite of what he accuses a victim of during—painting everyone with one brush. For example, when a person accuses an officer of wrong-doing, the emphasis is on that officer, but the union tries to spin the story to make it appear that the entire police department or all law enforcement agencies are being indicted. Using this tactic the union can create an “us” versus “them” scenario with “us” being the good guys, and “them” being the crooks. A quick reference to the union’s letter to the 49ers underscores that point. According to the AP article, “the police union complained that Kaepernick’s ‘inappropriate behavior’ has ‘threatened our harmonious working relationship.’”The letter seeks to make Kaepernick the outsider –crook and the police the good guys. Fortunately, the police chief did not allow his power to be usurped by the union this time.

In his book, Breaking Rank, Norm Stamper commented on police unions as I noted in my book: “Police unions represent a problem for social change in America because they have been able to manipulate the system of [European American] white supremacy…they usually oppose any changes in their operation not introduced by themselves and complain when any criticism is directed toward them….If any questions are raised concerning the actions of officers, the union usually accuse the party asking the question of being anti-police.”According to Stamper, the unions usually try to control the culture of the police departments (The System of European American (white) Supremacy and African American (black) Inferiority).

The fact that the Santa Clara Police Union decided that Kaepernick’s behavior was inappropriate and that some corrective action had to be taken shows the arrogance of the union. They used their position and standing in the community to make a value judgment against someone who had done no wrong. They showed their ignorance in sending a letter to the 49ers making a threat for some corrective action against Kaepernick before they checked to see if a law was broken or an offense committed. Although the question of Kaepernick’s ethnicity was not mentioned, his protest involved the treatment of African Americans and people of color by law enforcement. The union took offense to his protest.

Paul R. Lehman, Law enforcement should acknowledge role in historic Police violence regarding African Americans

July 22, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, Constitutional rights, Darren Wilson, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, tribalism, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the ironies concerning the recent instances of police shootings is the reaction of law enforcement regarding the shootings. The entire nation is put on alert and more arms are brought out in preparation for defense against the shooters. More officers are brought out into the field or on the streets as if there was going to be a war-like conflict between the police shooters and the police. What we find in looking at the individuals who shoot police is that they generally acted alone. When attempting to answer the question of why were the police attacked, the police never say that maybe they had something to do with instigating the violence. And that is the irony.

For approximately three-hundred-years, law enforcers have shown little respect to people of color as they abused, assaulted, exploited, and killed them. The concern for justice and fairness was never an issue in the years before civil rights. Whatever the law enforcers wanted to do, they do with impunity. The victims of color had no one or place to turn to for justice or fairness when the perpetrators were the law enforcers who were supposed to protect them. Most complaints to others in authority fell on deaf ears, and usually, nothing was done. At the same time, an African American or person of color person could be accused of committing a crime and be sent to prison or death without even a semblance of a fair or just trial. If we were to check the records of violence and lynching’s committed against African Americans in police custody over the past few decades, we would not receive accurate data because the law enforcers did not record it or would not want to appear like they had a part in creating the data.

Today, with the advance of technology the world is able to witness the behavior of some law enforcers as they interact with people of color. In many cases, what is seen does not usually coincide with what the officer say happened. However, regardless of what is seen on the videos, the officers usually experience little if any repercussions for their involvement. For many of the people who watch the videos, justice or fairness does not seem to serve the African Americans. One reason offered by former and current police officers in trying to explain the behavior of European American police officers is fear of the African American man. Norm Stamper, the author of Breaking Rank, noted that “From the earliest days of academy training it was made clear that black men and white cops don’t mix, that of all the people we’d encounter on the streets, those most dangerous to our safety, to our survival, were black men.” If we are to take these words of a former police officer as truth, then we can readily understand why the European American police officer fears African American men—their safety and survival.

From where did that threat of safety and survival come relative to the European American officer ? One possibility might come from the bigotry present in the social conditioning of European Americans. Whether that fear is real or imaginary, the mere fact that it is announced in the academy or is common knowledge in the departments, it can serve as an excuse for officers to use the threat of death as a defense to shoot, beat or other abusive activity of African Americans. To underscore this point, Stamper stated: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘color blindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.” Why has the public been kept in the dark about this fear? Maybe because keeping it secret serves a useful purpose for some people.

When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, brother and sister officers from all over the nation attend the funeral to pay their respects and show support for their members. Often huge processions and motorcades become part of the ceremony celebrating the service of the fallen officer. We all feel the loss and mourn with the family because every life is important and valued. We understand and appreciate the feelings of tribalism is the thin blue line. What we Americans find difficult to understand, however, is when a twelve-year-old boy playing with a toy gun alone in a public park is shot by an officer there is no-show of concern from the police department or the “good “officers on the force. The first utterance from the law enforcement agencies is usually the “officer had probable cause.” Little else is said.

No person in his or her healthy mind wants or wishes the death of another human being. However, if an individual has witnessed years of injustices, miscarriage of the law, abuse, assaults, and death to people who share the same identity but different skin color, but realize no sense of justice or concern for justice by the very people who volunteer their lives to serve and protect them, his or her sense of reality can be altered. Law enforcement agencies need to examine themselves to learn what part they play in creating the fear and behavior that contributes to the deaths of many men of color and subsequently to the death of their fellow officers.

Just recently a young African American man, Charles Kinsey, a physical therapist was attempting to render service to a young male autistic patient who was sitting in the middle of the street playing with a toy truck. Someone called the police and said someone was in the street with a gun. When Kinsey realized the police were on the scene, he laid on his back with both hands in the air and shouted loud to the police not to shoot. He told them that he was a therapist and the young man was autistic so please do not shoot. Totally disregarding what the therapist said, one of the officers shot Kinsey, made him turn over and handcuffed him. The irony of this case is that the autistic man was European American and had the object in his hand. The therapist was on his back with both hands in the air, yet he was the one the police shot with a rifle, not a gun.

Later, when the officer was asked why he shot Kinsey, his reply was “I don’t know.”Is there any wonder why some people lose their perspective about the police? Things must change for the better for all Americans, but especially for African Americans. Some members of the FOP are quick to claim that anyone who says something negative about police behavior is totally anti-police, but that is not true. People can be pro-police but find fault in some police behavior. For the FOP to put all the blame of police misconduct on a few “bad officers” is faulty logic. If a pack of dogs is charging towards a person with mouths open, teeth glaring, tongues salivating, how is he suppose to select the ones who will not bite him? This example is not meant as disrespect to officers, but when they all act in concert, how can the good ones be distinguished from the bad ones? The police need to start accepting some responsibility for the violence committed against people of color and make appropriate changes.

The problems relative to the shooting of African Americans and police is not reserved to those two entities, but to all America. We need to address the problems now.

Paul R. Lehman, All American society is implicated in the deaths of African American men by police

July 8, 2016 at 1:01 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Breaking Ranks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, social justice system, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment

The recent video showing the shooting death of two African American men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, by European American police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana simply underscores the point that anywhere in America the value of an African American’s life is little to none existence. Calls for changes in the police departments will do little to remedy the problem because the problem does not reside in the police departments per se; the problem is the culture of American society that does not value African Americans. The law enforcement agencies and its representatives only reflect what society empowers them to embody—a lack of value for people of color, especially African Americans.

We know from past experiences that videos will not be sufficient to promote justice for the African American victims. The culture of bigotry is part of the system that permeates law enforcement nationwide and although videos have been produced to show the actions of law enforces, they do little to convict officers who are involved in the action.

One reason for the lack of justice is because the entire community is not directly implicated in the injustice. Rather than the African American community of Minnesota and Louisiana protesting, the entire cities should protest to show that they understand the culture of bigotry they promote and sustain through the police force and say it is not acceptable. Real and sustainable change will not occur in America until the culture of ethnic bigotry is replace with a system that values all people. We need not legitimize prejudices by listing conditions and by giving names to them such as ethnicity, gender, color, religion etc…. If all Americans should enjoy the same right, liberties, and freedoms, then no qualifications are needed–all says it all.

To understand the culture of bigotry as exemplified by law enforcement we need to look at what serves as its base. Simply stated, the answer is anger and fear of the African American by the European Americans acquired through social conditioning. In their homes, neighborhoods, communities, schools, and churches, European Americans from early childhood learn and are shown how to behave toward African Americans and people of color in general; unless they are employed or serve the European Americans in some non-threatening position, they are to be avoided. Because the African American lacks little social value in society when compared to European Americans, any social improvement acquired by African Americans appear as a threat to the supremacy of the European Americans. These social improvements serve to anger the European Americans because they are often viewed as encroachments on their rights. The worse possible experience for a European American is having to view an African American as an equal; that goes totally against the social conditioning under which they were reared.

So, until the total national community can accept the injustice committed against an African American as wrong, replacing the system of injustice will not occur. The problem is not just between the police department and the African American community; it involves the entire national community. The focus should be on the injustice committed against any person and not finding fault with the parties involved; we are all involved and we need to accept our role in fighting against injustice or promoting injustices by our silence.

Fear of the African American comes from the ignorance and myths associated with the invention of races and the concept of European American supremacy. The fear of losing that concept of supremacy serves as the motivating element to inflict physical violence against the African Americans. Anger and fear of African American men are joined together at the heart of the American culture. We can and do readily observe it through the actions of law enforcers. In my recent book about the system of European American Supremacy the following reference focused on the subject: A former police officer, Norm Stamper, (Breaking Rank, Nation Books, 2005) clears up any misconceptions European Americans might have about law enforcement and African Americans: ‘Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘color blindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”Stamper noted that while bigotry and fear are part of the police culture and a significant fabric of their thoughts, most European American officers will not admit to the bigotry in themselves and others.

We know that anger, fear, and bigotry exist in the culture of law enforcement nationwide and we have statistics to support the degree to which men of color are killed by law enforcement agents. The question now is what can be done to eliminate it? The first order of business is for the Europeans Americans to recognize that valuing the lives of people of color is necessary. For European Americans to act like the murders of African American men have no more than a passing affect on them is to approve of the injustice. They can no longer stand passively on the sidelines and shake their heads saying how sorry they are that this or that tragedy occurred. They need to join forces with all the members of society in protest and actions to changes the system from the top to the bottom.

The law enforcement agencies work for the people, all the people. Unfortunately, the police unions and other criminal justice element work to protect the officers, not the citizens. If that statement is thought to be presumptuous, one needs only to check and see how many officers shown on videos killing unharmed or legally armed men have been convicted. The officer has only to say that he or she felt their lives were threatened and all the focus falls on the victim for somehow forcing the officer to shoot him. The laws need to be changed to protect the citizens from the police in that all citizens should be given the right to exercise their rights. Many of the African American men who were killed never had an opportunity to be asked questions or respond before they were shot. As a society, we can put a stop to these senseless killings, but we must do so as a society, not just people of color and a few European Americans. All Americans should be outraged at the display of injustice regarding the shooting of men of color, outraged to the point of action.

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