Paul R. Lehman,Trump’s statement to police underscores ethnic bias in criminal justice system

August 6, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Indian, Bigotry in America, blacks, Civil War, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, Freddie Gray, justice, justice system, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, President Trump, protest, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, social justice system, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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What are Americans to think when their President tells law enforcement members to break the law and abuse citizens who have been arrested and when questioned about his statements, they are passed off as if they were jokes? Why would the President want to joke about asking or telling the police to break the laws they are hired to enforce and follow and to abuse the citizens while doing so? To make matters worse, the President aimed his words for the unjust, unlawful, and abusive treatment of people of color. Through his comments, he gave permission to police officers to express their ethnic biases with physical violence and abuse of the people of color.

European Americans have been conditioned to view African Americans as criminals and less than first-class human beings. The media since before the Civil War have pictured and described African American in a negative and unflattering context. That practice still exists today, to a great extent. So, when the President made the statement about police officers throwing thugs in the back of a “Paddy wagon” (his words which are considered a pejorative phrase regarding the Irish) the immediate reference goes to Freddie Gray, the young African American man who died from injuries incurred from being put in a police van without proper restraints. None of the police officers were held responsible for Gray’s death. So the President, evidently, saw nothing wrong with the way citizens, especially African American citizens, are treated by the police.

A point of interest relative to the President’s statement is the fact that he used the term “those thugs” rather than citizen or person. The term “thug” when used in a certain context and by certain people like the President, is a direct reference to African Americans. In his recently released book, CHOKEHOLD [Policing Black Men] Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and presently a Georgetown University Professor, devoted a chapter of his book on “Constructing the Thug.” In that chapter, he explained that “the construction of the thug [is] based on the presumption that every African American man is a criminal. It is important to remember that this is a rebuttable presumption: African American men can do things to communicate that we are not dangerous.” In addition, he added that “It would not be an understatement to say that the vast majority of black men engage in those kinds of performances every time we step out of the house. It’s also true that many people can and do treat individual African American men with respect and kindness.”The overwhelming sentiment relative to police behavior towards African Americans is based on fear, anxiety, and the presumption of them as criminals. Those feelings are enough to clear the bar and justify the unjust, unlawful, violent, and abusive treatment of African Americans.

When the President made his statements relative to how the police officer should treat ‘thug’s he was standing in front of a large number of police officers. To the surprise of many top law enforcement agents, police chiefs, and others in authority, many of the officers in the President’s background smiled and applauded their approval of his comments. Why? Many applauded because they felt relieved that the President agreed with the way some police officers treat African American citizens. The comments served as encouragement to officers to continue their unlawful and abusive treatment of citizens of color. One wonders if some of those officers joined the force, not to protect and serve, but to harass and punish African Americans for being African Americans.

Many of the police chiefs and enforcement leaders were quick to call the Presidents statements, not in keeping with the law and practices of law enforcement, and issued statements to the effect that their departments will not tolerate the rough treatment of prisoners nor will violations be taken lightly. Some others police leaders underscored the fact that training focused on treating all citizens with respect and dignity.

Not all police officials felt the President’s statements were out of order: “For example, Detective Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, excused Trump’s comments in a statement to CNN as ‘completely taken out of context by the racially exclusive and divisive profiteers’ seeking to question Trump’s support of all law-abiding citizens…”  Loomis included “the law enforcement officers that live and work among [law abiding citizens] them.” In other words, as far as Loomis is concerned all law enforcement officers are perfect; they make no mistakes or break laws and arrest only citizens who break the law. Everyone, according to Loomis, should realize that the President was simply joking when he made those comments. The concept of innocent before proven guilty for those arrested seems to have lost its value among some police union representatives.

The President’s comments, whether serious or not, makes the assumption that when police officers arrest African Americans and people of color that official protocol can be dispensed with in favor of officers acting as judge, jury, and executioner. In many of the recent video showing police abuse of African Americans and other people of color, male and female, law-abiding citizens see for themselves how some citizens of color are treated by some law enforcement officers. If the trend continues, one will have to ask where the law-abiding officers are hiding. Many American citizens turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to these unlawful and abusive happenings simply because they think they are not directly implicated in them. However, nothing could be further from the truth because when an officer is caught breaking the law and he or she is exonerated from a criminal quilt, many are sued and found guilty in civil court. The involvement of the law-abiding citizen comes into play when an officer and his or her department are sued in civil court.

The cost to the uninvolved law-abiding citizens for not holding the criminal justice system responsible for the abuses committed by its officers is large and growing. Unfortunately, many African Americans and other people of color have suffered abuse and often death at the hands of police officers and in return sued the police in civil court. Recently, in Oklahoma City, two African American men who had their murder convictions overturned have both sued the state for $32 million each. One former inmate has already settled his case; the other is yet to be adjudicated.

When the unlawful, unjust, and abusive treatment of citizens start to make a greater impact on the uninvolved law-abiding citizens, then they will join with citizens working to change the criminal justice system and make it serve all citizens fairly, justly, and lawfully. Living in a democracy requires all to learn that injustice for some is an injustice for all.

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Paul R. Lehman, An investigation of the Baltimore police by the DOJ will reflect systemic problems

May 8, 2015 at 12:08 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Baltimore, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, discrimination, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Freddie Gray, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, lower class, minority, police force, poor, poverty, Prejudice, President Obama, social justice system, socioeconomics | Leave a comment
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The mayor of Baltimore has asked the Department of Justice to look into the practices of the police force in her city. Although the results of such an investigation might help improve the community relations, the real problem that leads to conflicts time and time again is never mentioned—the system invented and managed by the majority society. We have heard the terms system and culture many times when the condition of the police and community relations is discussed. Unfortunately, discussing both the system and the culture of any city and its supporting elements does not focus on the cause of the problem and therefore cannot offer a remedy for the problems. A few observers recognize and understand some aspects of the system. For example, Michael Gerson of the Washington Post Writers Group, wrote in an article, ”The intricate knot of urban poverty,” about the problems facing Baltimore and how different aspects of the system affects its progress.

Gerson commented on an aspect of police attitude in Baltimore:”An element of the police—on the evidence, a relatively small element—became desensitized during its daily application of power. One result can be dehumanization, which may help explain Freddie Gray’s long, last trip.” He continued: “But some of the worst outcomes are not found in abuses of the system but in its design: a cycle of incarceration and return that reinforces criminality.” Actually, Gerson confuses the system with the culture when he references “abuses of the system.” What he does not understand is that the system was invented to dehumanize people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status. The abuse is actually a manifestation of the system expressed through the local culture. The police did not develop a concept of viewing people of color in a denigrating way prior to joining the force; society had already accomplished that part of the training.

To his credit, Gerson does recognize other conditions contributing to the problems of poverty and incarceration, but noted that “So, the imposition of order in impoverished communities through police and prisons is possible but costly, prone to abuse and probably unsustainable at the scale we have seen.” He then asked the question “What can be done to encourage economically and healthy communities where order is self-creating a imposed?” He answered the question by referring to the government’s role in why these poverty-related problems exist: “The reason reflects the complexity of the problem. Large economic trends, particularly globalization and the technological revolution, have pushed the blue-collar economy in many places into a permanent slump. Wages have stagnated or declined and workforce participation has fallen.”

He further noted that “At the same time, the connection between child-bearing and marriage has been broken. Chronically stressed parents—often single parents—have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children. Community institutions, including public schools, are weak.” He next associated these conditions with the police: “When children get into trouble, there is little support structure for addiction treatment and legal help. We cannot expect police power to confront these complex, interrelated difficulties.” For help in these circumstances, Gerson added:” But someone, in addition to local religious and community leaders need to try.”

Finally, Gerson pointed to individuals on the “right,” Rep. Paul Ryan, and Sen. Marco Rubio who offered suggestions relative to the problems of urban poverty. On the “left,” he listed President Obama and Hillary Clinton and their suggestions to deal with the problems as well. He noted that all of the suggestion offered by both the right and left were “insufficient to the scale of the problem. Much about the justice and unity of our country will depend on the increased ambition of their next iteration.” What next iteration? The system converts any and all new ideas into feeding itself. Apparently, Gerson does not understand that all suggestions regarding urban poverty, the police, incarceration, employment, education, and justice are all part of the system—a system that has always viewed people of color and others as having little or no social value, and that viewpoint has served to justify the treatment they have experienced over the years.

Regarding the system and the police, if education and instructions focusing on systemic changes are not required for the police force to treat everyone justly and fairly with clear and definitive repercussion for failure to do so, the officers will exhibit the lack of value society has told them to exert towards people they regard as have little or not social value. The system provides the concepts and attitudes toward the people; the culture of each department determines how those concepts and attitudes will be manifested.

If some people were surprised to see three African Americans pictured along with the three European American officers arrested from Baltimore and wondered how that was possible, the answer has to do with the culture in the department and the importance of group identity and solidarity. In most local departments the culture is usually established by the majority before the minority members are employed. If the minority members buck the culture, they are ousted.

If the Department of Justice decides to investigate the Baltimore Police Department, chances are it will discover what has been discovered in most police departments—a pattern of discrimination against African Americans and other people of color over and beyond their percentage of the total population. That discrimination results in arrests, fines, and finally, incarcerations. Gerson suggested that the reason has to do with poverty, and that certainly has some impact on the problem, but to get at the primary cause one has to examine the nature of the system that created the problems. We do not have to look far to recognize bigotry as the main ingredient that continues to engage in a system of control over people of color as well as people of low socio-economic status.

If progress is to be made with respect to the plethora of social injustices that are presently represented in the lives of many American citizens, then the cause of these injustices must be discovered and addressed. Unfortunately, when one discovers the cause of the injustices, another problem is added to the ones already at hand. No one seemingly wants to be made uncomfortable if it means relief and benefits for another for whom one apparently holds little social value.

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