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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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.

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