Paul R. Lehman, Americans and the challenge of the criminal justice system

November 13, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal activity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Associated Press, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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When Americans think of the criminal justice system in America they usually recognize it as a reasonable, rational, and fair agency of society. What we often do not see relative to the criminal justice system is the American society that is represented by the criminal justice system. We focus generally on the law enforcement agencies or courts rather than the people in society that make-up and contribute to the system. The fact that most of the law enforcement agents, police, are set freed or shown as not guilty of killing unarmed African Americans reflect on the people responsible for adjudicating justice. We acknowledge that the culture of the criminal justice system in America is biased against African Americans, but the system actually reflects the biased society.

A case in point is that of Betty Jo Shelby, a European American (white) female and a former Tulsa police officer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher.  According to media reports, Shelby was on duty when she saw an SUV that was stopped in the middle of the street, the vehicle belonged to Crutcher.  We learn that “Shelby testified at trial that she was scared because Crutcher appeared to be under the influence of drugs, didn’t obey her commands and looked liked he was reaching inside his vehicle.”(Justin Juoapavicus, Associated Press, 10/26/2017)

Videos of the incident did not coincide with Shelby’s testimony in that Crutcher was shown to be at least fifteen feet in front of her with both of his hands up in the air; the windows of his SUV were rolled-up. A fellow officer was standing next to Shelby when she fired her weapon killing Crutcher. After Crutcher was shot, no aid or medical attention was given to check on his well-being until after several minutes had passed.

The fact that Shelby shot and killed Crutcher cannot be disputed since the incident was captured on video. However, the reasons for the shooting by Shelby can be brought into scrutiny relative to those adjudicating her case, the jury. For the court to acquit Shelby of the shooting leaves us to question their qualifications to make such a judgment. The primary reason for the shooting according to Shelby was her fear of Crutcher. How can we explain the jury’s actions of a not guilty finding if police officers feel threatened or that their lives are in danger when an unarmed African American walking away from them with his hands in the air? If Shelby is simply afraid of African American men, then she should not be working in law enforcement or any other place where she will encounter African American men.

Since the jury accepted her defense of fear of African American men, we might assume that they consider it a legally accepted defense for European American (white) officers shooting people of color. What happens when officers walk into a supermarket or mall or church and there they see African American men? Do they fear for their lives in these circumstances as well and so would be justified in shooting them? Many of the videos in recent years have shown this to be the case. We must ask where is the reasoning, rationale, and justice for the actions of the jury?

One of the conclusions we must draw from these actions is that of ethnic bias of the jury. Since the majority of the jury make-up in American is European Americans (whites), we must also conclude that they do not represent for the African Americans a ‘jury of their peers’ but more a jury representing the European American (white) officers. Since fear of African Americans and people of color appears to be a problem for many European American (white) law enforcers, why are they hired? And if hired, why are they not educated to treat people of color with the same decency and respect they would give other citizens?

The answer is simply because of their social conditioning which underscores the privilege accorded to them, European Americans (white), for their skin complexion. Simultaneously, European Americans (whites) are conditioned to view people of color as inferior in general, but to view African Americans with fear, anger, and dream because they are dangerous. Many European Americans (whites) do not realize their bigotry because their acquisition was acquired through everyday life at home, school, church etc. As a cognitive scientist, Justin L. Barrett, noted, “What we learn through testimony or through behavioral imitation is importantly influenced by social context biases.” He added that “we model our thought and behaviors on others based upon what we perceive most others think and do (conformity bias), favor prestigious individuals for role models (prestige bias) and prefer to ape those whom we see as similar to ourselves or whom we want to be (similarity bias).” So, to many European Americans (whites) ethnic bigotry is not something that is unusual or viewed as out of the ordinary life experience.

What we find puzzling about the actions of the Americans citizens who serve as part of the criminal justice system is how they equate reason, rationale, and justice with their actions. For example, shortly after being acquitted for the shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher, that portion of Betty Shelby’s record will be removed, and subsequently, will be expunged: “District Judge William LaFortune also ordered all documents involving former Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby’s case sealed and kept with the court. The case will only be accessible through a court order and can be destroyed after 10 years, according to the law.” (Justin Juoapavicus)

What we can observe from Shelby’s case is that after shooting and killing an innocent American citizen because she was in fear, not threatened or felt to be in harm’s way, she was acquitted of all charges and walked away from the incident with no repercussions. We have learned that she has been recently employed in a law enforcement position in a nearby town. In 10 years, no one will even know what she did except the family and friends of Terence Crutcher, Shelby, and the jury. After all, it was incumbent on the jury to administer a finding based on reason, rationale, and justice, but they failed in every respect. We, Americans, cannot allow this form of injustice to continue because whether we realize it or not, the mistreatment of any American affects us all. Act–find a way to make a difference.

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Paul R. Lehman, Georgia cop’s statement “We only shoot blacks,” underscores culture bigotry

September 7, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, black inferiority, blacks, criminal activity, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Many European Americans are beginning to see and realize the attitude and treatment received by African Americans from law enforcement. For too many years African Americans have been made to look like the evil and dangerous villains that deserve the abuse and even death they receive from law enforcement. When African Americans complained about the injustice and bigotry of the criminal justice system, many European Americans turned a blind eye and deaf ear to those complaints. Today, with the benefit of video technology the public is able to witness the behavior of law enforcement agents and their treatment of people of color. A recent incident involving a police officer and an assumed European American woman provides evidence to support the problem of ethnic bigotry in America.

An article by Terence Cullen in the New York Daily News (8/31/2017) told about the incident that underscores many of the claims against law enforcement and the deaths of many African Americans. The officer involved in the incident was Cobb County (Georgia) Lt. Greg Abbott and the article noted that “Abbott pulled the sedan over on suspicion of driving under the influence and told a woman in the passenger seat to use the cell phone in her lap. The woman tells the 28-year veteran she’s afraid to move her hands. ‘I’ve just seen way too many videos of cop,’ the woman says before Abbott cuts her off. ‘But you’re not black’ he says. ‘Remember, we only shoot black people.” The officer’s comments tell us much about him and our society.

One of the first things the officer does with respect to his comment about the woman not being black is to show his biased social conditioning relative to the concept of races. He does not question the authenticity of the concept; he simply accepts it and proceeds with his beliefs. All Americans have been conditioned to accept the concept of races, black and white, as legitimate when we know that the concept is false, an invention to control society. By the officer identifying the woman as white, he has made a judgment about her that gives her power and privilege over people of color whether she wants it or not. The only reasonable assumption we can make about this officer’s comment relative to the woman not being black is to consider her skin complexion. We can safely assume that her complexion is deemed by the officer acceptable enough to be considered white. Whether the woman is European American or a member of some other ethnic group, we do not know. However, that determination is of little consequence to the officer who has already made his judgment relative to her identity.

American society has conditioned European Americans to view African Americans as inferior to them. As such, the need to show respect and curtsey to them is never an issue because no repercussions result from disrespecting and abusing them. This attitude of bigotry is not something taught to each generation, but shown in our way of life as being natural and normal. We ignore the facts that we are one race of people, facts given to us through the sciences, history, and even the Bible. Because the people who invented this system of bigotry also controlled all the institutions in society, they were able to keep the system alive and well. Today, many European Americans would not know their identity if they were told that they were not white; that is how extensive the social conditioning has become. They also believe that regardless of the educational, economic and political status people of color attain, the European Americans with no comparable credits is made to believe they are better. So, the color white is important to the officer as well as to the woman in the car.

Community relations have never been good between the African American community and the law enforcement community because law enforcement has always viewed African Americans as inferior. When one side of a community has preconceived ideas about the other that places them at a disadvantage, no reasonable or mutually just solution to any problem will be forth –coming. Most community relation programs instituted by law enforcement for the African American community always favor law enforcement because of their conditioned biases. Although some members of law enforcement desire to faithfully perform their jobs, they cannot deny that the culture inside of law enforcement is anti-black (African American) and that sentiment is reflected in the officer’s statement: “Remember, we only shoot black people.”

Norm Stamper, a retired European American police officer, noted in his book, Breaking Rank, (2005) that contrary to what European Americans believe, “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’s comments are underscored by another former member of law enforcement. In his book, Choke Hold, (2017) Paul Butler, an African American former federal prosecutor and law professor at Georgetown University, defined chokehold as laws and social practices made to control African American men: “It is a two-step process. Part one is the social and legal construction of every black man as a criminal or potential criminal. Part two is the legal and policy response to contain the threat—to put down African American men literally and figuratively.” Given their experiences in law enforcement, these two individuals have no reason to make false statements about the culture of law enforcement regarding African Americans.

Officer Abbott, a 28-year veteran on the Police force, exhibited the ethnic bias that is part of the culture in which he works. Since he was conditioned by society to be biased against people of color, joining the police force did nothing to relieve him of his biases but, evidently, provided an environment in which they could be exercised with impunity. Removing Abbott from the force will not eliminate the problem of bigotry since it is societal. Whether we interpret Abbott’s statements as sarcastic or not, they flowed freely from his mouth without hesitation.  Abbott does not simply represent law enforcement, he represents American society. Until American society can label this biased culture despicable and stand together demanding justice for all our citizens, we must share in the responsibility of what this culture produces.

 

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.

Paul R. Lehman, The jury’s not guilty verdict of the Philando Castile case sent a message to America

June 20, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, Christianity, Civil Rights Ats, Declaration of Independence, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, justice, law, law enforcement agencies, Minnesota, political pressure, Prejudice, protest, Race in America, whites | Leave a comment
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With the jury’s finding of not guilty for the officer who killed Philando Castile comes the implied, but a blatant statement from law enforcement that the justice system overwhelmingly favors their agents—the police. The ruling says that in spite of you forcing us to use dash cams, body cams, and surveillance cams, you, the people, cannot prevail over us because justice is what we say it is. Most people of sound mind can usually tell right from wrong, but somehow lawyers, prosecutors, judges, district attorneys and others in the justice system cannot when a member of law enforcement is involved. We the people cannot continue to allow this miscarriage of justice to take place and assume that all is right with the world because it is not. So, what can the people do to replace his misguided system?

Although a disproportionate number of police victims have been people of color, the corruption is not exclusive to people of color, so, all people who want justice to serve everyone should be concerned and involved in bringing about a system that serves everyone. We know that many people are angry and concerned about the lack of justice simply by looking at the makeup of the protesters. While the protests serve a purpose in bringing the problems to public awareness, it should also serve as an opportunity to organize groups to study and develop plans of actions directed at replacing the system. Nothing will happen to replace the system if the people do not get involved and execute specific plans of actions.  Also, change will not happen overnight.

The first order of business is to organize and develop a plan of approach to addressing the problem. The need for this process is important because it saves time and energy. For example, developing a plan to replace the chief of police, if effective, might bring about some relief, but would not solve the problem because the chief is simply one part of the total organization. Any plan to be effective must understand the system and its organizational structure in order to replace it completely. Some of the tools available to the people include political power—finding suitable candidates for the various offices and supporting them to victory; political pressure—the people putting pressure on current politicians to introduce legislation written to address many of the current problems in the justice system; the law—suing the city, police, Fraternal Order of the Police for as much money as possible so they get the message that injustice also comes with a price. Whatever approach taken must involve all concerned citizens, not just the vocal ones, and it must start at the local level.

We have heard all the excuses offered by law enforcement to justify their actions; excuses like “I felt threatened,” or “I felt my life was in danger,” or “I thought he was going for his gun,” or “I was afraid for my life.” All of these excuses and others have been offered as reasons for using deadly force, and yet, in spite of their fears and feelings of trepidations, many of these officers remain on the force. If they are in a state of constant fear or insecure feelings, they should not be in law enforcement. How can they “serve and protect” when they are under constant stress?

In addition to the individual excuses we hear the all too often references to the “bad apples” in the department or the “need for more training,” or “the need for more officers,” or “our lives are on the line every day.” While all those reasons might be valid in some cases, none of the excuses explains why departments do not do a better job of vetting future officers or explain why some officers think it is fine to knowingly use excessive force, or officers using common sense and a degree of patience before resorting to deadly force, or spend more time educating departments and officers on the meaning of all people living in a diverse society rather than training in military combat tactics. Enough with all the excuses; ways and actions speak louder than words ever will.

We, the people, are tired of the unjust actions of the criminal justice system and its agents as well as the over-used excuses to try to justify and maintain the system. We are not trying to appeal to a sense of Christian fellowship or valuing our common humanity or democratic principles when we protest and ask for fairness for ourselves and fellow citizens, but to human decency and to a simple attempt to know the difference between right and wrong, and to seek to do what is right.

We should not take lightly the necessity for change in the system of justice as it continues to wreak havoc on the lives of people of color in general and show disregard for the rights of many of its citizens. To seek a replacement of the unjust system is not a suggestion, but a responsibility as noted in the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” The founding fathers believed that replacing a corrupt and abusive system was not simply a choice but a “duty” of the people. The focus is not replacing the government, but the abusive system. We should not look to violence as part of a remedy for injustices, but the legal tools that are available and most of all, the people.

Change and replacement of the criminal justice system will not come easy or quickly because of the long years of its entrenchment, but it must come. Any plan for replacement must begin at the local level and involve as many people possible—strength in numbers. People wanting to join in the effort should look for groups and/or organizations already active in the process. Joining efforts with other individuals and organizations does not mean one has to agree with everything the group or organization represents but agreeing on replacing the justice system should be the primary focus.

Paul R. Lehman, Good community relationships with the police requires clear, realistic perception

January 29, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, freedom of speech, justice, law enforcement agencies, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, President, President Obama, protest, race, segregation, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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In an article by Mark A. Yancey, “Police and community relationship goes 2 ways,” (The Oklahoman 1/28/2017) his first two sentences underscore the reasons why community relationships are in need of a lot of work. He stated that: “In the wake of recent police-involved shootings around the country, I often hear that police need to rebuild trust with the communities they serve. While I agree trust needs to be re-established, we should not place the entire burden of restoring trust, promoting respect and tolerance and following the law solely on the police.”Two words are used in these sentences that demonstrate Yancey’s lack of understanding of the problems involved with building a relationship with the communities; those two words are rebuild and restoring.

While we can applaud Yancey’s desire to seek a good relationship with communities, we must recognize that he is a citizen of a society with a natural bias against people of color. Chances are, he does not realize his bias because it is not something he consciously acquired but was conditioned to be society—his home, neighborhood, school, church, city, state, and nation. One example should suffice to show how the bias works. If an officer observes a nice-looking late-model car driven by a young African American male, chances are two thoughts will cross the officer’s mind—the car is stolen, or the driver is a drug dealer. However, if the drive of the car is a young European American male, the two thoughts might be that he is a spoiled kid or it is the family’s car. The thoughts relative to the African American male were not made out of malice or anger; they are conditioned responses. If the officer does not recognize the negative thoughts relative to the African American, then they cannot be replaced.

One cannot rebuild or restore relationships that never existed in the first place. The relationship the officer has with the communities is the one conditioned by a society which sees people of color in a negative context. The relationship should be for the officer to serve and protect all the citizens without bias, but when the bias is hidden by social convention, the lines get blurred.

Yancey’s next sentence also underscored a problem of a lack of understanding in the police-community relationship: “Relationship-building, after all, is a two-way street and requires mutual trust, respect, and tolerance.” When we stop and take a look at some of the recent videos of police treatment of young African American men, we recognize that all three of these elements are missing from the behavior of the officers. Officers are paid by the citizens to do their jobs; the citizens are not, so it is incumbent on the officers to serve as examples in these areas. History shows us that the law enforcement agency has been wanting in these three areas relative to their relationship with the African American community. For example, shortly after former President Obama had taken office, a noted scholar a professor from a prestigious university was arrested for entering his own home. He identified himself to the officer, told the officer that the home was his, and showed him the key to the door. The officer disregarded all the professor said and arrested him. What happened to trust, respect and tolerance during this experience?

Another recent example of where the police disregard these areas of trust, respect, and tolerance involved a young African American man who had used a tool to do some work on the sunroof of his car. Someone from the neighborhood called 911 and reported someone breaking into an auto. When the young man’s car was pulled over, he got out with both hands in the air. The video showed the officers issuing orders and simultaneously charging the young man, not giving him any time to obey the commands. To add insult to injury, the officers kept telling the young man to stop resisting when there were three or four officers on him, pushing his face into the concrete, punching him and holding his hand behind his back with an officer’s knee. Yet, they kept yelling at him to stop resisting—he was not resisting. How could he when he was face down on the pavement with three or four officers on him? Where were the respect and tolerance? Videos of both these incidents exist and the behavior of the officer/officers can be observed on YouTube.

Yancey mentioned that “citizens need to do their part in the rebuilding process by avoiding unnecessary, violent confrontations with officers.” Officer Yancey would do well to review many of the videos that show no violence on the part of the citizens unless or until it is initiated by officers who are in a rush to subdue a citizen. The fact is that when an officer stops a citizen, the citizen loses all his or her rights because if a video and audio history of the event is not available, the law enforcement community will disregard anything the citizen has to say but accepts everything the officer has to say.

Time and again, videos have shown that citizens can observe the laws, and follow police orders and still get beaten, or shot, and then arrested. We are not saying that the citizens are never at fault; many times they are, and many times mental illness has some part to play in the events. Yancey stated that “The law requires officers to respect the citizens they serve. Citizens should show police the same respect they rightfully demand by cooperating with officers’ instructing and letting our judicial system resolve peacefully and disagreements about the lawfulness of their actions.” In an ideal world Yancey’s statement might be acceptable, but in reality, if the citizen cannot present evidence to prove his or her case, it is an automatic win for the officer. All we need to do is check the record of police cases of misconduct and see how many convictions have been placed on the officers.

The first order of business in trying to establish good community relationships is for the police departments to understand their history with the community. If the elements of trust, respect, and tolerance are missing, then the first question should be why? Chances are the problems start with the biased perception of the citizens conditioned in the law enforcers by society. That is the first thing that needs to change—all citizens should be viewed as citizens, no differences. We can admire Yancey’s efforts in wanting to address this problem, but he needs to better understand the role of the police officers and their relationship to the community before asking the community to give what must be earned—trust, respect, and tolerance

Paul R. Lehman, Recent police videos indicate more than training is needed today.

April 23, 2015 at 12:11 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, lower class, minority, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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To many Americans, especially people of color, the idea that the training received by law enforcement agents and police is inadequate and too limited helps to create its counter-productiveness. Thanks to the recent spate of videos showing the activities of some law agents in action, we can actually observe how that training fails to have a positive impact of the citizens directly involved. Some of the scenes depict, in effect, the abuse and excessive use of force on helpless individuals. We know, and underscore, the fact that the videos do not reflect all law enforcement agents, but what is presented certainly helps us to raise questions about the limits of officer preparedness.

We have seen enough videos to know that office training relative to equipment and emergencies is usually top quality. What we have also witnessed, however, is the need for more than training in some situations, and the introduction of the use of common sense and rational thought. In effect, while the training is important and necessary, it alone is not sufficient to address the needs of today’s population. The philosophy of viewing some people as suspects that deserves little or no respect comes through in many of the videos in the manner in which they are addressed and treated. Education and instruction must begin to represent part of the preparation of law enforcement agents if their efforts are to be productive.

One of the common complaints of some officers who patrol areas inhabited by people of color whose social and economic status is less than middle class is the lack of coöperation by the citizens relative to police business. Why is it that these citizens generally do not help the police? One answer can be found in the area of community relations. Because the majority of the experiences involving law enforcement in these communities are negative, the first reaction of the citizens to the law officers will be guarded. After witnessing the treatment of a citizen by some officers, the last thing other citizens want to do is attract the attention of the officers. Law enforcement officers need to know that people of color as well as other people in the lower social-economic class generally react to them with fear. They know through experience and observation that they are not valued as human being by some officers. So they avoid taking an unnecessary chance of interaction with the officers.

What has happened in the past as well as presently regarding officer interaction involving people of color shows a need for better education and instruction for the officers, primarily, and the citizens, secondarily. Today, the training of the offices might be adequate for the job in general, but not sufficient for the needs of today’s diverse society. Depending on the nature, content, and objective of the current training, the results might produce more of a separation and discrimination mindset that focuses on human differences rather than commonalities and fairness.

Part of the problem with police preparedness has been the lack of education from a historical and cultural perspective relative to the communities being served. The frequently asked question of why people of color at times do not help police doing investigations underscores the problem of a lack of positive community relations. The police might take for granted that just because they represent the law and its authority that people will automatically come to assist them is based on a false premise. The make-up of the communities represents the underpinning of the problem, which is trust.

Often the attitudes of the law enforcers are a turn-off to the citizens because they show a lack of respect for the citizens and their rights. Unfortunately, the recent videos show time after time the abuse, excessive force, and total disregard for the citizens’ efforts to communicate. In many cases, the law enforcer is focused on doing his or her job which might include a disregard of rights of the citizen involved. For example, in the Eric Gardner situation, the officers were focused and intent on forcing Gardner to the ground and subduing him. During this process, they showed little or no concern for his repeated statements of “I can’t breath.”While they were probably following their training in subduing Gardner, they were ignoring the pleas of a human being under distress. The officers simple focused on a selective part of their preparation and conduct– the training, and not the education and reasonableness to examine the law infraction to the punishment being administered.

One aspect of the law enforcement agents’ current practice is the lack of concern that seemly concern for the interpretation of their actions by the public and other observers. The way citizens are treated by officers sends a message to the citizens relative to how some human beings are valued. Too often, as some of the videos indicate, when injuries inflicted on a citizen by officers are apparent, but ignored, the message sent to the public is one of little or no concern for the person being detained. The apparent philosophy is to value only the life and wellbeing of the officer, not the citizen. Of course we know that is not the case in every instance, but the videos show that this philosophy does represent a problem in current law enforcement shortcomings. People will not trust or coöperate with officers they fear and do not respect.

Today, the first order of business for law enforcers’ preparation should be to study American history that addresses the causes of ethnic injustice, not just the effects. Officers need a realistic and pertinent education that helps them to discard the prejudice, biases, and bigotry they brought with them to the job. They need to be taught to recognize social and economic characteristics of a community that will help them in their job to serve and defend all the citizens. So, the job of preparing the law enforcers must come from the top—the administrators. The officers can only reflect what they have inside and what has been made available to the public via videos indicate a lack of understanding and knowledge emanating from the top. The situation today relative to police and community relations requires a focus on the need for better officer preparation and instruction and how they should serve effectively in our ever-growing, diverse society. Our society needs law enforcement agents that are not only well-trained, but also well-educated regarding their responsibilities to the citizens—officers who can think as well as act.

Paul R. Lehman, Cartoon picture shows the power of the press in promoting bias

December 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, skin complexion, Slavery, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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What’s in a picture? An old saying indicates that a picture is worth a thousand words or more, depending on the picture. In The Oklahoman (12-27-2014) on the “Opinion” page a cartoon in a 3×4 3/4” rectangle shows a large, very dark-complexioned, closed-fist hand, pointing downward. One would have difficulty discerning from the depiction, whether the fist was of a man or gorilla. Just above the wrist are the words “BLACK ON BLACK CRIME.” Directly under the middle finger of the fist is the likeness of a dark complexioned person seemingly being held in place by the fist. In a bubble leading to the person being held in place by the fist are the words “The POLICE are KEEPING US DOWN.”To the left of the fist on the same level as the figure under the fist is a small, one inch figure of a fair-skinned policeman, in standard uniform, with both arms extended holding a gun pointing at the dark fist. The contrast between the dark fist and the policeman is obvious.
What was the message that the cartoonist was trying to send to the readers? At face value it would appear that African Americans are being held down by Black on Black crime, while blaming the fair-skinned police. In other words, rather than focusing on the injustices committed by law enforcement agencies against African Americans since slavery, the real cause of the injustices should rest with the African Americans themselves, and not the police. Many people viewing this cartoon would not be troubled by what it suggests, but when viewed through a different perspective, one might find the cartoon offensive.
In the 1960’s and before his death, Malcolm X noted that the European American Press published stories and pictures that demonized African Americans to the majority population. The press, in effect, turned ninety percent of the African Americans into criminals with stories that inflamed the European American majority. The police agencies following the lead of the press used that negative impression of African Americans to treat them as criminals and less than citizens because they realized or experienced no accountability regarding their experiences with African Americans. Therefore, when the police force interacts with the African American community, many European Americans think only of criminals because that was the image presented by the press. The police never has to be accountable for it actions against what the European Americans consider criminals.
The cartoon, in effect, underscores the bigotry created by the press and exploited by law enforcement agencies relative to African Americans specifically, and all people of color in general. The suggestion is that the giant black monster, meaning the African Americans, is what are keeping the African Americans down and the law enforcement agencies have little or nothing to do with it. Therefore the charges and complaints by African Americans against law enforcers must be false. We know that all police are not bad. Some European Americans will on occasions agree that there are some bad cops, but that the majority of them are good. Where are the good ones when the bad ones are acting badly? Of all the recent videos showing police involvement against citizens of color rarely, if ever, does one show officers trying to discourage or stop their fellow officers from acting badly. We are not saying that it does not happen, but if it does, we rarely witness it.
So, what’s in a picture? As far as the picture in question is concerned, we can recognize ignorance. The graphics and the language combine to create an impression that African Americans are dumb animals that are responsible for their own problems, while innocent law enforcement agencies are being blamed. In addition, the primary problem holding down the African Americans is “Black on Black Crime.” Without a doubt black on black crime represents a major problem in the African Americans communities, however, so does unemployment, poor schooling, substandard housing, no health insurance, low paying jobs, high police presence, high number of arrests and a host of other concerns. All these concerns are related to a system that does not treat all people fairly.
The presence of the picture suggests bigotry by seemingly promoting the stereotypical view that police are unfairly accused of creating a problem for which they are innocent and share no involvement other than what the law allows. The decision to draw and present the cartoon picture did not come from a mind free of ethnic bias. The intent of the work clearly shows who the viewer should assume to be the villain—the African Americans.
The presence of the cartoon suggests a sense of arrogance in that little or no thought was given to how African Americans would view it. The fact that the picture was published shows that no regards were given to what the African Americans might think and feel relative to their value in society that encourages a denigrating perception of them.
The fact of the matter is that the cartoon attempts to dismiss the problems existing between the African Americans, the law enforcement agencies, and society. The problem of black-on-black crime is not the same as seeking equal justice in society and the two should not be combined or confused. The large number of African Americans incarcerated will attest to the fact that individuals are apprehended and sent to prison for their alleged crimes. When we look at the number of instances where violence and death are perpetrated against people of color by law enforcement, and no one is held accountable regardless of the circumstances, then a problem exists that must be addressed. The problem involves equal justice and does not relate to black-on-black crime where people are held accountable for actions.
Living in a democratic society we realize that problem solving is a part of our responsibility and duty because that is how we ensure the rights and liberties of each individual. We fail ourselves and our society when to refuse to acknowledge problems that stare us squarely in the face or shift the blame to others. As our society continues to change we will of necessity be confronted with many problems that must be address if we intend to progress. Unlike the picture, we do not have to blame each other for the problems, we just need to recognize that they exists, then work together to resolve them.

Paul R. Lehman, Fairness in the criminal justice system and society is the focus of the protest.

December 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, Ferguson, grand jury, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Michael Brown, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, one thing has become crystal clear—many European Americans have no clue as to why African Americans do not trust law enforcement in general, and the justice system in particular. Many European Americans do not take the time to get the facts relative to incidents involving European American police officers and African Americans; they simply side with the police. In addition, since the majority of law enforcement officers reflect the majority society, the relationship between these two groups is generally good. No so with respect to law enforcement agencies and African Americans and other people of color. The element of distrust of the justice system regarding African Americans and people of color has proven to be correct in far too many cases. Whenever a conflict arise involving justice for an African American victim and a European American law officer, the officer is usually exonerated. When African Americans protest a decision and the lack of justice, as they see it, from the justice system, many European Americans take the side of the law establishment, regardless of the actual situation, evidence, and facts.
No amount to evidence, facts, and data will convince a bigot that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, have a Constitutional right to protest against the justice system as to what they perceive as an injustice. Rather than sticking to a specific issue or concern presented by the protesters, the bigots will try to bring in other issues to try and weaken the objective of the protest. For example, when protesters talk about the number of killings of unarmed African American males by European American law officers, the bigots want to bring into the discussion the number of “black on black” murders. The problem with this inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the problem of unequal justice. The African Americans who commit murder against other African Americans are generally apprehended, tried, and if found guilty, sent to prison. History shows that most European American police officers who shoot and kill young African American males rarely go to trial, and if they do, are usually set free. Michael Brown’s case is only one of the most recent examples.
One of the problems with the difference between how African Americans see the criminal justice system and the way European Americans see it is how some, usually bigoted, European Americans perceive African Americans in generally. In many instances, European Americans see African Americans at extremes—either well-to-do, educated, and professional or poor, ignorant, prone to violence, dishonest, collect food stamps, and criminal. Little room is ever given to seeing African American as ordinary human beings as they, European Americans see themselves. Because of these perceptions and bigoted attitudes, fear and hate can be easily generated by people who want to polarize each side. For example, an article in The Oklahoma (11/29/14)by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley entitled “A discussion no one wants,” does just that, whether deliberate or not. Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.
Using language and information that cast a dark shadow on the character of Michael Brown, Riley tries to build an argument justifying Brown’s death. He added that “Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can’t be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior—yet such discussion remains taboo.” This reference is a good example of mixing several different concerns and trying to blend them into one—the black problem. First, racial profiling and tensions exists among African Americans and police regardless of the communities; the focus of the police is usually on the skin color. The “black on black crime” is a problem that is being addressed even by the President, so that concern should not be included in the discussion. African Americans want to have the discussion, however, they must have it with people willing to listen and act positively.
Riley offered some unsubstantiated information that serves to underscore his bigotry:”But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.”The statement suggest that all young black men are criminals and are responsible for committing a large portion of violent crimes. Where are the facts, stats, evidence? By now Riley should know that human being belong to one race, not many.
Riley wants his readers to think that the entire problem in Ferguson is simple to assess: “Pretending that police behavior is the root of the problem is not only a dodge but also foolish…Ferguson’s problem isn’t white cops or white prosecutors; it’s the thug behavior exhibited by individuals like Michael Brown, which puts a target on the backs of other young black men. Romanticizing such behavior instead of condemning it only makes matters worse.”There we have it; all that needs to be done to solve the problem is to get rid of the young black thugs.
What Riley does not understand in his bigoted perspective, is that Michael Brown and Ferguson are not what is being protested, per se, but the injustice of the American criminal justice system. Responsible Americans of all ethnicities are involved in protests all across America and some foreign countries in an effort to get America’s attention regarding the years of injustice perpetrated against African Americans and people of color. These protestors are not causing violent disruptions, but civil unrest and civil disobedience. The American Psychological Association defined violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”Some extreme and small elements of some protest groups have destroyed property and burned buildings, cars and businesses. These acts are reprehensible and have no places in the protests and are never condoned. With respect to violence, however, the violence in most cases is not committed by the protestors. When we look at the definition of the word violence, we certainly cannot describe the protestors as violent; they do not assault, abuse or murder the police or law enforcers.
We certainly thank Riley for his article because he gave us a picture of the problems American society faces regarding valuing all citizens and insuring that we all receive justice and fairness regardless of what we look like or where we live.

Paul R. Lehman, African Americans and law enforcement agencies’ relationship

August 26, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Posted in African American, American history, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, European American, fairness, integregation, liberty, minority, poverty, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, The Oklahoman, whites | Leave a comment
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The relationship of the African American community and law enforcement agencies has never been good, and at time, simply tolerable. Some people say this lack of a positive relationship between these two groups has to do with the majority society’s ignorance, stupidity, and bigotry. In essence, the law enforcement agencies reflect the mind-set of the majority society—European Americans. In some instances, the actions of the law enforcement agencies seem to manifest a fear and anger towards the African Americans. Why? What would be a reason for European Americans via the law enforcement agencies to hate African Americans?
Historically, European Americans have been conditioned by society to see themselves as superior to all people of color. They generally do not view themselves as a race, but as the model of the human race. The reason for this view is based on the efforts of society to create the concept of the European American as “normal.” For example, when a European American woman walks into a department store and asks for stockings that are “nude” in color, she is given stocking that match her complexion. Maybe she wants facial make-up, so she goes to the cosmetic counter and asks for a “natural” shade, she receives make-up that matches her skin complexion. What these two examples suggest is that the skin complexion of the European American is the model of normal, natural, and nude skin. Where does that leave the rest of society—the people of color?
When people believe that they and the people who look like them are normal, then the people who do not look like them, will appear un-normal or less-than-normal. What the society knows, but chooses to ignore, is the fact that 80% of the world’s population is people of color; that means that only 20% of the world’s population has fair complexions. Using those facts and common sense, the people of fair complexions would seem to be the less-than-normal at 20%. However, if the fair-complexion people in the minority can convince the majority people of color to view themselves as less-than-normal, then the fair-complexioned people have an advantage. The advantage grows when positive social and personal attributes are associated with the fair-skinned people while negative and degrading qualities are associated with people of color. Add to this concept the idea that every gain that people of color make towards being “normal” is viewed as a deduction from the fair-skinned people’s sense of superiority and power. This idea of having something taken away from them creates fear, anger and even hatred of the people making the advances. So, the African Americans represent the enemy. This picture is a reflection of what has taken place in America over the last four-hundred plus years. The irony of it all is that the reference to a superior and inferior group of people based on skin complexion is pure conjecture—illusion; only one race of people exist on the planet and it come in a variety of shades.
The fact that the concept of race is a myth has not been communicated to many of the European American communities or if it has, they choose to ignore it. Unfortunately, what cannot be ignored are the changes taking place in society, changes like those stated by Ronald R. Sundstrom, in The Browning of America and the Evasion of Social Justice, (SUNY Press, 2008)
The United States is undergoing the most profound demographic changes in the country’s history so that in a few decades, if not sooner, persons identified (and identifying themselves) as white and tracing their ancestry to Europe will have become part of the nation’s racial and ethnic plurality, no longer its numerically dominant racial group. This historic development portends others equally historic and transformative, among these the gradual — possibly even dramatic — displacement of white people as the dominating group politically, economically, socially, even culturally.
These changes are not what the majority European Americans expected or anticipated relative to their tenure in America, so the changes must be discarded whenever and wherever possible. In effect, President Obama cannot be accepted as the President because that takes away the superiority from the biased European Americans.
The ignorance and bigotry against the African American is reflected in the treatment of the African American community by the law enforcement agencies. Because of the social conditioning of the law enforcement agencies, they show little or no respect towards the African Americans. They feel empowered to act this way because of the general lack of power the African Americans and poor people have in the society and the “us versus them” attitude of the agencies. Our society is not viewed as unified, but separated by color and socio-economic status. Taken together, the attitude and treatment of the law enforcement agencies towards the African Americans leaves little or no room for trust in fairness and justice.
An example of how this lack of trust in the system works can be seen in a recent story printed in The Oklahoman, ”More victims are possible in sex crime case against officer” (8/22/2014). The story involved allegations of a series of sexual attacks by a police officer while on duty in a largely African American community. The article noted that the officer was accused of “stopping women—some as they walked through neighborhoods—and threatening them with arrest….Police said …[the officer] forced women to expose themselves, fondled the women, and in at least one instance, had intercourse with a woman…” The officer is European American.
Why did these alleged crimes go on so long? We might suggest that the officer believed that his word, as an officer, would over-ride the word of any African American female. And in most cases he would be correct because of past experiences of officers in situations regarding African Americans. Many of the women who filed complaints held little hope that this officer would be stopped. More than likely the mere number of complaints to the department finally got someone’s attention, so some action was finally taken. The number of women reported in the article was seven and their ages between 34 and 58. The lack of trust comes from the repeated experiences of lack of respect and negative treatment by people who are paid to enforce the law, serve and protect, but who often assume to be the law, judge and jury.
We must come to the understanding that we are all family—the human family, and our society and world must change for the better for everyone. At some point in our changing society, we will realize “that the twisting kaleidoscope moves us all in turn.”

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