Paul R. Lehman, Five questions that can aid in reducing arrest of people of color due to 911 calls

November 21, 2018 at 1:00 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | Leave a comment
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Although they occur with too much frequency, we must not let the incidents of police arrest of people of color and other poor citizens for being in a place that appears uncomfortable to some European Americans become acceptable and ordinary. What seems like a daily occurrence of a person being arrested by the police in response to a 911 call must be addressed and corrected. In order to make the corrections three areas must be targeted: the citizen who makes the 911 call, the 911 dispatcher, and the police officers who respond to the 911 call.

Individuals that serve in any of the three above capacities must be taught that their choices can and often make the difference between a person’s life and death. Therefore, before the choice to act or react relative to a 911 call the following questions should be addressed: who, what, where, when, and why. If the small amount of time it takes to consider these questions by individuals in each of three areas of concern, society would benefit greatly with fewer arrest, fewer deaths, and less money paid by the citizens to settle civil cases. These questions should accompany any orientation relative to the service of a 911 emergency call because they provide the necessary information from which to make a reasonable and rational decision and choice relative to a perceived emergency.

Any number of reasons can be recalled for why a European American citizen calls 911 for assistance. For example, a university professor from the University of Texas in San Antonio called 911 to have a student remove from class because the student had simply placed her feet in or on the chair in front of her. Prior to making the call, if the professor had taken the time to ask herself the question why she wanted the student removed, the subsequent action that took place might not have happened. We might assume from the report that followed the incident that the professor felt that the gesture by the student was interpreted as an insult to her. The student’s actions were not based on anything having to do with the teacher; she just simply wanted to stretch her legs. Unfortunately, the police arrived and escorted the student from the classroom. We might add that the student was an African American and was simply unaware of the professor’s thoughts and reactions, but had to bear the brunt of the incident by being removed from the class. The information derived from asking the five questions could have offered a remedy for the problem.

Too often the 911 caller is in an emotional state of mind and cannot reason or adequately address the situation that is thought to require a 911 call. In that case, the 911 dispatcher should try to obtain that information before it is dispatched to officers in the field. In any number of incidents, a little time and a little more information might have prevented the need for law enforcement assistance. If we were to examine the situation that occurred at a Starbuck’s restaurant involving two young African Americans waiting on another colleague to join them being arrested and escorted out of the establishment by the police, we realize that simply answering the five questions might have eliminated the need for law enforcers. Had the dispatcher taken the time to ascertain just what was the problem involving the African Americans before contacting the police, the incident might have been avoided. However, the social conditioning of many European Americans often causes them to react in fear or dread at the mention of or sight of a person of color in the near surroundings, so the first reaction is to call 911.

When police receive information from a 911 dispatcher, they usually react based on the information they receive. One serious problem generally associated with this action has to be with the education the police receive in the orientation to the job and its responsibilities, namely, attitude and judgment towards the citizens. We know from many studies and experiences that European American law enforcers have a different emotional reaction to incidents involving African Americans and European Americans. Too often the attitude of officers toward people of color is one of fear, dread, and guilt. In essence, too often people of color are viewed and treated as criminals before any questions are asked or additional information acquired beyond what the dispatcher offered.

For example, when a convenience store employee thought a young African American college student had used a fake $20 bill to pay for his merchandise, he immediately called 911. The dispatcher relayed the information to the police and they rushed to the store. When they arrive inside the store, they went immediately to the African American student and commanded him to show an identification card. Nothing was said to him prior to this command. Based on their action, they assumed that the student was a criminal as in this case; the officers thought the student was not producing his identification fast enough so they ordered him to place his hands behind him, and thus instigated what they describe as the need for physical force. After throwing the student to the floor, shocking him, and placing him in handcuffs, the officers asked the store employees for the fake $20 dollar bill only to discover that it was nowhere to be found. The student was taken to jail for not obeying a direct command.

When we look at the actions and reactions of the three areas of concern relative to some European American citizens calling 911, the actions of the 911 dispatcher, and finally, the involvement of the police in these incidents, we can certainly justify the need for the use of the five questions along the chain of information from the caller to the police officers. As citizens, we pay for and depend on the services of the dispatches and the police officers to do their jobs, and we should also expect them to show respect and courtesy to everyone without first prejudging them.

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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.

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