Paul R Lehman, BBC News report shows some American police unable to serve the mentally ill

October 27, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Community relationships, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, Disrespect, education, equality, European American, justice, language, life, Oklahoma, police force, respect, social justice system, tolerance | 1 Comment
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In early October, the BBC News aired a show entitled “Don’t Shoot, I’m disabled” with journalist Aleem Maqbool that featured police officers and other law enforcement representatives. Whatever the show’s objective was, the results underscored the ignorance, insensitivity, and irrationality of law enforcement in three specific American cities: Milwaukee, Frederick County, and Oklahoma City.

In the first incident, we learn that three West Milwaukee police officers broke into the home of 22-year-old Adam Trammell where they found “him naked and  bewildered standing in his bathtub as water from the shower ran down his body.” The police presence at Adam’s home was due to a neighbor calling 911 and reporting that she had seen Adam, whom she called Brandon, walking naked in the corridor, talking about the devil. Adam’s father, Larry Trammell, said that Adam often experienced delusions and hallucinations. He noted that taking a shower helped Adam calm down when he felt ill-at-ease. When the police tried to confront Adam, they saw that he was not armed nor was he acting in a threatening manner. However, he did not respond to their commands to leave the shower. They referred to him as Brandon, not Adam.

At this point, most reasonable people would process the information they had about this situation and realize that Adam did not respond to the officers’ command because he was not in a normal frame of mind. For the officers to proceed in a manner they viewed as normal when their commands were not followed showed ignorance. The events that followed underscore their lack of concern and compassion for a fellow human being: “The officers then fired their Tasers at him 15 times, administering long, painful electric shocks as he screamed and writhed in the bathtub. Then more officers arrived, and after dragging him, still naked, from his apartment, they held him down and he was injected with sedatives – midazolam at first, and then ketamine.”Shortly afterward Adam stopped breathing and was taken to a hospital where he was dead on arrival. All of the police action was captured on an officer-worn camera on May 25, 2017.

After Adam’s death, the police said that they broke into Adam’s home to help him and that their actions towards him were to restrain him and get him medical help. Nothing coming near rational thinking on their part could be ascertained from the video. To add insult to injury Milwaukee’s District Attorney John Chisholm went so far as to rule that “there was no basis to conclusively link Mr. Trammell’s death to the actions taken by the police officers.” No media attention was made of this story and no officers faced prosecution.

In another case, a 26-year-old man with Down’s syndrome, Ethan Saylor, was watching the movie Zero Dark Thirty in a Frederick County, Maryland cinema with his carer. Ethan fashioned himself as a CIA agent after a character in the film. After the movie, Ethan wanted to view it again, but his carer told him that they had to leave. They walked out of the theater, but not out of the building. When the carer went to get the car, Ethan went back into the theater and the same seat he had occupied before. The three off-duty police security officers heard that someone was in the cinema without purchasing a ticket. They went in and found Ethan. The carer had gotten the car and did not realize that Ethan had gone back inside the cinema. After confronting Ethan about his presence in the cinema without a ticket, they asked him to leave. Ethan told them that he was a CIA agent and would not leave.

At this point, any reasonable person recognizing that Ethan was a Downs syndrome person would have realized that they would have to use another approach in trying to communicate with Ethan. However, the officers put their arms under Ethan’s arms and tried to lift him out of the seat. He cried for his mother but was removed from the theater arrested, handcuffed and restrained. In a short matter of time, Ethan was on the floor face down and not breathing. He subsequently died. His mother, Patti, thought that he had died from some unexplained medical complication, but an autopsy report indicated that his death was a homicide from asphyxiation.

Patti believed that had Ethan been able to respond to the officers’ command he would still be alive, but questioned why officers would intervene physically someone with Down’s syndrome. Officers again showed a lack of information regarding the treatment of a person not in control of his normal or natural reasonable ability but proceeded to treat him as though he was normal. Their actions showed their lack of knowledge and compassion for someone with a mental condition.

The third incident involved law enforcement from Oklahoma City. On September 19, 2017, the police confronted Magdiel Sánchez, a 35-years-old man who was on the porch of his home. The police believed that he was carrying a weapon and did not drop it when they shouted commands for him to do so. During the confrontation with Sánchez, a neighbor shouted to the officers that Sánchez was deaf. Evidently, Sánchez did not hear the police commands. None-the-less, he was shot and killed. He had been holding a small section of piping and was ordered to drop it.

Oklahoma City Police Chief, Bill Citty defended the police action: “Nobody disputes neighbours were yelling that he was deaf,” then added that “He [Sánchez} understood that they were police officers. That’s why we wear uniforms.” In essence, Citty did not accept the fact that Sánchez was deaf and had learning difficulties as a reason for his behavior. According to Citty, his officers were in fear of being hit with the pipe and acted in self-defense. He noted that “It’s our job to be able to respond to situations in a manner which creates the best outcome.” One might as the question whose best outcome? Certainly, it was not the best for Sánchez.

Maqbool, the reporter, road along with Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Corey Nooner who related to him an incident 15 years ago where he shot and killed a woman with schizophrenia. According to Maqbool, “Nooner says that given the same circumstances today, he would do exactly the same thing. ‘I have to make sure I go home to my family at night.” Nooner admitted that he was angered by the suggestion that police may be too ready to use lethal force. The question remains, so why are so many disabled people killed by the police?

If we are to follow the focus of the BBC News story, the answer to the question is ignorance, or a lack of education regarding the mentally ill; insensitivity or a lack of compassion and a failure to see the mentally ill as human being with some difficulties; irrationality, or a lack of reason

other than for the safety and well-being of the police, not the citizen. More training, however, is not an answer, but more and better education could help. The chances are little to none that many Americans saw this story, but rest assured that all of Europe with access to the BBC News saw it.

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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.

Paul R. Lehman,Being poor signals a lack of power with the police for ethnic minorities.

September 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Media and Race, Prejudice, Race in America, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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Is there any doubt about why most ethnic American communities, especially the African American, American Indian, and the Hispanic, have problems accepting the police as being “servants of the people” when the majority of the experiences involving the police in these communities are negative? Unless the readers are ethnic American, chances are their experiences with the police are quite different from those who are. One only has to watch the local and national news to learn about how many ethnic Americans are treated by the police departments in given situations. They, generally, get no respect. Two recent examples of disrespect to African American families come to mind– Trayvon Martin, and Robin Leander Howard.

Most people know the story of Trayvon Martin being shot and killed within sight of his family members’ residence.  His family was not notified for several days that their loved one had died from a gun shot. When his family inquired of Trayvon’s location, they were not given any answers.  When Trayvon’s father went to the Police and requested a missing person’s complaint, he was not told about his son’s death. The police listed Trayvon as “John Doe,” since, according to them, he did not have any identification on him. The fact of the matter is that the family of Trayvon was not given any detail information until they obtained the services of an attorney. Even then, the information requested by the family attorney was not readily forthcoming.

The situation was somewhat different with respect to the victim in the case of Robin Leander Howard. According to the newspaper report (The Oklahoma, 8/15/12), “Officers said Howard led them on a chase that ended in the 1400 block of Monticello Court, about 150 yards from the small home he shared with his mother. What happened after police caught up with Howard is a mystery.”Reports indicate that medical assistance was first called to the location, but later refused. The article did not indicate who refused the medical attention. However, we are told that the police later took Howard to a hospital where he later died. His family was able to retrieve the mother’s vehicle from the impound lot, but when inquiry concerning Howard’s location was made, the family received no helpful information. Finally, after four days, the family was notified by the police that Howard was dead and that he had died in the hospital.

Still unable to obtain detailed information concerning Howard’s death from the police department, the family hired an attorney to assist them. A few days later, the city’s police chief made a public apology to the family for not notifying them of their loved one’s death in a timely manner. However, the family still did not receive any information relative to why and how Howard died. The family decided to seek the assistance of national organizations to help in this matter so maybe they can receive the information they want.

The object of this topic is not to cast aspersions towards the police and/or the police departments in general, but to focus on how the families of ethnic minorities, especially African Americans are treated by many law enforcement agencies. To say that they are treated with disrespect would be an understatement; they simply are not valued. Why?  Part of the answer lies in the attitude of the establishment regarding minority ethnic groups that is expressed in the number of incarcerations.  Two researchers, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (The Spirit Level), state that “Racial and ethnic disparities in rate of imprisonment are one way of showing the inequalities in risk of being imprisoned. In America, the racial gap can be measured as the ration between imprisonment rates for whites and blacks.” Wilkinson and Pickett further noted that “Twenty-five per cent of white youths in America have committed one violent offense by age 17, compared to 36 per cent of African Americans, ethnic rates of property are the same, and African American youth commit fewer drug crimes.” However, we are told that “…African-American youth are overwhelmingly more likely to be arrested, to be detained, to be charged, to be charged as if an adult and to be imprisoned.”

In addition, these researchers indicated that “The same pattern is true for African- American and Hispanic adults, who are treated more harshly than whites at every stage of judicial proceedings.” Also, we learn that “Facing the same charges, white defendants are far more likely to have the charges against them reduced, or to be offered ‘diversion’—a deferment or suspension of prosecution if the offender agrees to certain conditions, such as completing a drug rehabilitation programme.”

While the information pertaining to the treatment of African Americans and other minorities is important, it does not give a reason for it happening, the cause. The reasons are spelled out, however, in the following statement by Wilkinson and Pickett:

“People nearer the bottom of society almost always face downward discrimination and prejudice. There are of course important differences between what is seen as class prejudice in society without ethnic divisions, and as racial prejudice where there are. Although the cultural marks of class are derived inherently from status differentiation, they are less indelible than differences in skin colour. But when differences in ethnicity, religion or language come to be seen as markers of low social status and attract various downward prejudices, social division and discrimination may increase.”

If we translate the language of the researchers, we find that the reasons for the lack of respect shown the African Americans relative to the various police departments is due to their perception of African Americans having little or nor economic, political, or social power–poor people equal no power. The attitudes of both the police and the ethnic communities are generally based on the experiences encountered by each segment. Approximately 90 per cent of the police encounters in the minority communities are negative. The communities, then, assume that the only value police associates with them are negative. So, the assessments go both ways.

If the practice is to stop, work has to be done by the local police departments in improving their images and relationship with the ethnic communities and the communities must help to create better positive relations with the law enforcement agencies. The best way to insure continued negative results and poor relations between both sides is for each side to ignore the problems.

Paul R. Lehman, Vashina Butler, Oklahoma pioneer, hero, captain

June 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Posted in American Racism, Ethnicity in America, Race in America | 2 Comments
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The headlines of a recent edition of  The Oklahoman read “Police promote first
black female captain.” In smaller letters on another page the headlines read “Black
woman becomes 1st promoted to captain.” The article noted that “Vashina
Butler recently became the first African American woman promoted to the rank of
captain in the Oklahoma City Police Department. Butler, a 20-year veteran of
the force, said her promotion is a testament to those who laid the groundwork
for diversity in the department.” After twenty years of hard work, dedication,
and diligence, what did anyone expect her to say, that she should have made
captain years ago? That kind of statement would have made her seem like an
ingrate. Actually, for any African American holding the title of the first, a
number of things had to happen: preparation, perseverance, and propriety.

Being first is quite different from being number one. When
someone is number one that means that there was a previous number one. Being
the first means that  a precedent is set—there
was no one before. One would think that the need for a headline in 2011,announcing
the promotion of an African American woman to a position in a police department
would no longer be necessary. Unfortunately, the headlines indicate just how
slow and deliberate justice and opportunity can be. The reference to justice
has to do with the fact that American is and has been a society biased against
African Americans, therefore, when one lays claim to a first, it becomes headline
news to show the world that the city is not as biased as it used to be. Being
the first African American generally, in a positive area, means years of preparation,
not for a position, just for a job. One only has to look at the late Jackie
Robinson, for example, and many other African Americans to understand some of
the prep work needed to simply get recognized.

Ms. Butler, however, describes her experiences on the job.
She began as a 21-year-old college graduate who applied to the Oklahoma City
Police Department in 1990. She adds that “Reaching the rank of captain is no
easy task. Lieutenants who want to be captains get a chance to take a written
test every two years.” Passing the test is not enough to qualify; she continues
“ The top 15 candidates based on test scores and seniority move on to an
exhaustive, multistage review process that includes critiques from high ranking
officers from other departments and that further narrows the list.” One can see
how important preparation is for simply qualifying for promotion in the
department, preparation in a variety of areas.

No one gives an African American the claim to being the
first simply because one is qualified and prepared. Ms. Butler notes that along
with being prepared comes perseverance: “The top candidates then have to hope
at least one of the 30 or so captain positions comes open.” The article notes
that Butler took the captain’s test four times: “The first three times, she was
among the top 10 candidates, but not enough spots opened up.”The ability to
face reality in its many forms shows strength in the character of the one who perseveres.
Ms. Butler can evidently serves as an example of such a strong person.

Learning of Ms. Butler’s courage and strength to prepare and
persevere on her journey, one wonders why it take so long for social progress
to keep pace with equity. Too often, the public wants to praise the individual
African American for an accomplishment in becoming the first. In reality, what
the African American should be praised for is having been prepared and ready to
take advantage of the opportunity to step into the position. If the headline is
recalled, it states “Police promotes first black female captain.” In other
words, regardless of how qualified and prepared Ms. Butler was, she had to wait
until the police department decided to promote her to captain; she could not do
it herself. The police department should be asked what took them so long to
make their decision.  They  cannot use the argument of the candidate not
being qualified or prepared for the rank. Nonetheless, the department wants to
get credit for taking its time to grant a promoting to an African American
woman. At the same time, the public want to praise the candidate for being the
first when she was simply waiting for the opportunity for others to act in her
behalf.

Is it not interesting that today we celebrate the
achievement of ethnic Americans because they have been finally allowed to
participate in society at a level where they were previously prevented from
doing so, and when they are recognized for finally being allowed to step up,
society pat itself on the back and feel pride in shedding another remnant of
bigotry? All of our hats should go off to Ms. Butler for having the strength of
character, endurance, and patience for putting up with all the challenges she
endured to finally reach her destination. Now she must endure even more scrutiny
in her new role because she serves not only as a positive role model to young
African American women but also as a symbol of a society very slow in
recognizing the value of all human being regardless of their color.

Ms. Butler is not just the first African American woman
promoted to captain by the Oklahoma City Police Department, she is an Oklahoma
hero and pioneer.

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