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, No justice from ‘A jury of one’s peers’ in U. S. court system

July 14, 2017 at 11:33 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal activity, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, minority, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, social conditioning, social justice system, The U.S. Constitution, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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Recently in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a judge declared a mistrial, for the third time, in a case involving a European American former police office, Shannon Kepler. The officer acknowledged shooting Jeremey Lake, a 19-year-old African American male who had been dating Keller’s daughter, Lisa. While Kepler claimed that he was defending himself when he shot Lake, no weapon was found on Lake or anywhere near the scene. An article on abcnews.go.com provided the following information: “Kepler, who retired from the force after he was charged, was a 24-year-police veteran who said he was trying to protect his daughter, who had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood.”

Americans in general and African Americans in particular, should not be surprised at the mistrial or even a not guilty decision from this trail and the many others involving African American men and police officers. We should realize by now that the criminal justice system, especially the courts were not meant to serve justice to people of color. We must be constantly reminded of the fact that American is a biased society and that people of color are viewed as objects that cause fear and anxiety to European Americans. Many of our laws, regardless of what they might intend, are meant to keep the concept of two different groups of people separated. That separation is underscored in the court system and especially the jury system in America.

For African Americans as well most Americans in general, the phrase “A jury of one’s peers,” is meaningless, and because it is meaningless, few people ever experience having a member of his or their jury a peer. In an article by Eric Peters (3/23/2012), “A Jury of One’s Peers,” he notes that while this phrase is not found in our Constitution, the concept comes from English Common Law from which our Constitution was based. The phrase was intended to describe a situation where “The men of a community would gather to weigh evidence presented against someone—someone they knew. Unfortunately, what we have today is an altogether different animal. You may find yourself tried in front of a jury—but they will not be your peers.”

Today, in Oklahoma, anyone 18-years-old and older with a valid driver’s license can be randomly selected to serve on a jury. The individuals are not selected from a particular community, but usually from the county in which they live. If members of a jury were selected from specific communities where people of similar social, religious, economic, political, and education tend to live, then individuals facing charges from those communities would have a reasonable chance of being judged by a peer. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work.

In America, three things work against African Americans when they involve European American police officers, and juries—a lack of people of color on the jury, law enforcement bigotry, and systemic cultural bigotry. Most juries will consist of few people of color for any number of reasons, first of which is availability. Fewer people of color are chosen (at random) for jury duty and few are chosen to serve on a jury once reporting for jury duty. The lack of representation of people of color on the jury for an African American can make a difference in the jury’s final decision. Also, the presence of one or two persons of color serving on a jury of predominately European Americans can be intimidating and stressful to them.

In his recently published book (2017), CHOKEHOLD, Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and law professor at Georgetown University, stated that “Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do. Virtually every objective investigation of a U.S. law enforcement agency finds that the police, as policy, treat African Americans with contempt.” He further stated that “The most problematic practices of American criminal justice—excessive force by police, harsh sentencing, the erosion of civil liberties, widespread government surveillance, and mass incarceration—are best understood as measures originally intended for African American men.” The many jury verdicts involving the shooting by law enforcement agents have demonstrated that the repercussions for a European American or an officer killing a person of color are little and none, which underscores Butler’s point. The fact that European American law enforcement agents use the aspect of fear in their defense of their actions is one that does not differ from the fear that European Americans experience generally when coming into contact with an African American male.

European Americans are socially conditioned to view African Americans with fear and dismay unless the African Americans are known to the European Americans. This conditioning is a natural and a normal part of everyday life and not viewed as a bias towards people of color. Butler referenced  in his book a study entitled “Transforming Perceptions: Black Men and Boys,” by the American Values Institute (3/2013), that noted the following: “When people [European Americans] see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more.” He also noted another study that stated: “When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” So, the reference to the fear experienced by European Americans law enforcement as noted is part of the American experience for them and bad news for African Americans. The challenge for all Americans is to replace that fear with reason and understanding, knowing that we all belong to the same family of mankind. We must all work to replace the present criminal justice system or continue to be victims of it.

Consequently, we need to practice justice and respect towards one another because we realize as Peters noted: “Court proceedings should, of course, be impartial—but not to the extent of being obtuse. And obtuse—even evil—is precisely what we have today. Mindless worship of statutes as opposed to the spirit animating them. No harm done (or intended) no longer matters. Just ‘the law’—as interpreted by twelve random strangers.” While we can no longer practice the concept of “a jury of one’s peers,” we can certainly underscore the humanity we all possess. We must be the change we need.

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