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.

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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.

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