Tags: African Americans, black, community relations, current-events, discrimination, ethnicity, European Americans, justice, law enforcement agencies, Mark A Yancey, Obama and American Bigotry, police force, President Obama, Race in America, rebuild, respect, restore, The Oklahoman, tolerance, trust, white
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, Law enforcement should acknowledge role in historic Police violence regarding African AmericansJuly 22, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, Constitutional rights, Darren Wilson, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Ferguson, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, Media and Race, Norm Stamper, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, tribalism, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
Tags: African American, American History, bigotry, black, Charles Kinsey, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, FOP, justice, law, law enforcement, Obama and American Bigotry, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, white
One of the ironies concerning the recent instances of police shootings is the reaction of law enforcement regarding the shootings. The entire nation is put on alert and more arms are brought out in preparation for defense against the shooters. More officers are brought out into the field or on the streets as if there was going to be a war-like conflict between the police shooters and the police. What we find in looking at the individuals who shoot police is that they generally acted alone. When attempting to answer the question of why were the police attacked, the police never say that maybe they had something to do with instigating the violence. And that is the irony.
For approximately three-hundred-years, law enforcers have shown little respect to people of color as they abused, assaulted, exploited, and killed them. The concern for justice and fairness was never an issue in the years before civil rights. Whatever the law enforcers wanted to do, they do with impunity. The victims of color had no one or place to turn to for justice or fairness when the perpetrators were the law enforcers who were supposed to protect them. Most complaints to others in authority fell on deaf ears, and usually, nothing was done. At the same time, an African American or person of color person could be accused of committing a crime and be sent to prison or death without even a semblance of a fair or just trial. If we were to check the records of violence and lynching’s committed against African Americans in police custody over the past few decades, we would not receive accurate data because the law enforcers did not record it or would not want to appear like they had a part in creating the data.
Today, with the advance of technology the world is able to witness the behavior of some law enforcers as they interact with people of color. In many cases, what is seen does not usually coincide with what the officer say happened. However, regardless of what is seen on the videos, the officers usually experience little if any repercussions for their involvement. For many of the people who watch the videos, justice or fairness does not seem to serve the African Americans. One reason offered by former and current police officers in trying to explain the behavior of European American police officers is fear of the African American man. Norm Stamper, the author of Breaking Rank, noted that “From the earliest days of academy training it was made clear that black men and white cops don’t mix, that of all the people we’d encounter on the streets, those most dangerous to our safety, to our survival, were black men.” If we are to take these words of a former police officer as truth, then we can readily understand why the European American police officer fears African American men—their safety and survival.
From where did that threat of safety and survival come relative to the European American officer ? One possibility might come from the bigotry present in the social conditioning of European Americans. Whether that fear is real or imaginary, the mere fact that it is announced in the academy or is common knowledge in the departments, it can serve as an excuse for officers to use the threat of death as a defense to shoot, beat or other abusive activity of African Americans. To underscore this point, Stamper stated: “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.” Why has the public been kept in the dark about this fear? Maybe because keeping it secret serves a useful purpose for some people.
When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, brother and sister officers from all over the nation attend the funeral to pay their respects and show support for their members. Often huge processions and motorcades become part of the ceremony celebrating the service of the fallen officer. We all feel the loss and mourn with the family because every life is important and valued. We understand and appreciate the feelings of tribalism is the thin blue line. What we Americans find difficult to understand, however, is when a twelve-year-old boy playing with a toy gun alone in a public park is shot by an officer there is no-show of concern from the police department or the “good “officers on the force. The first utterance from the law enforcement agencies is usually the “officer had probable cause.” Little else is said.
No person in his or her healthy mind wants or wishes the death of another human being. However, if an individual has witnessed years of injustices, miscarriage of the law, abuse, assaults, and death to people who share the same identity but different skin color, but realize no sense of justice or concern for justice by the very people who volunteer their lives to serve and protect them, his or her sense of reality can be altered. Law enforcement agencies need to examine themselves to learn what part they play in creating the fear and behavior that contributes to the deaths of many men of color and subsequently to the death of their fellow officers.
Just recently a young African American man, Charles Kinsey, a physical therapist was attempting to render service to a young male autistic patient who was sitting in the middle of the street playing with a toy truck. Someone called the police and said someone was in the street with a gun. When Kinsey realized the police were on the scene, he laid on his back with both hands in the air and shouted loud to the police not to shoot. He told them that he was a therapist and the young man was autistic so please do not shoot. Totally disregarding what the therapist said, one of the officers shot Kinsey, made him turn over and handcuffed him. The irony of this case is that the autistic man was European American and had the object in his hand. The therapist was on his back with both hands in the air, yet he was the one the police shot with a rifle, not a gun.
Later, when the officer was asked why he shot Kinsey, his reply was “I don’t know.”Is there any wonder why some people lose their perspective about the police? Things must change for the better for all Americans, but especially for African Americans. Some members of the FOP are quick to claim that anyone who says something negative about police behavior is totally anti-police, but that is not true. People can be pro-police but find fault in some police behavior. For the FOP to put all the blame of police misconduct on a few “bad officers” is faulty logic. If a pack of dogs is charging towards a person with mouths open, teeth glaring, tongues salivating, how is he suppose to select the ones who will not bite him? This example is not meant as disrespect to officers, but when they all act in concert, how can the good ones be distinguished from the bad ones? The police need to start accepting some responsibility for the violence committed against people of color and make appropriate changes.
The problems relative to the shooting of African Americans and police is not reserved to those two entities, but to all America. We need to address the problems now.
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, black, community relations, Confronting Myths, current-events, Eric Gardner, ethnicity, European Americans, human-rights, law enforcement, law enforcement agencies, law enforcement agents, law enforcers, police force, Police prepardness, Police training, Police videos, Prejudice, race, society
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.
Tags: African American citizens, African Americans, American Education, bigotry, black, Constitutional rights, current-events, Department of Justice, discrimination, DOJ Report, ethnicity, European Americans, Ferguson, John Eligon, Matt Apuzzo, Municipal government, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, white
The Department of Justice just recently published its report on the city of Ferguson, in an effort to get a clear picture of the community relations involving African American citizens. Since before the death of Michael Brown, the African American citizens had been complaining about the unfair and abusive treatment they have received from the police department as well as the municipal court and jail. Many outsiders questioned the complaints made by some of the African American citizens because of the trust and expectation for justice that has always been a part of common belief relative to these entities. The DOJ’s report should give some credence to the African American citizens’ complaints.
A typical example of what the report indicated regarding a community 67% African American and the percentage of African Americans stopped by the police. The report indicated that over the past 2 years, the police conducted traffic stops where 85% were African Americans. From those stops, 90% of the African American citizens were issued tickets. In addition, the record shows that 93% of the total arrests were of African Americans. Finally, 95% of the stops made by the police were for Jaywalking. The report further indicated that African Americans were two times as likely to have their autos searched than European Americans (whites) and if arrested, African Americans represented 95% of citizens kept in jail more than 2 days.
Other aspects of the report serve to underscore the systemic discrimination and abuse perpetrated on the African American citizens of Ferguson by the municipal and police agencies. Because of the amount of monies generated from the citizens’ arrest, fines, and incarcerations the report indicated that it constituted 21% of the city’s budget. The DOJ sees the means for collecting that money as a violation of the citizens’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. In effect, the operation of the city of Ferguson, in part, is dependant on the unfair and unjust treatment of its African American citizens.
To those American citizens who had doubts relative to the reports of African American citizens who raised complaints regarding the treatment they experienced by the police and other public agencies, the report should be sobering, to say the least. However, if the reaction of those Americans who do not feel that this DOJ report reflects only on the people of Ferguson, they are sadly mistaken. If they choose not to realize that ethnic bigotry and discrimination is an American problem, then they are living in an illusion. Some police and local governmental official can no longer use the excuse that only a few “bad apples” create the problems that the entire department or agency must bear. When we look at the numbers in the report, we must conclude the possibility of a number of things: one, the problem of bigotry is part of the system, or two, only the “bad apples” do most of the work.
If the arguments of only the “bad apples” create the community relations problems involving the African Americans, and the police and municipal government know this as a fact, why have they let it continue without recognizing the injustices and moved to correct them? One reason has to do with the community being conditioned to see the police as “never at fault” in making an arrest or using deadly force. The number of African American men killed during police interaction in the past two years is proof that something is not working in the African American’s favor. When one public official from Ferguson was asked about the large percentage of African American arrests, he shifted the responsibility to the people being arrested by saying that they should not have committed an offence or they deserved to be arrested.
While the DOJ report is important and informative, the conditions in Ferguson will not change unless and until some definite action to address and correct the problems are pursued, and soon. To many of the European American officials in Ferguson, the problem is minor and simply involved hiring a few people of color and maybe dismissing a few employees. Unfortunately, they do not realize that they are part of the problem—their mind-set does not encompass the systemic presence of bigotry. They are not exceptions, many European Americans do not understand, accept, or appreciate the presence of ethnic bigotry in America. We must await the reaction from the citizens of Ferguson to the following statements in the article, U.S.|NYT, “Now Ferguson Police Tainted by Bias, Justice Department Says,” by MATT APUZZO and JOHN ELIGON, MARCH 4, 2015:
“The Justice Department on Wednesday called on Ferguson, Mo., to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight.”
That statement did not call for the hiring or firing of a few individuals, but “to overhaul its criminal justice system.”Obviously, simply replacing parts of the present system will not suffice. Chances are the officials in Ferguson do not view the problems in the same context as the Justice Department. The problems as the DOJ see them are systemic, not modular. The next statement is more specific and direct relative to the experiences encountered by the African Americans citizens of Ferguson”
“In one example after another, the report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics.”
Many European Americans do not see ethnic bigotry as a systemic problem affecting all Americans; rather they see it as separate instances involving individuals with personal problems. That might explain the Ferguson police department and municipal authority’s initial reaction to the report. Ferguson is not an isolated example of the refusal to accept ethnic bigotry as an American problem. However, if Americans do not recognize and accept their responsibility as part of the problem, then little positive change will take place. They need to see bigotry from their inside out, rather than from the outside only. The problems of Ferguson are America’s problems; America needs to address them.
Tags: African Americans, Civil Rights, criminal justice system, current-events, Darren Wilson, Dr. Martin Luther King, equal justice, ethnicity, European Americans, Ferguson, grand jury, grand jury finding, justice, law enforcement, Michael Brown, police force, Prejudice, President Obama, protest, Robert McCulloch, social scientists, socio-economics, white
The finding of no indictment by the grand jury in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson should have come as no surprise to people who are familiar with the history of America’s justice system and its relationship to people of color. The grand jury’s finding underscores the primary reason why African Americans and other people of color have problems of trust with the justice system in America and the law enforcement arm of that system. Even more to the Brown case and the lack of trust in the County prosecutor Bob McCulloch as a representative of the justice system is his recent record of no convictions of police officers involved in shootings.
One of the legitimate concerns of the people of Ferguson at the beginning of the case was the decision to take it to a grand jury. What that decision did was to remove from involvement the citizens of Ferguson from the final outcome of the case in that the grand jury reflected the demographics of the state and not the city of Ferguson. European Americans represent seventy percent of the state of Missouri, but only about thirty percent of Ferguson. A total of twelve members made-up the grand jury with nine European Americans and three African Americans. A total of nine votes were required to decide the outcome of the case. To increase the control of the justice system in this case, everything was kept secret even after the finding—no information on who voted for what or why. Some citizens of Ferguson stated that they believed McCulloch elected to go with the grand jury to shield him from having to take any responsibility for the finding. That self-protection tactic was apparent during his report to the nation when he deferred many of the questions asked by the reporters as being part of the secrecy of the grand jury process.
Although many questions remain to be answered relative to this case, the grand jury’s finding of no indictment indicates a need to address some serious concerns, namely, the state of the criminal justice system in America as it applies to African Americans and other people of color; the need to address the value of African Americans and people of color in American society; the protection of the police force over and above the protection and rights of the citizens of color; the need for the involvement and support of the European Americans in addressing the problem of bigotry.
From the very beginning of his address, McCulloch’s comments were focused on the rights of the police officer Darren Wilson and how the evidence underscored his report of what actually happened during his confrontation with Michael Brown. The problem with that approach was that Wilson was not the victim, Brown was, but no comments or evidence was offered for Brown by McCulloch. What that says to the public is that the value of the police officer’s life is considerably more than that of the citizen. Why? If Americans are to feel and believe that the justice system works for everyone equally, then some attention must be paid to how the daily operations of that system is informed and functions relative to all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, etc.
Looking nationwide at the frequency of occurrences of police shootings of unarmed African Americans and other people of color, one is faced with the question of human value in American society. If all Americans regardless of their identity and social status are not treated equally with respect and dignity by the justice system and more specially, the law enforcement agencies, then changes must be made to educate them to meet that standard. One problem in the past regarding pronounced bigotry in crimes against people of color by law enforcement agencies is that no serious repercussions are suffered by the law enforcement agencies; the individuals or the agency is usually exonerated; for example, simply look at Ferguson. Regardless of what the grand jury’s finding was, the fact remains that Michael Brown is dead, Darren Wilson who fired twelve shots at him (not all hit him) and killed him is free of any charge. The public is left with the suggestion that nothing of consequence really happened. We can all forget about the incident because of the grand jury’s findings and go on about our lives and businesses. We need to be reminded that regardless of the circumstances, a human being was killed and that life was valued.
Another lesson we can take from the grand jury’s findings is that if changes of a positive nature are to come to Ferguson and America, then the involvement of European American citizens must be forthcoming. We may try and pretend that bigotry is on the decline in society, but all we need to counter that notion is to look at President Obama and how he has been treated because of his ethnicity. The grand jury’s findings give us an opportunity for soul searching and pause regarding the kind of society we want to become. We know that bigotry is alive and well now, but we also know that the demographic of society is also changing. By the year 2050 many professional social scientists predict that the majority citizens will be brown or non-European. One wonders how the European Americans would want a society to treat them where they represent the minority population.
Society is changing and part of the problems we are experiencing can be seen as growing pains. The old guard that includes bigoted attitudes is trying to maintain the status quo because it represents power and control in most areas of society, but as society changes that power will shift. So, it would behoove the involvement of all citizens to make society what we want it to be based on our democratic government. The Michael Brown case in Ferguson shows us where we are as a society as well as where we need to go. The choice is ours to make and in the words of the late Dr. King, we can “either learn to live together as brothers [and sisters] or perish together as fools.”
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Dr. Paul Lehman