Paul R. Lehman, Addressing the problem of Jail and Prison overcrowding should begin with examining the police Officers

June 17, 2019 at 11:59 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Arizona, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Police, police education & training, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Another in the continuing series of videos involving police officers and their actions relative to African Americans and other people of color show police officers in Arizona assaulting a young African American family. We have heard the excuse that these officers represent only a few “bad apples” and should not be seen as representing all police officers, but the frequency of occurrences and the lack of reactions from the “good ones” lead us to recognize that bigotry is part of the culture of law enforcement in America. If the criminal justice system is to be examined for the numerous problems related to community relations and the incarceration of people of color, then the examination should begin with the police officers, the police unions, and the local court systems.

When we look at the videos of police officers interacting with people of color one of the first things we notice is a lack of respect given to a fellow human being. The language and tone of voice is usually laced with profanity and bellowed or shouted at the citizens. In many cases orders are issued to the citizens so quickly and inconsistently that the citizen cannot comply in a reasonable and timely manner. When citizens ask questions as to why they were stopped or being detained or arrested, the police usually ignore them and disregard anything they might say. Rarely do we see on these videos officers speaking to citizens of color in a calm, civil and respectful manner, the opposite is generally the rule.

Another element of the videos that calls attention to the police officers is their physical demeanor and body language when engaging with an African American or person of color. Their initial contact with the citizen is one that assumes guilt, and the posture suggests high emotional tension, fear, and general uneasiness similar to that of a combat zone. Any physical contact between the citizen and the officer is usually instigated by the officer. The citizens are generally treated as though they are wild animals that need to be restrained because they are very dangerous and vicious.

Another element the videos show is the number of police officers participating in an incident that could have been resolved by one officer asking a few simple questions and getting an assessment of the situation. The recent video of the young African American family in Phoenix, Arizona that was harassed by local police is a prime example of unnecessary escalation of negative action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaqjO5cWJeo the actions of the police were so outrageous that the mayor of Phoenix issued an apology for the city and promised to have this incident investigated. Had it not been for the alert and timely action of a bystander who captured the action on camera, the case would have been the word of the citizens against that of the police. We know the history of how many police reports do not coincide with the videos and create doubt in what officer’s report.

After calling attention to the language, demeanor, and physical actions of police in general, one has to wonder about the education and training would-be-officers receive and the continued training officers are required to receive. A common excuse given by officers or their supervisors regarding accusations of excessive force or physical abuse is that they were simply following training procedures. When officers show general disrespect for citizens of color in their use of language and their excessive physical force in their dealings with them, one has to wonder about the education and training they receive from the academy or source of training. When and where are they taught to treat each human being with dignity respect regardless of their skin complexion or social and economic status?

The young father from the Phoenix video mentioned that he had been teaching his five-year-old daughter to respect the police because their job is to protect and ensure safety. However, after her experience with officers point a gun in her face along with those of her mother and father, he would have a difficult time getting her to believe that the police are our friends.

Focusing on the negative and outrageous actions of some police officers are not meant to cast aspersion on all police officer, but to underscore that regardless of the complaints and claims against the police regarding their experience with the communities of color, little to nothing has changed. The lack of any significant change can be attributed in part to the Police unions because of their power and prestige within city government. The union has worked hard to foster the idea of the police officers being extraordinary because they put their life on the line supposedly for the citizens. If law enforcement is viewed as a profession, then many other professions involve individuals putting their lives on the line every day as well, but they are not viewed as extraordinary as law enforcement. Why? The unions have a lot to do with this image because it supports and empowers them. Some mayors in cities across the nation are subjected to the power and influence of the police unions in how the police departments are operated.

So, if the many civic groups and organizations working to address the many problems concerning jail over-crowding and excessive incarcerations in the prisons, then the first place to seek redress is with the element in the criminal justice system responsible for supplying the individual to the system. Attention should be given education, experience, the background of the individuals that want to serve as law enforcers. In addition, education and training are both important requirements of law enforces with education receiving equal or more attention to those who want to serve and protect the community. We have to stop the supply of individuals to the jails and prisons if we want to have any impact on the problem of over-crowding.

For all intent and purposes, controlling the supply pipeline to the jails and prison are essential to addressing any of the other problems with reference to correcting the criminal justice system. Once a citizen is arrested a whole new set of problems come into play—the court system.

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Paul R. Lehman, Correcting problems in the Criminal Justice System begins at the top

March 19, 2019 at 3:07 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal justice, Department of Justice, desegregation, education, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, integregation, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, mass incarceration, Media and Race, Michelle Alexander, minorities, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, President Obama, race, racism, reforms, respect, segregation, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The announcement made recently about the decision to not charge the police officers who killed Terence Crutcher and Stephon Clark might have come as a surprise to some but was expected by others because of the history of criminal justice relative to African Americans and other people of color. The decisions to not charge the officers could have been easily made by someone blind and brain-dead. When Eric Holder served as Attorney General, he along with then President Obama made attempts to challenge law enforcement to change the practices, policies, behavior, and laws that discriminate against African Americans in particular and about all people in general. Since that time, many changes relative to criminal justice have been addressed in many locations throughout the United States. The focus of these changes and challenges varies from excessive fines for people who cannot pay them to redefining sentences of people of color whose only serious offense was the color of their skin. Once they get caught up in the maze of the criminal justice system, their lives are completely and forever negatively altered.

Oklahoma leads America, and in some instances, the world in incarceration especially of women. Efforts by many civic groups are working to reduce the numbers. Some of the efforts have been successful via bills the public supported and approved. While all the efforts of groups like the ACLU and others in addressing the problems in the criminal justice system, they have not yet focused on the primary problem of the system—the biased culture within the criminal justice system beginning with law enforcement and including the courts as well as officers of the court. That is, rather than focusing on the cause of the problems attendant to citizens who have been arrested, the majority of the efforts by interested and involved groups are on the problem of those incarcerated. In order to correct the many problems in the criminal justice system, we must look first at where the system begins—what puts the wheels in motion.

What determines the attitudes and actions of the law enforcers from the small towns to the large metropolises begins with the mayors, the councils and courts. They are the ones who make the laws and create the climate and culture that informs the police and other law enforcers. If change is to come to the criminal justice system in American then it must begin with those who administer the programs that represent the criminal justice system. Having the administrators and city or town council members undergo diversity training is generally a waste of time and money because that training does not address the issue of ethnic bigotry that is a part of the everyday cultural climate. We know this biased culture exists from the plethora of incidents that occur and are shown daily on social media. These incidents occur in spite of the diversity training these administrators, council members and court officers have received. We know this ethnic bias exists from the numerous police officers that have suffered no legal repercussion from having shot and killed a person of color.

One thing that needs to happen in order to make the criminal justice system applicable to all citizens is to educate the top administrators, council members and court judges and other officers to what democracy looks like from a perspective that recognizes the bias that presently exists and how they are implicated in the culture and climate that promotes, support, and maintains it. The fact that the majority of people incarcerated are people of color seemingly represents no call for action or consequence. The fact is that the number of people of color is adjudicated differently and more harshly than European American citizens seem to be viewed as acceptable represents a big problem that begs for attention and correction. However, if the people who administer and are the caretakers of the system of criminal justice are fine with the status quo then something needs to be done to alert them to the injustice they are delivering to American citizens who happen to be people of color.

If the problems of bigotry and injustice in the criminal justice system today are promoted, supported, and maintained through ignorance, then education, not training should help in remedying some of the problems. Other avenues of approach would be removal from office via election or for some judges, impeachment. The citizens should be made aware of the amount of money they pay out to citizens that receive judgments from the civil courts for the misconduct of police and other law enforcement officers. One would think that the officers found guilty in civil court should shoulder some of the monetary responsibility as well as the unions that support and represent these officers. That way the citizens would not have to bear the entire expense for the officers’ actions.

The American system of criminal justice is generally a good system when it is administered in a democratic and fair way; however, when ethnic and cultural biases are represented in the outcome negatively affecting people of color, then corrective action must be taken. Again, the actions of the many concerned groups addressing the problems that focus on incarceration are welcomed and, indeed, applauded and encouraged, but their efforts are focused on the citizens that are already incarcerated and part of the system. In order to impact positively the system of criminal justice, the focus must be at the beginning. Michelle Alexander noted in her work, The New Jim Crow, that “A study sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department and several of the nation’s leading foundations, published in 2007, found that the impact of the biased treatment is magnified with each additional step into the criminal justice system.” The evidence is clear.

The biased treatment of people of color in the criminal justice system is due to unconscious and conscious ethnic bigotry that infects the decision-making process of those entrusted with those powers. In order for the system of criminal justice to be fairly administered, those biases must be addressed at the beginning before the arrest is made. So, now that we know where to begin, if we are not part of the solution, then we are the problem.

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.

Paul R. Lehman, Mesa,Arizona, and the police beatings of people of color go on and on and on

June 8, 2018 at 11:35 pm | Posted in African American, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, justice, law enforcement agencies, minority, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, Tulsa, whites | Leave a comment
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Four Mesa, Arizona police officers have been placed on paid leave while an investigation into their use of excessive force against an unarmed African American is being conducted. Fortunately, a video of the incident was available so viewers could see for themselves what took place. Apparently, someone from an apartment building called the police to report a disturbance at that location. A young African American man, Robert Johnson, was waiting for an elevator and talking on his cell phone when he was approached by several police officers. Without any conversation, they began to frisk him, and then apparently, ordered the young man to move to another location away from the elevator, which he did while continuing to talk on his phone. Once he moved to the location where he had been ordered by the officer, he was then ordered to sit on the floor. Showing some hesitation in sliding down the wall to the floor, several officers began punching him in the face. Since he was leaning against the wall, he could not fall freely to the floor, so an officer bent down and pulled his legs out from under him at which time he landed on the floor. The officers continued to beat him until his hands were secured behind him. At no time did he offer any resistance.

The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” could easily apply here in that the conduct of the officers was in question from the very beginning. Not once before the officer began their assault on the young man did they attempt to engage him in a civil conversation. Their attitude was seemingly that of a big bully that demanded immediate action when an order was given. The officers apparently had a perceived notion to enter into an altercation with the young man since they wasted no time in initiating their punches. At no time did any of the other officers present seek to stop the assault or advise the officers of their conduct relative to their actions. So, what do these pictures tell us about some police officers?

One of the first things this video tells us about these officers is that they have no respect for the young African American man. He was not treated respectfully like citizens should expect to be treated if they are minding their own affairs and causing attention to themselves. They showed a total disregard for his Constitutional rights by beginning their search of his body for something without cause. Johnson had no weapons, only a cell phone. The officers next used their authority as bullies to order Johnson to a wall on the opposite side of the area while still not informing him of anything that he did or was suspected of doing. Since he was surrounded by four fully armed and anxious officers, Johnson readily complied with the officers’ order to move. As soon as he removed his cell phone from his ear, the beating began.

We might ask the question of why the police officers acted towards Johnson in this type of aggressive manner. They knew that Johnson poised no problem of violence or having a weapon on him after they searched him and he complied with their orders. Yet, the officers felt that they were well within their rights to beat an unarmed man for no reason except for the fact that he was a person of color. One thing is certain from the actions of the officers, and that is reason played no part in their decision to beat Johnson. We know from many past similar experiences that the excuses of being afraid for their lives or feeling threatened or not being respected or obeyed were used to justify their actions. A simple answer to why they use excessive force and murder against people of color is because they do not consider them to be human beings.

We might also ask the question of why is the society in general not outraged by the repeated unacceptable actions of these police officers against people of color. Could it be that they also do not see people of color as human beings? One reason for our making that assumption rests on the history of the repercussions experienced by many of the officers who committed atrocious acts against people of color. We would be incorrect in labeling the treatment many of the officers received for the actions as repercussions. The four officers from the Mesa Police Department were placed on paid leave. In others words, they received a paid vacation for their efforts, but no negative consequences. In the case of Betty Shelby, the female Tulsa, Oklahoma officer who shot and killed Terrance Crutcher in the back while he was walking away from her, after her department’s report stated that she should not be allowed to serve as an officer dealing with the public, she was given a job in a city a few miles north of Tulsa. She was recently featured in a newspaper article where she had received a promotion and now offers classes to teach officers how to beat charges of abuse and excessive force. The list of officers not being held responsible for their misdeeds is too long to include here.

While the general American public remains silent relative to these officers’ display of abuse of people of color accompanied with a chevalier attitude, they do not seem to realize that although the officers do not have to assume responsibility for their actions, the citizens for whom the officers work must pay large settlement payments to the victims and/or their families. The ethnic demographics are rapidly changing the makeup of American society and with those changes will come the need to redirect the focus and objectives of law enforcement. Some departments are making changes now because they understand that the amount of money being paid for officer’s mistakes could be put to better use in educating them to treat all citizens fairly.

We have not seen the last video of police abuse of unarmed African American citizens simply because the system does not require them to take responsibility for their actions. The system must be replaced.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Why European Americans call 911 when they see people of color

May 14, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, whites | Leave a comment
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The recent rash of incidents involving European Americans calling the police after seeing African Americans doing something they thought suspect should come as no surprise based on the ethnically biased social conditioning that is a part of their everyday American life experience.

The very first element of a European Americans life experience is the idea that they and all people who look like they look are the centers of the universe. From their skin complexion to their standards and values, society leads them to see themselves as superior to all people not like them. Everything in their immediate environment serves to support that concept. As their social environment begins to expand from the home to the neighborhood, church, and school, they are made to realize that they have privileges over people who are not like them.  The awareness of their specialness begins in the home where little if any interactions with people of color take place, but often negative references, actions, and reactions are observed as a normal part of their daily experiences.

The European American lady at Starbuck, the lady at Yale, the lady who saw the three African American women leaving the Airbnb all felt within their rights to call the police because they witnessed something their social conditioning told them was not normal. Apparently, none of these European American women gave any thought to their action before calling the police. Because of their conditioning relative to fear and danger associated with people of color, the primary thing to trigger their concern was the skin color of the people representing the threat to their sense of normalcy. I.e., ethnic bias against people of color by European Americans is triggered by skin color.

A European American female called the police when she observed an African American female asleep in her dorm’s common room. The student, a graduate student at Yale was awakened when the European American female told her she had no right to sleep there. The reason the European American female called the police was that of the fear and dread she felt by seeing a person of color in a place that was usually reserved, in the females mind, for European Americans. The brown color of the graduate student’s complexion sent a warning signal to the brain of the European American female, so she acted on it without any serious consideration regarding repercussions. She evidently felt unsafe in her home environment with a person of color present.

In another case, a European American female called police because two African American men were sitting in Starbucks without having purchased anything. We see again the reaction of a European American female to the presence of two men of color. Her social conditioning provides an uneasy feeling regarding them in this public but social setting. The two men were actually waiting for another person to join them, something common in Starbuck stores. Nevertheless, the police came, arrested the two men and took them to jail where they remained for around eight hours; no charges were filed against them.

A European American female in Rialto, California called police when she thought several African American women who were leaving an Airbnb rental looked out of place. That is, she thought it unusual for women of color to be in that neighborhood. When she noticed that they were loading baggage into a vehicle, she assumed that they were burglars. Shortly after the 911 call was made several police cars arrived on the scene. In addition, a helicopter flew overhead while the women were being questioned. Once again, the biased social conditioning this woman received relative to skin color helped to trigger her response to people of color being where she did not expect them to be by calling 911.

In all three of these incidents, the social conditioning of cultural biases played a significant role in the actions of the three European American females involved. Little or no thoughts were given to the well-fair of the African Americans because their social value was never in question. In each situation, the European American female seemingly believed seeing African Americans in the settings they were in was not normal. So, the automatic response was to call the police and have the discomfort removed.

The ethnic bias of the European American females was reinforced by the police who arrived on the scene already favoring the callers. The rights of the African Americans are immediately suspect as noted in the actions of the police officers and their immediate treatment of the African Americans. Rather than taking the time to assess the situation prior to any detaining or arresting actions, the police arrived on the scene already suspecting the African Americans of wrongdoings. The complicit police actions supported the biases of the European American females toward the African Americans.

Comments emanating from the police establishment of the three incidents mentioned above all suggest that the police were simply doing their jobs. Yes, they were doing their jobs, but only in support of the European American callers. The rights of the African American men and women were given little or no preference equal to that of the callers. The actions of the police seem to suggest that a call 911 is taken as fact without question, so doing their job means not giving the African American citizens involved their respect, rights or privileges. Many European Americans, as well as many police officer do not realize that America is a diverse society.

Because many European Americans live with an ethnic bias of which they are not cognizant, or their biases are implicit, the first order of business in replacing that bias is discovering that they have a cultural bias against people of color. Next, they need to confront their bias with the thought of replacing it with a more appropriate concept of a diverse humanity. Finally, once they know their bias and know how it is triggered, they can work towards overcoming it. While all Americans can address their bias using this process, European American in positions involving serving the public must certainly experience this form of education.

The problem of cultural ethnic bias as a part of social conditioning cannot be resolved easily or quickly because it involves commitment, discipline, and consistency. All three steps must be followed if success is to occur. Once we understand that bigotry is a part of a system, we will realize that biases do not exist in isolation, but they must be replaced individually.

Paul R. Lehman, Reasons why European American (white) police shoot and kill African Americans

March 31, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Breaking Ranks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Norm Stamper, Race in America, social conditioning, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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The police officers shooting and killing an unarmed African American man in Sacramento, California recently should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the news the last four to five years. The excuses for the shootings are always the same: the officers reveal that they feared for their lives or they felt their lives were threatened, or the victim made a threatening gesture or movement towards them or they thought he or she had a gun in their hands. All of these reasons are viewed as justifiable for the shooting of a suspect. On the other hand, the family of the victim always asks the questions: why did you not wait to assess the situation before you fired shots? Why did you not use another of the tools available to you like the tazer, rubber bullets, nightstick, and bean bags? Why could you not have shot him or her in the arm or leg or some non-deadly place? Why did you not give the victim time to respond to your commands?

The fact that this scenario keeps happening over and over again is not an accident or the action of a few bad officers but part of a culture that permeates the entire criminal justice system. Most officers know that regardless of their actions, their department and union will always take their word as valid over any citizen, so the fear of serious repercussions for a wrong deed does not represent an impediment to their actions. The American public has witnessed many times the results of a police shooting via video that contradicts the report of the officers. Yet, the officers walk away without being held responsible for the misdeeds committed. To blame be officers for not being held responsible for their deeds is not their fault but the system that supports them including the Attorney General, District attorney, prosecutor, judge, jury, and society.

What many African Americans understand about the criminal justice system in American is that it has always been biased against them as clearly recorded by history from before Reconstruction, the Black Codes, and Jim Crow. Many European Americans generally support law enforcement actions without question and by doing so allow injustices to continue against people of color. Some present and former police officers have readily admitted that a culture of hate, fear, anger, and bigotry against African Americans exist in law enforcement.  From where do these feelings derive? The most obvious answer identifies social conditioning as the primary contributor to ethnic bias in American society that is retained by people who become part of the criminal justice system directly and indirectly.

Norm Stamper, a former police officer and author of the book Breaking Rank (2005) underscored the European American law officers’ perception of the African Americans: “Simply put, white cops are afraid of black men. We don’t talk about it, we pretend it doesn’t exist, we claim ‘colorblindness,’ we say white officers treat black men the same way they treat white men. But that’s a lie.”These feelings are not reserved for European American law enforcers only. Paul Butler, in his book Choke Hold (2017), noted that recent scientific research shed some light on how many African Americans are generally perceived: “When people 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. When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” Earlier studies also indicated that the negative reactions of European American law officers towards African American males may because by unconscious social bias rather than deliberate actions.

Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow (2013) noted that a number of studies showed how some European Americans reacted to images of European Americans and African Americans in an exercise that considered observation, interpretation, and reaction. She noted, “that racial schemas operated not only as part of conscious, rational deliberations, but also automatically—without awareness or intent.” This study might possibly explain why some European American police officers act irrationally when having to deal with African Americans and people of color in general:

One study, for example, involved a video game that placed photographs of white and black individuals holding either a gun or other object (such as a wallet, soda can or cell phone into various photographic backgrounds. Participants were told to decide as quickly as possible whether to shoot the target. Consistent with earlier studies, participants were more likely to mistake a black target as armed when he was not, and mistake a white target as unarmed, when in fact he was armed. This pattern of discrimination reflected automatic, unconscious thought processes, not careful deliberations (p. 107)

The fact that ethnic bias is central to the social conditioning in America accounts for the unconscious bias of many European Americans; that bias can be manifested either implicitly, explicitly or both. Consequently, many European Americans can honestly believe that they are not biased against African Americans because many of their friends, relatives, and associates are African American, however, that fact does not mean they are free of biases.  Alexander noted that “Implicit bias test may still show that you [European Americans] hold negative attitudes and stereotypes about blacks, even though you do not believe you do and do not want to. In the study described above, for example, black participants showed an amount of ‘shooter bias’ similar to that shown by whites” (107). Of course, fewer European Americans are shot and killed by African American police officers than by European American officers.

Armed with the scientific information from the various studies mentioned, we can assert that much more than police training is necessary to replace the biased ethnic culture in our criminal justice system. The problem of ethnic bias must be the first item on the agenda to be addressed, not through training, but education. Society must fully understand and reject the bias before it can begin to replace it.

Paul R. Lehman, Americans and the challenge of the criminal justice system

November 13, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal activity, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Associated Press, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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When Americans think of the criminal justice system in America they usually recognize it as a reasonable, rational, and fair agency of society. What we often do not see relative to the criminal justice system is the American society that is represented by the criminal justice system. We focus generally on the law enforcement agencies or courts rather than the people in society that make-up and contribute to the system. The fact that most of the law enforcement agents, police, are set freed or shown as not guilty of killing unarmed African Americans reflect on the people responsible for adjudicating justice. We acknowledge that the culture of the criminal justice system in America is biased against African Americans, but the system actually reflects the biased society.

A case in point is that of Betty Jo Shelby, a European American (white) female and a former Tulsa police officer who was acquitted in the fatal shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher.  According to media reports, Shelby was on duty when she saw an SUV that was stopped in the middle of the street, the vehicle belonged to Crutcher.  We learn that “Shelby testified at trial that she was scared because Crutcher appeared to be under the influence of drugs, didn’t obey her commands and looked liked he was reaching inside his vehicle.”(Justin Juoapavicus, Associated Press, 10/26/2017)

Videos of the incident did not coincide with Shelby’s testimony in that Crutcher was shown to be at least fifteen feet in front of her with both of his hands up in the air; the windows of his SUV were rolled-up. A fellow officer was standing next to Shelby when she fired her weapon killing Crutcher. After Crutcher was shot, no aid or medical attention was given to check on his well-being until after several minutes had passed.

The fact that Shelby shot and killed Crutcher cannot be disputed since the incident was captured on video. However, the reasons for the shooting by Shelby can be brought into scrutiny relative to those adjudicating her case, the jury. For the court to acquit Shelby of the shooting leaves us to question their qualifications to make such a judgment. The primary reason for the shooting according to Shelby was her fear of Crutcher. How can we explain the jury’s actions of a not guilty finding if police officers feel threatened or that their lives are in danger when an unarmed African American walking away from them with his hands in the air? If Shelby is simply afraid of African American men, then she should not be working in law enforcement or any other place where she will encounter African American men.

Since the jury accepted her defense of fear of African American men, we might assume that they consider it a legally accepted defense for European American (white) officers shooting people of color. What happens when officers walk into a supermarket or mall or church and there they see African American men? Do they fear for their lives in these circumstances as well and so would be justified in shooting them? Many of the videos in recent years have shown this to be the case. We must ask where is the reasoning, rationale, and justice for the actions of the jury?

One of the conclusions we must draw from these actions is that of ethnic bias of the jury. Since the majority of the jury make-up in American is European Americans (whites), we must also conclude that they do not represent for the African Americans a ‘jury of their peers’ but more a jury representing the European American (white) officers. Since fear of African Americans and people of color appears to be a problem for many European American (white) law enforcers, why are they hired? And if hired, why are they not educated to treat people of color with the same decency and respect they would give other citizens?

The answer is simply because of their social conditioning which underscores the privilege accorded to them, European Americans (white), for their skin complexion. Simultaneously, European Americans (whites) are conditioned to view people of color as inferior in general, but to view African Americans with fear, anger, and dream because they are dangerous. Many European Americans (whites) do not realize their bigotry because their acquisition was acquired through everyday life at home, school, church etc. As a cognitive scientist, Justin L. Barrett, noted, “What we learn through testimony or through behavioral imitation is importantly influenced by social context biases.” He added that “we model our thought and behaviors on others based upon what we perceive most others think and do (conformity bias), favor prestigious individuals for role models (prestige bias) and prefer to ape those whom we see as similar to ourselves or whom we want to be (similarity bias).” So, to many European Americans (whites) ethnic bigotry is not something that is unusual or viewed as out of the ordinary life experience.

What we find puzzling about the actions of the Americans citizens who serve as part of the criminal justice system is how they equate reason, rationale, and justice with their actions. For example, shortly after being acquitted for the shooting and killing of Terence Crutcher, that portion of Betty Shelby’s record will be removed, and subsequently, will be expunged: “District Judge William LaFortune also ordered all documents involving former Tulsa officer Betty Jo Shelby’s case sealed and kept with the court. The case will only be accessible through a court order and can be destroyed after 10 years, according to the law.” (Justin Juoapavicus)

What we can observe from Shelby’s case is that after shooting and killing an innocent American citizen because she was in fear, not threatened or felt to be in harm’s way, she was acquitted of all charges and walked away from the incident with no repercussions. We have learned that she has been recently employed in a law enforcement position in a nearby town. In 10 years, no one will even know what she did except the family and friends of Terence Crutcher, Shelby, and the jury. After all, it was incumbent on the jury to administer a finding based on reason, rationale, and justice, but they failed in every respect. We, Americans, cannot allow this form of injustice to continue because whether we realize it or not, the mistreatment of any American affects us all. Act–find a way to make a difference.

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.

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.

Paul R. Lehman, Officer’s letter shows bigotry as part of the European American Psyche

April 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, criminal activity, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, law, Media and Race, police force, race, racism, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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If there has been any question about ethnic bigotry being a fabric of the European American (white) psyche we need look no further than the letter written by Stephen Loomis, President of the Cleveland Patrolman’s Association, regarding the family of Tamir Rice. Loomis’ letter shows an attitude of ethnic arrogance, ethnic supremacy, and ethnic bigotry among other things.

The first example of arrogance appears when the letter is addressed to the “Media” instead of the Rice family. The letter is sent to the media in an effort to garner sympathy and support from people like-minded to Loomis. No expression of sorrow or compassion is offered to the Rice family except in the last sentence of the first paragraph: “Our hearts continue to be with them.” The “them,” however, refers to “the Rice family as well as our involved officers.” So, rather than writing directly to the Rice family, Loomis writes to the media and in doing so shows a lack of respect and personal concern.

In a display of an attitude of both arrogance and superiority Loomis suggest that the Rice family and their lawyers lack enough intelligence to know how to manage the settlement they received from the City of Cleveland: “We can only hope the Rice family and their attorneys will use a portion of the settlement to help educate the youth of Cleveland….” The pause here in the quote is to accentuate the psyche of Loomis and how the responsibility of the law enforcement agency to “Protect, Serve,  and Defend” is shifted to the Rice family and the public rather than to the police: “…in the dangers associated with the mishandling of both real and facsimile firearms.”One wonders if there is a correct way for young children to handle a toy gun.

What Loomis said in that sentence is that parents of African American youths should not let their children play outdoors in a public park with toy guns or pistols because the Cleveland Police are not intelligent enough or educated and trained well enough to assess a situation involving  children playing with a toy gun, because they might shoot them. The inference here is that Tamir and his family is at fault for letting him play in the park with his toy gun and therefore, is responsible for his death.

One wonders why the responsibilities of the law enforcers are never brought into question in Loomis’ comments. One suggestion is that Loomis does not believe the police bear any responsibility in the death of Tamir, and that his death is in part due to the negligence of his parents for letting him be a young boy playing the in public park with a toy gun. If someone was to challenge Loomis’ attitude, his first order of business would be defensive. Dr. Robin DiAngelo describes the attitude of a European American with respect to ethnic bigotry. Speaking as an European American she stated: “Socialized into a deeply internalized sense of superiority and entitlement that we are either or not consciously aware of or can never admit to ourselves, we become highly fragile in conversations about race….Thus, we perceive any attempt to connect us to the system of racism as very unsettling and unfair moral offence.”

What we can perceive in Loomis’ letter is a form of ethnic bias that is commonly referred to as “using the race card,” or “race baiting.” However, this race baiting is done by Loomis in an effort to draw support to his law enforcement agency. Because European Americans have been socially conditioned to a biased psyche that is viewed as normal, recognizing their own bias is near impossible. Therefore, when we read the Loomis letter we find no indication of his understanding the fact that his comments are reflective of someone ignorant of offering proper respect to a family that has lost a young son at the hands of police. What we can clearly see in the letter is someone looking to pass the responsibility for the actions of the police on to the young victim and his family.

In an effort to add arrogance to ignorance whether consciously or not, the reference by Loomis for the Rice family to help in educating Cleveland’s youth shows a lack of class, compassion, and sophistication. The statement also indicates that the Cleveland police force is not sufficiently prepared to do its job correctly and efficiently if it has to request aid from one of its victims in order to get the education and training it should already have.

As members of society we often take it for granted that we are all in agreement with respect to things like laws being administered fairly and punishment for breaking the law being just. Unfortunately, as we can see in the Loomis letter that our sense of justice and fairness can be called into question when we come face to face with someone who has been conditioned to think that being bias is normal. In talking about ethnic fairness and justice DiAngelo underscores the reason for the biased psyche: “The systemic and institutional control allows those of us who are white in North America to live in a social environment that protects and insulates us from race-based stress. We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matters deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good.”

The challenge we face in American society is to recognize that many Americans operate daily under a biased perspective without realizing it, and that we must work to change that perspective if society is to function fairly and justly for all people. Loomis must be educated to understand that his letter does little to resolve the problem of police incompetence or community relations.  Since he is president of the Cleveland police union, he represents a large number of individuals who come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, so he must be aware of the fact that all his members may not agree with his letter and the attitude it projects. He needs help in learning to recognize the bigotry that is part of his normal perception of ethnic Americans so he can be a true representative of not only the people in his organization, but also of the society for which he works.

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