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.

Paul R. Lehman, Fighting a corrupt justice system is a waste of time; replace it.

December 31, 2015 at 1:12 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, criminal activity, Department of Justice, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, liberty, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, skin color, skin complexion, socioeconomics, tribalism | 2 Comments
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For the past year America has witnessed the spectacle of young, mostly male, unarmed, people of color being killed by law enforcement agents. In all instances the use of deadly force by the officers was employed when other options were available and appropriate. The result of the actions by the law enforcers in these deaths was little or no repercussions for the law officers; in essence, the victims were responsible for their deaths. In most of these cases when video was available and compared with the officers’ written reports of the incidents, they did not correspond. The videos told different stories from the ones in the official reports. Never-the-less, the outcome of these events showed the public that justice and fairness does not look the same when law enforcement views it alongside society in general. What seems justified in the eyes of the law does not reflect fairness and justice to many Americans in general, and to people of color in particular.

Two things can be ascertained from the experiences involving the deaths of people of color at the hands of European American and other law enforcement officers: 1. the present system of jurisprudence is corrupt in dispensing justice to people of color; and 2, the system must be replaced, not revised or re-developed. The reason for these facts can be observed in the reactions of the public and the citizens directly involved with the system. Americans have been conditioned to accept the words and actions of the law enforcement agents without question because of the trust that has been placed in their hands. In the past, records concerning citizens’ deaths were not kept to any appreciable degree by law enforcement agencies and so that information relative to the number of African Americans and other people of color were not available to the public. Furthermore, the public did not seem concerned regarding those deaths because of the mental social conditioning. However, when videos of officer shootings became available to the media and were aired, people began to pay closer attention to and take an interest in what was being presented.

The corruption of the justice system relative to the prosecution of officers can be seen in the method in which the cases are handled. The entire process is handled in the law enforcement community; no one from outside or from an independent agency plays a role in assessing the criminal concerns of the officers. The only possible group of people to play any role in hearing accusations against an officer is a Grand Jury. Unfortunately, the only person to appear before the Grand Jury is a Prosecutor. Since the Prosecutor works closely with the law enforcement agencies which might include many of the officers in question, his or her perspective is generally skewed towards helping the officers. The results, as we have seen, favor no charges being brought against the officers. Because of society’s conditioning of not questioning the findings of an officer-involved proceeding, little thought is given to the fairness and justice of the cases until recently.

We are compelled to question the system of justice when day after day we see and hear contradictory information relative to the deaths of a people of color and no one, except the victim, is held responsible for a crime. A question comes to mind when discussing the occurrence of a European American officer killing a person of color on a force that includes officers that are also people of color. Why do we not hear or see officers of color involved in the killing of European American citizens? If all the law enforcement officers experience the same or similar training, why is it that European Americans are the primary killers of people of color, yet officers of color rarely, if ever kill a European American? One response focuses on the culture of the law enforcement community and its corruption. The nature of the corruption can be seen in the silent code of group unity—backing one another right or wrong. The group identity represents a serious challenge to justice and fairness. What most Americans do not realize or understand is that the ethnic bigotry that sees African Americans as inferior beings and of little social value is normal for European Americans; that bias is also part of their social conditioning. When a European American becomes a member of the law enforcement group, that bigotry is not checked at the door and left out. The fact that society conditions European Americans to see African Americans and dangerous, evil, threatening, etc…, helps to fuel the attitude of these officers not only when they join the group but also when they come into contact with African Americans and other people of color. No question remains about the corruption of the system; we only need to check the records.

The system of social injustice and unfairness exhibited primarily by law enforcement agencies cannot be fought or defeated using the tools of the system. The system must be replaced in order for justice to be available to all citizens of America. Time and again the Federal Government has stepped into the workings of a police department in one or two large cities when a lack of justice and fairness has been documented. A study is usually conducted and after a period of time, all parties gather and review the findings of the study. Certain requirement for change in everything from policies to procedures to training etc…is made and a time frame is given to accomplish these objectives. When we look at the history of success involving these experiences, we realize that little has changed—a new suit might appear on the officer, but the undergarments are the same as before.

What has to change is the culture of bigotry that has long been part of the American psyche, generally without many Americans realizing it. When a European American sees an African American or another person of color and not see that person as a social equal, class concerns aside, that is called bigotry or social conditioning. No amount of training can remove that bigotry; it has to be replaced through education. The law enforcement agencies represent only a part of the cultural structure that promotes, sustains, and defends bigotry. Change is slowly taking place now through the efforts of civil-minded people and groups who recognize that America is not the kind of society they want to live in or have their children and grandchildren inherit. So, they must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST in order to call attention to the injustices being committed. They must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST in order to make the changes that are needed to replace the system. They must PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST until the changes are made. The American Revolution began as a protest, and we see what that got us—Freedom.

Paul R. Lehman, Baltimore, a victim of negative explosive expectations and false comparisons

May 1, 2015 at 12:24 am | Posted in African American, American history, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, criminal activity, democracy, Department of Justice, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, happiness, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, lower class, Media and Race, minority, police force, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, students parents, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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The recent events in Baltimore have for all intent and purposes been blown out of proportions due to faulty expectations as well as propaganda. Had the initial display of lawlessness been address by the local law establishment, the rest of the escalation would not have been necessary. The disruptive unlawful activity began when the local high school near the center of action dismissed school earlier than usual. Many of the teens rather than going home decided to take advantage of a situation presented to them to commit unlawful acts with no one in authority looking on.

One would expect the police to handle the situation involving the young children differently from older adults, but the police never appeared on the scene. The children realized early on that because no law enforcement was present, they could do whatever they wanted without repercussions. So, they acted-out by breaking windows, stealing merchandise, destroying property and other things that they would not think of doing under normal circumstances. These teens were out of control and not thinking rational. The death of Freddie Gray was probably not on their minds. Unfortunately, some adults who witnessed the activity of the teens took advantage of the situation and used it as cover to become involved in lawless acts. So, when the cameras started to show the activity, some adults were pictured along with the teens. The media characterized the teens and their action as violent rioting threatening the entire city.

Regardless who was involved, their actions were wrong and unacceptable, but explainable, given the circumstances of the location, the time, and the youth. What happened after the initial occurrence of the unlawful activity by the teens and some adults was an over-blown accounting of the event. The media began by treating the social out-burst as if the entire city of Baltimore was being burned to the ground by gangs of violent, lawless, African Americans, hell-bent on destroying their city. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The reporting was somewhat inaccurate and propagandistic when references were made to rioting and violence. Neither the protesters nor the citizens of Baltimore participated in a riot or violence and destruction of property.

The references to Baltimore in comparison to the 60’s riots in Baltimore and Los Angeles did a disservice to Baltimore. The events in Baltimore involving the teens were allowed to continue by the police force. Once the Monday afternoon and night activities were over, nothing resembling a riot was evidenced. The majority of the citizens of Baltimore made a concerted effort to show support and love for their city while many in the media cautioned eminent danger and destruction from the protesters. What seemed apparent from the various media reports was an expectation of lawlessness and violence from the African American community. The African American community of Baltimore and the law enforcement element were seeing the same activity, but from two different perspectives.

For some observers, the large show of force to prevent rioting and destruction was really not necessary. The point is that a riot never took place. Certainly, on Monday afternoon and night acts of lawlessness and destruction of property did take place, but for all intent and purpose, that was the end of any threat of mass civil disobedience and mayhem. What the focus on the possibility of civil unrest had on the situation was to shift the attention away from the legitimate protest relative to the death of Freddie Gray and the request and need for transparency. The need of the media to anticipate some breaking news development seems to triumph to tragedy of Gray’s death while in police custody.

One thing that seems to be apparent from the comments of the media as well as other sources is the negative stereotypical view that is presently held concerning African American people. From the engagement of the National Guard and the numerous law enforcement agencies, one might get the impression that all hell will break out at any given time. Many of the citizens have tried to counter that perception by placing themselves in the street and speaking directly to their neighbor about the collective desire for a safe and peaceful city. At the same time, these citizens want to see some positive changes in the way their lives have been affected from a legal, economic, educational, and political standpoint.

The protest then is not just a reaction to the death of Freddie Gray, but a reaction to the years of neglect and lack of attention paid to the needs of the citizens, especially those of color and of low social-economical status. Unfortunately, the death of Gray provided an opportunity for the citizens to raise their voices and be heard. When viewing the videos of the various protests around the country, we realize that the problems involve more than African Americans, but all Americans. The need for justice on all fronts is apparent by the number of protests around the country and the diverse make-up of the protesters.

Our Constitution gives us as citizens the right to protest peacefully. The word peaceful goes both ways, in that the law enforcers should not interfere with peaceful protesters, but must protect their right to do so. Sometime it seems that the law enforcers resent protesters from exercising their rights. When effective and constructive communications can exist between the citizens and the law enforcers they employ then the threat of riots, violence, civil unrest, and destruction of property will not be a factor to consider.

Many problems exist in many of America’s cities that are not easily seen or known to the general public; they are none-the-less real problems and need addressing. Too often, the occasion of incidents like the death of Freddie Gray brings to the surface the problems of unemployment, decent housing, satisfactory education, adequate health care, and social justice. All of the problems are important to the well-being of any community large or small, so they must be made apparent so they can be addressed. The protests in Baltimore and across the nation are not just about the death of Freddie Gray, but for the lives of the people still here who cry out for positive change—now

Paul R. Lehman, Law enforcement Union leaders are necessary to community relations efforts

February 3, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Posted in African American, American history, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, Disrespect, equality, European American, Ferguson, justice, justice system, police force, Prejudice, public education, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | Leave a comment
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In the wake of the Ferguson experience last Summer, many communities have attempted to get together with the law enforcement agencies and the Public administration to try and create some dialogue relative to improved relations among themselves. In some cases the efforts have been positive, however, in others, little or no progress has been made. To some observers, one of the stumbling blocks to progress involves the law enforcement union leaders. To get a better understanding of how that problem came to exist, we must look at it from an organizational perspective.
Whether one accepts it or not, the representatives of the law enforcement unions actually control the rank and file officers, not the chiefs or the public administrators. What has happened is that many of the union leaders have created a picture of their agency and members as the most value people in society because their duty is to protect and serve the public. These union leaders try to convince the public that because of the law enforcers’ jobs, they should be exempted from treatment reserved for the normal citizens. Their jobs are often said to be the most dangerous one in society; obviously ignoring other equally dangerous and life-threatening professions.
The characteristics of group mentality and behavior are introduced into the law enforcement organizations in their academics and schools; this aspect of group identity is necessary and welcomed for the well-being of the organizations and the individuals. The instruction and training received by the agents are generally excellent and are meant to serve the public well. Most agents volunteer to serve the public in this capacity because they sincerely want to serve and protect their communities.
To the outside observer, what has happened, to a degree, in American society is the taking of power by some law enforcement union leaders from the chiefs and administrators. These union leaders convince their followers that their profession requires them to adapt an attitude of us versus them. The “us” are the law enforcement agents, the good guys, and the “they” represent the general public, or the perpetrators, the bad guys. In addition, the union members are lead to believe that they will be protected by the union regardless of any situation in which they find themselves. The concept of the “Blue Line” is one that reinforces that unity and protection aspect of the union.
In any given situation involving law enforcement misconduct, the chiefs and supervisors must follow the prescribed procedures. However, when the union enters the picture, the power of the chiefs and supervisors seem to disappear. More often then not, the union prevails over the powers of the departments where the agent or agents were involved. In other instances, the departments investigate themselves; a practice that begs the question of how justice is served.
So, what does all this have to do with communities getting together with their public officials and law enforcement agencies to try and create better relationships? The answer is that the organizations involved in trying to start a constructive dialogue in the community must involve the union representatives, because they seemingly believe they hold the best interest of the law enforcement members. In some instances, these leaders have demonstrated their power over their membership beyond that of the publically elected law enforcement officials. For one example of this power, let us look at what happened in New York City and a situation involving the mayor Bill de Blasio:
“When Mayor de Blasio first spoke about the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Eric Garner, he placed the case in a personal context:
‘Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face. A good young man, law-abiding young man who would never think to do anything wrong. And yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we’ve had to literally train him—as families have all over this city for decades—in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.’” (dailykos.com)

The police union representative along with some officers took exception to the Mayor’s comments and took action in opposition to him:
“New York City’s largest police union created a form letter that members could send to the Mayor and the City Council Speaker, requesting the pair not attend the officer’s funeral should he or she die in the line of duty. The union said officers felt as if they had been ‘thrown under the bus,” and said the Mayor instead should have been encouraging parents to teach their children “to comply with police officers, even if they feel it’s unjust.’”(dailykos.com)
In addition to this action, when the Mayor attended and spoke at the funeral of one of the first of two officers that had been shot by a mentally disturbed man, many members of the police in attendance turned their back to the Mayor as a sign of disrespect. During the Mayor’s speech at the second officer’s funeral some police officers again turned their backs towards the Mayor even after the Police chief had requested they not do so. The officers had no fear of repercussions from their departments because of the power of their unions.
As things stand, the critical component in any attempts to create meaningful, positive, and effective relations between the law enforcement and the communities of color must involve the police unions. In order for the results of these meetings to be positive and effective knowledge of organizational structure must be accurate and transparent. The law enforcement agents need to know that they work for the people, not the other way around. Although their jobs are dangerous, they do not stand alone or apart from others with dangerous jobs; all lives are valuable. Their jobs are to uphold the laws, not serve as judge or jury. Their jobs are open to the public; all candidates must meet the qualifications and pass the necessary requirements; all these things are done voluntarily. No one is forced to go into law enforcement work.
In order to affect positive change in the relationships between the communities and the law enforcement agencies, the people, the public administrators, the immediate department supervisors and chiefs must not defer their powers to union leaders. If that happens, then the community becomes a “police state.”All participants must learn to work together for the common good if positive change is to occur. Change will happen, but it will be slow in coming because of the nature of power and who has it.

Paul R. Lehman, Fairness in the criminal justice system and society is the focus of the protest.

December 2, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, Ferguson, grand jury, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, Michael Brown, President Obama, skin color, skin complexion, social justice system, The Oklahoman, whites | 2 Comments
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In the wake of the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision, one thing has become crystal clear—many European Americans have no clue as to why African Americans do not trust law enforcement in general, and the justice system in particular. Many European Americans do not take the time to get the facts relative to incidents involving European American police officers and African Americans; they simply side with the police. In addition, since the majority of law enforcement officers reflect the majority society, the relationship between these two groups is generally good. No so with respect to law enforcement agencies and African Americans and other people of color. The element of distrust of the justice system regarding African Americans and people of color has proven to be correct in far too many cases. Whenever a conflict arise involving justice for an African American victim and a European American law officer, the officer is usually exonerated. When African Americans protest a decision and the lack of justice, as they see it, from the justice system, many European Americans take the side of the law establishment, regardless of the actual situation, evidence, and facts.
No amount to evidence, facts, and data will convince a bigot that American citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, have a Constitutional right to protest against the justice system as to what they perceive as an injustice. Rather than sticking to a specific issue or concern presented by the protesters, the bigots will try to bring in other issues to try and weaken the objective of the protest. For example, when protesters talk about the number of killings of unarmed African American males by European American law officers, the bigots want to bring into the discussion the number of “black on black” murders. The problem with this inclusion is that it has nothing to do with the problem of unequal justice. The African Americans who commit murder against other African Americans are generally apprehended, tried, and if found guilty, sent to prison. History shows that most European American police officers who shoot and kill young African American males rarely go to trial, and if they do, are usually set free. Michael Brown’s case is only one of the most recent examples.
One of the problems with the difference between how African Americans see the criminal justice system and the way European Americans see it is how some, usually bigoted, European Americans perceive African Americans in generally. In many instances, European Americans see African Americans at extremes—either well-to-do, educated, and professional or poor, ignorant, prone to violence, dishonest, collect food stamps, and criminal. Little room is ever given to seeing African American as ordinary human beings as they, European Americans see themselves. Because of these perceptions and bigoted attitudes, fear and hate can be easily generated by people who want to polarize each side. For example, an article in The Oklahoma (11/29/14)by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jason L. Riley entitled “A discussion no one wants,” does just that, whether deliberate or not. Apparently, Riley does not realize his bigotry.
Using language and information that cast a dark shadow on the character of Michael Brown, Riley tries to build an argument justifying Brown’s death. He added that “Racial profiling and tensions between the police and poor black communities are real problems, but these are effects rather than causes, and they can’t be addressed without also addressing the extraordinarily high rates of black criminal behavior—yet such discussion remains taboo.” This reference is a good example of mixing several different concerns and trying to blend them into one—the black problem. First, racial profiling and tensions exists among African Americans and police regardless of the communities; the focus of the police is usually on the skin color. The “black on black crime” is a problem that is being addressed even by the President, so that concern should not be included in the discussion. African Americans want to have the discussion, however, they must have it with people willing to listen and act positively.
Riley offered some unsubstantiated information that serves to underscore his bigotry:”But so long as young black men are responsible for an outsize portion of violent crime, they will be viewed suspiciously by law enforcement and fellow citizens of all races.”The statement suggest that all young black men are criminals and are responsible for committing a large portion of violent crimes. Where are the facts, stats, evidence? By now Riley should know that human being belong to one race, not many.
Riley wants his readers to think that the entire problem in Ferguson is simple to assess: “Pretending that police behavior is the root of the problem is not only a dodge but also foolish…Ferguson’s problem isn’t white cops or white prosecutors; it’s the thug behavior exhibited by individuals like Michael Brown, which puts a target on the backs of other young black men. Romanticizing such behavior instead of condemning it only makes matters worse.”There we have it; all that needs to be done to solve the problem is to get rid of the young black thugs.
What Riley does not understand in his bigoted perspective, is that Michael Brown and Ferguson are not what is being protested, per se, but the injustice of the American criminal justice system. Responsible Americans of all ethnicities are involved in protests all across America and some foreign countries in an effort to get America’s attention regarding the years of injustice perpetrated against African Americans and people of color. These protestors are not causing violent disruptions, but civil unrest and civil disobedience. The American Psychological Association defined violence as “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or murder.”Some extreme and small elements of some protest groups have destroyed property and burned buildings, cars and businesses. These acts are reprehensible and have no places in the protests and are never condoned. With respect to violence, however, the violence in most cases is not committed by the protestors. When we look at the definition of the word violence, we certainly cannot describe the protestors as violent; they do not assault, abuse or murder the police or law enforcers.
We certainly thank Riley for his article because he gave us a picture of the problems American society faces regarding valuing all citizens and insuring that we all receive justice and fairness regardless of what we look like or where we live.

Paul R. Lehman, Real changes in the community must come from the top down

September 9, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, discrimination, equality, European American, fairness, liberty, lower class, poor, Prejudice, race, racism, socioeconomics, The Huffington Post, whites | 1 Comment
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When the Michael Brown tragedy occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, many people were dismayed that such a thing could happen. Sometime, it takes a tragedy to bring to the surface other equally discomforting things as well. We hear about people organizing to make things better for the community and especially better police and community relations. Usually, the focus of attention is on the event that just occurred and what caused it. In Ferguson we learned that out of a total of fifty-three policemen, only three or four were African American, when the population percentage of African Americans is around sixty-seven percent. The answer to resolving the police-community relations problem, according to some, is to hire more African Americans on the police force. Unfortunately, that would not solve the problem.
If we want to get to the heart of the problem that contributed to the death of Michael Brown, then hiring more police will not accomplish that objective. The real problem has to do with the treatment of African Americans with respect to fairness and justice. The problems of fairness and justice for African Americans will not be addressed or resolved by adding more African Americans to the police force if the perception, attitude, and behavior of the people in charge of the police do not change.
What incidents like the one in Ferguson shows is that the problem of community relations does not rest with the police force; the problem is systemic. The police behavior is simply one manifestation of the mind-set of the community leaders. The various elected officials from the mayor to the dog-catcher play a part in forming the attitude of the community relative to its citizens. Therefore, when searching for a cause of the problem relative to police behavior towards the African American community, one has to look at who controls the police.
One journalist looking into the community relations in areas near Ferguson discovered a pattern of unjust actions that places undue stress on the African American communities in the St. Louis area. For example, the greatest police-related instances taken from police reports occur in African American communities. The greatest percentage of traffic violations reported occurred in African American communities. The greatest percentage of arrest reported by the police occurred in African American communities. Why? We can not simply look at the police force for an answer.
Taken individually, the statistics seem to suggest that the African Americans are the worst drivers in the area, and they give the police more cause for arrest. However, when looked at collectively, we recognize that the majority of the African Americans stopped for traffic violations are poor, low-wage workers. When stopped by the police, whether they committed a violation or not, they do not usually complain. They do not complain because of the history of negative consequences associated with being African American and uncooperative with the police. The police not only know that African Americans understand this situation, but also depend on it working successfully in issuing tickets. The entire process is part of the system for general income for the community.
Many police departments depend on the poor, powerless communities of people of color to generate money to operate their local government. Usually, the poor do not have the extra money available to pay a large traffic fine. So, in some communities, if one cannot pay, they go to jail. If they go to jail, the family, friends, and often the employers of the jailed person will come up with the money. If not, the person jailed will usually lose his or her job, incur bills that cannot be paid, leave children to the mercy of available family or foster care, and in some instances lose their home and transportation. Why? They get caught in the system because they are powerless and defenseless and therefore, easy prey. The cause of their problems is not the police force; they just follow the instructions of the administrators.
Part of the problems comes from ignorance and prejudice of European Americans towards the African American and people of color in the community. The ignorance and prejudice comes from perception. Sean McElwee, in an article for Huffington.com, “Five Signs We’re Not a ‘Post-Racial’ Society” noted that
“In the wake of the Ferguson shooting, a recent Pew poll finds that 47 percent of whites believe that “race is getting more attention than it deserves,” with regards to the death of Michael Brown, while only 18 percent of African-Americans feel the same. Meanwhile, a similar Pew study found that whites are far less likely to see discrimination in the treatment blacks receive by the education system, the courts and hospitals. Such views are held by many Americans, who believe that “blacks are mostly responsible for their own condition.” Police killings of unarmed blacks are certainly the most visible manifestation of systemic racism, but data show that racism still manifests itself frequently in everyday life.”
The shooting of Michael Brown created an opportunity for all the citizens to see the actual conditions of the community and not rely on rumor and opinions. Armed with the facts of just how much African Americans are treated unjustly and unfairly, the citizens can began to organize themselves into groups that will act to address many of these problems. When concerned people in the community realize the degree to which the poor and people of color are exploited, they should be moved to some level of action.
Change will come to the community, not just Ferguson, when the leaders from the top on down adjust their attitudes and become better informed relative to the people they serve, all the people they serve. Likewise, the poor, and people of color need to realize that they have power through the vote and public protest to make positive changes. However, as McElwee stated: “In America, race determines not just where someone lives and what school he or she attends, it affects the very air we breathe. Although many whites wish to believe we live in a “post-racial” society, race appears not just in overt discrimination but in subtle structural factors.
So, the problems relative to the police and the African American communities are not simply police problems, but problems that involve the entire system of government that devalues and under represents many of its citizens of color. Problem solving, however, must began at the top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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