Policing The Police: Some Critical Reforms After Ferguson and Staten Island Rulings

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Executed by Darren Wilson. How many more Michael Browns will we accept?

[Speaking Truth To Power]

As the protests and marches continue, in the wake of the unjust decisions not to indict the White officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; the question now is what measures must be undertaken to remake the way policing is done in Black and Brown communities?

In the ongoing national discussions, around what must be done to eradicate the excesses of police, the solutions that have been talked about, by political leaders, are far from adequate.

The way Black communities are policed must be totally changed—if anything resembling good police is to become a reality. Many areas must be looked at including: racial make-up of those writing police policy; racial make-up of police officers; rigid residency requirements; special prosecutors; and, possibly, special de-centralized police forces for Black communities.

One of the solutions that has been raised is the use of body-cameras, with President Barack Obama championing and requesting some 50,000 body-cameras to be given to police across the nation.

Cameras are a part of the answer and they should become ubiquitous—not only with police body cameras, but, all areas of police departments, except for bathrooms, should probably be armed with cameras.

Unfortunately, because of the “justice” system’s lack of integrity, all of the courts—including the U.S. Supreme Court—should also be filled with cameras so we can have the “transparency” that is now lacking. Cameras could be placed in courtrooms—and positioned in a way, in those cases where appropriate, to protect the identities of confidential witnesses and jurors.

If we had a court camera system, especially, for legal findings like the grand juries we had in Ferguson and Staten Island we would be able to fully ascertain the shenanigans of these two corrupt prosecutors, who obviously orchestrated these outcomes. There are other ways of protecting the identities of people serving on grand juries or trial juries and for the system to protect information whose disclosure could place someone's life at risk.

However, we should now know that cameras alone won’t necessarily guarantee justice. After all, the lynch-hold chokehold of Eric Garner is on tape, and yet, the members of the Staten Island grand jury, apparently, didn’t see what was blatant: Officer Daniel Pantaleo choking the life out of Eric Garner who repeatedly said—11 times— “I can’t breathe.” Pantaleo could have easily arrested Garner if that was his objective by drawing his weapon and ordering him to be handcuffed.

One thing is crystal clear: there is a political culture that condones crooked behavior by cops and conniving charlatan prosecutors. Whenever, some police officer engages in criminal, brutish behavior, or, kills a Black man, we often hear talk about how dangerous the jobs of police officers are.

Is this supposed to excuse the criminal conduct of those officers who abuse their power—especially, when those being beaten and killed are Black? There are many people who would be willing to be good police officers --without having to commit brutality-- even knowing the risks the job involves.

Police damage their own legitimacy when they protect those officers who have violated the rights of people on the streets. If police are upset about being “painted with the same brush,” then, they should stand up and expose the criminals and brutal bigots wearing badges in their midst. Each police department must offer monetary rewards or promotions to cops who expose dirty, corrupt, or brutal cops.

When that day comes, the police will have earned more trust in the Black community.Which leads us to the primary problem causing Black men to be killed and murdered in the streets by cops: policies and practices that are engendered by the long history of institutional and economic racism. The Eric Garner case and its connection to the “Broken Windows” policing theory is an example. Let’s remember, this all started because Officer Pantaleo and the other officers were accusing Eric Garner of selling untaxed loose cigarettes.

Many talk about “Broken Windows,” but remain loudly silent on the broken economics that help them project—through manipulated statistics—the fallacious myth that Black Americans are more criminally-inclined than White Americans. But while they have no problem victimizing Black economically challenged communities, those who could use some “Broken Windows” policing, like the greedy, Wall Street money-changers, are given a free pass. The message is clear: those with money, or connected to it, will be treated differently—regardless of their crimes.

Here we must also remember the rampant unemployment that plagues Black men in America. The current unemployment rate for White America is 5.4, yet, for Black America it is 11.5 percent—and some say if other variable are added the true number could even be as much as 30 percent.

In any case in St. Louis the officials stats for White unemployment is 5.9% while for Blacks its about 18%.

Why don’t government officials and elected leaders ever truly talk about tackling the Black unemployment—which lies at the heart of the “crime problem” in Black communities?

One may ask why, but, the sad truth is that Black America’s unemployment has always remain high—regardless of which political party was in power—ever since we were supposedly “emancipated.”

And in 1964 when the Civil Rights bill was signed White unemployment was 5% and Black people's 10%.

Unfortunately, many White Americans can’t bring themselves to admit that: African-Americans have never, ever, been accepted on equal terms as equal citizens. Moreover, a segment of White America has made it its mission to, at every turn, place obstacles in the path to impede the progress—especially, on economic terms—of Black Americans.

We’ve all seen the figures showing the stark variance in which the White and Black communities view the police. Many Whites see police as, basically, above reproach—and Blacks are much more distrustful of police and see them, often, as an arm of oppression and institutional racism. Whites usually characterized Black distrust, and hatred of police, as just some sort of strange paranoia.

The Eric Garner video may have opened the eyes of some to the reality of the Black experience.

But if Whites ever both examine the true history between police and African-Americans—and were honest with themselves—they would be have to acknowledge that police have always been a force of oppression and violence in the Black community from after the days of Slavery, and even before.

One can easily trace the use of the police to disrupt the progress of African-Americans back to the days immediately after “Emancipation” to the times of the “Black Codes” and “Vagrancy Laws,” when the recently released former slaves were oppressed in a manner far worse from anything they had to endure during Slavery—and were often forced onto the very plantations they were just “emancipated” from; to work under more brutal conditions.

In some ways, prejudiced policing practices, like “Broken Windows” mirror the harassment Black America has been under since the times of the “Black Codes.” In fact, “Broken Windows” and “Stop-and-Frisk” should be seen through that same prism—as just current manifestations of an old political war, using White police, against Black America.

Mayor Bill de Blasio—who was voted into office behind the overwhelming support of Black and Latino voters is supposed to be “progressive.” Because he is married to a Black woman, and has bi-racial children, many hoped he would represent the interests of Black people as equal citizens under the law.

So we should ask this question: why has he backed such a regressively, racist, policing practice like “Broken Windows,” which is no better than Stop-and-Frisk?

The true culprit of tragedies like Mike Brown and Eric Garner is not just the sanctioned killers like Officer Wilson, or, Officer Pantaleo—it is those who write police policy like “Stop and Frisk” and “Broken Windows.” These people are the ones that enable violence against Blacks. Why else do they orchestrate the outcomes that the world has just witnessed in Ferguson and on Staten Island?

One of the main things that must change is that Black America must galvanize all its political might to determine how policing will be done in our neighborhoods. We must demand that written policing policy is in synch with the Black community. White police officers, who live in segregated suburbs, should not be allowed to police segregated Black communities. These types of people, too often, can’t be trusted to objectively deal with Black people—who they, often, see as --and say are-- animals.

Why should White people be allowed to dictate police policy in places where they refuse to live?

The cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner make it clear a system of special prosecutors should be required in all cases where police are accused of such acts. There are conflicts of interests when prosecutors are expected to vigorously prosecute their police pals.  In the interest of justice, some third-party must step in and take over investigations and prosecutions in these cases. In New York, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has asked the governor to grant him powers to prosecute cops who kill unarmed civilians.

Another answer maybe to increase the pay of police—so, that police departments can attract higher caliber applicants to become police, and, eliminate knucklehead K.K.K.-types who have no business being called “peace officers.” Paying police more would make it easy to stress things like in-depth psych evaluations.

Imagine, Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann had to “resign” from the Independence Police Department for being, among other things, “emotionally immature.” He then was then shockingly able to gain employment in the Cleveland Police Department.

Then, on Nov.22, Officer Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice outside his home. 

 

 

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