Category Archives: civil liberties

GOP and the Great White Whine

There are Neo-Nazis parading in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Young mostly, male mostly, and all white.  They’re convinced, probably radicalized online, that (1) they are the master race; (2) they are victims; and (3) they are ‘free’ to display their hatred and bigotry in public spaces.  They are the Great White Whine.

And the man in the White House is silent.

If they weren’t white and they decided to conduct a march with burning tiki torches they’d probably find out what ‘oppression’ feels like.  If they weren’t white and decided to show up for their rally armed, then they’d probably find out what ‘oppression’ looks like.  If they weren’t white, and they showed up calling for “Power” they’d assuredly find out what ‘oppression’ sounds like.

And the man in the White House is silent.

A thug, and these are thugs, don’t necessarily have to wear hoodies and jeans; they can just as easily be clad in khaki trousers and golf shirts.  If the Neo-Nazis proved nothing else today they’ve at least provided proof of this truth.  Interesting isn’t it, that African Americans, some 13% of the American population, honor Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, fly the Stars and Stripes with pride, and make up 17% of our active duty military.  People of Hispanic heritage constitute about 18% of our population, and make up 12% of our active duty military — three times their number in 1980.  The Neo-Nazis gathered in Virginia waved the Stars and Bars, the battle flag of treason and traitors to the Union instead of the Stars and Stripes.  It takes a major amount of chutzpah for them to declare themselves “Patriots.”

And the man in the White House is silent.

Thus far the only comment from the White House came from the First Lady, herself an immigrant, to say: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”  Granted this isn’t a full throated denunciation of Neo-Nazism, but it’s more than any other White House figure has ventured.

And, still the man in the White House is silent.

And, his silence is a grave danger to the Republican Party.  Ordinarily I’d not spend much thought on how the Republican Party should position itself for success in this country, but this is serious.  I do believe in a two party system, I do believe there is a place and purpose for conservative policy arguments — I don’t have to agree with them, but that “free speech” part is important.  If the current administration continues to be associated with Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other thugs then the human propensity to append guilt by association will engage.  If David Duke marches with his fellow Neo-Nazi White Supremacist thugs, and the administration make no official (and stern) condemnation, then the guilt by association will have more potential traction.

And still the man in the White House is silent.

The man in the White House has yet to condemn the attack on the Bloomington, MN mosque — indeed, one of his spokespersons opined it might have been a “fake hate crime.”  He’s not apologized in any way, shape, or form for comments about immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries being “bad hombres.”  He’s not offered any solace for African Americans who are searching for ways to attract attention to their efforts to bring their communities and their local law enforcement personnel closer toward the goal of better, and more cooperative, relationships.  Therefore, we ought not be surprised that…

The man in the White House is silent.

His followers declare that President Obama’s politics were divisive.  Perhaps because he heard the complaints of the African American communities, as Trump’s followers do not? Perhaps because he understood the economic and cultural contributions of immigrants to this country, as Trump’s followers do not? Perhaps because he appreciated the humanity and worth of members of the LBGT community, as followers of Trump do not?  An individual’s failure to recognize the humanity and worth of those who are unlike himself isn’t the fault of any politician — it is seated in the insecurity of that individual himself, by himself, selfishly for himself.

And the man in the White House is silent.

Silent as the thugs align with his political party, emboldened to march without hoods and masks, to wave their flags alongside his banner, inviting the notion that to be a Republican is to be a Neo-Nazi, a White Supremacist, and an intolerant bigot.  Or, that to join the Party is to align oneself with the Neo-Nazis, the White Supremacists, and the bigots.  What I hope for the Republican Party is…

A man in the White House who will not remain silent, who will banish from his administration those who harbor Neo-Nazi, White Supremacist, bigoted, intolerant views.  Republican members of Congress who will condemn the Neo-Nazis, the bigots and the intolerant.  Republican Party leaders at the national, state, and local levels who will vehemently assert that the Republicans today decry intolerance, bigotry, and racism, and will not associate themselves with it.  I hope to see Republicans with the courage to say,  we can do perfectly well in our elections without the staining of our honor with your bigotry, racism, Neo-Nazism, and White Supremacy. sil

The man in the White House is silently leading the Party to a narrow and dark place.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, Politics, racism, Republicans

Losing Sins, Sacramental Cheating: Vote Suppression Issues in 2017

“A faith that makes losing a sin will make cheating a sacrament.” — Michael Gergen

Case in point: The incredibly petty assault on the election of state Senator Joyce Woodhouse by sore losers among the Clark County Republicans who think a ‘recall’ election on a trumped up issue will allow them to overturn election results.  And, this single sentence is about all the publicity the recall effort deserves.

Case in point:  The trumped up (literally) claims of vote fraud in the 2016 election, for which there is NO evidence whatsoever.  The vote suppression efforts rely on conflation and obfuscation.  First and foremost, it requires that we conflate issues of voter registration with actual incidents of voter impersonation fraud.  No one is arguing that periodically cleaning up voter registration lists to remove names of those deceased or moved from the precinct is necessarily a bad thing.  If done in a rational and professional manner such removal makes the lives of poll workers on election day a bit easier, and I, for one, am all for making their lives as easy as possible.  However, there are voices asserting that because there remain names un-removed, there is therefore the potential for fraud, therefore there must be evidence of fraudulent voting.  This is fear-mongering of the first water.  Please review the 3 instances of voting fraud in Nevada since 2012.  (More discussion here) An additional objection to this assertion is that the vote suppression advocates are personalizing the issue — “If there is One instance of fraudulent voting, then the vote thus cancelled out must be ‘yours.'”  Please.  “But! What happens in close elections?”  One instance repeatedly hauled out by the vote suppressors as an example of  a close loss blamed on illegal voting, the Rizzo case, has been thoroughly debunked.  It’s become an article of faith among the right wing that because Democrats might cheat, then “election integrity” requires that they be closely monitored to prevent “those people” from winning elections.  Election integrity should mean that every eligible voter in this country is treated equally as the ballots are cast.  However, this brings us to yet another sacrament of the vote suppressors.

Case in point:  The following report comes from the Indianapolis Star: (August 10, 2017)

“State and local Republicans have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas, an IndyStar investigation has found, prompting a significant change in Central Indiana voting patterns. From 2008 to 2016, GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican dominated Hamilton County, IndyStar’s analysis found, and decreased them in the state’s biggest Democratic hotbed, Marion County.   That made voting more convenient in GOP areas for people with transportation issues or busy schedules. And the results were immediate.”

Yes, how convenient, for Republican voters only.  This becomes yet another example of those for whom winning is an article of faith, and one’s sacramental duty is to cheat to gain an advantage.

Case in point:  North Carolina Republicans became the poster children for vote suppression tactics,  such as curtailing early voting, strict ID requirements, reduced polling hours, to such as extent that they’ve not managed to pass muster in the courts.   In short, the battle’s not over by a long shot.  States that manage to restrict voting hours, reduce voting sites, curtail early voting, and otherwise strive to make voting as difficult as possible are engaged in nothing less that organized disenfranchisement.  Nothing could argue more forcefully for the importance of state elections than these kinds of patently suppressive legislation.

Case in point:  We should focus for a moment on the closing of polling stations as an example of vote suppression. Arizona, Georgia, Florida, and (you guessed it) North Carolina all closed polling places in 2016 that were in predominantly Democratic areas. [Reuters]

Unreasonably strict voter ID laws, the closing of polling stations, the restrictions on early voting, the selective purging of voter rolls (Remember Florida in 2000?), the arbitrary lengthening or contracting voting precinct schedules, and the other schemes to restrict voting fly in the face of Madison’s observation in his Federalist 52:

“The definition of the right of suffrage is very justly regarded as a fundamental article of republican government. “

This, not the modern Republican version of disenfranchisement, ought to be the statement of faith that makes cheating so egregious.

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Filed under civil liberties, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

The One Thing Trump Won’t Put His Name On?

Let’s guess that the one thing the current occupant of the White House won’t put his name on is an apology. Here’s a template in case he’s harboring any transient desire to do so:

“My fellow Americans  I want to tell you how sorry I am that there are among us people who feel emboldened to act in ways that cause immeasurable pain to their fellow human beings.

They are the ones who have now vandalized not one but two Jewish Cemeteries, one in suburban St. Louis and another in Philadelphia. They are the ones who have burned a mosque in Victoria, Texas, and the ones who attacked a gay couple in Key West, Florida. They have created 917 hate groups in this nation. They have acted on their hate, and now Indian Americans in Kansas have felt the pain of their assaults.

They have internalized the messages from hate radio broadcasts, incorporating the demonization of Muslims, Jews, Immigrants, and women’s health providers into their daily thinking.  They are wrong. They are unworthy of our sympathy. They are cancerous intrusions into our civic discourse.

People who hold the despicable thoughts that drive these despicable actions should never be comfortable voicing their disrespect for their fellow human beings.  When they rant at the dinner table that “they” are responsible for all the ills of the nation, they should be challenged.  When they propose that the US would be a better place without immigrants they should be challenged. When they use abusive slang and epithets to describe other people they should be reminded that they are in polite society. When they brag about abusing members of minority groups and women they should hear from the righteous among us that this is completely and totally unacceptable.

When they voice support for the hateful actions of others they should be placed on notice that enabling or encouraging hate crimes and incidents is properly categorized as being an accomplice.  When their voices promote hatefulness and violence, our voices should call for tolerance and empathy. When their voices rasp with vile epithets and slogans, ours should call for civility and understanding.  Their voices must be challenged. Right here. Right now.”

Now, I wonder if the president would like to put his name to this template?

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Filed under civil liberties, Hate Crimes, Immigration, Politics, racism

Clinton Speaks to Issues, Press follows Shiny Objects

Clinton with Kid Since corporate media is fascinated with every little tweet from the Trump Menagerie and every bit of its minutiae which can be hyper-analyzed, it’s left to other platforms to highlight Clinton speeches and their content.  Why am I posting this? Because on the day Clinton outlined major policy proposals on mental health services the national media was all tangled up in an NFL player’s protest and Trump’s publicity stunt trip to Mexico.

So, here’s what we’ve missed in just one subject matter  area – minority outreach.

Minority outreach speeches: July 8, 2016 Clinton Speech to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia PA.  A bit of it:

“As we know, there is clear evidence that African-Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other group of Americans. And we know there is too little trust in too many places between police and the communities they are sworn to protect.” Clinton said that good law enforcement officers far outnumber those who are bad and a violent response to violence is not the answer. The protest in Dallas yesterday was peaceful and police were there to monitor the crowds and ensure the protesters’ safety when they were fired upon by a sniper. Clinton spoke about her proposal to invest $1 billion in police training across the county to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers as well as the general public.”

July 14, 2016, League of United Latin American Citizens, Washington DC.

“The choice we make will say a lot about who we are and whether we understand and celebrate the diversity of our country, which makes us all the stronger.”

July 18, 2016, address to the NAACP.

“There is, as you know so well, another hard truth at the heart of this complex matter: Many African-Americans fear the police.” Clinton vowed to work toward bridging the gap between the African American community and local police forces.”

June 4, 2016: Santa Barbara, CA community event focusing on women and families.

“The round table discussion consisted of local officials and representatives. Clinton spoke about a number of her platform points aimed at improving the lives of women and helping families. She spoke about increasing the minimum wage, ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work, ensuring families have access to affordable childcare, and guaranteeing workers paid family leave.”

June 10, 2016: Planned Parenthood event, Washington DC.

“We know that restricting access doesn’t make women less likely to end a pregnancy. It just makes abortion less safe.  And that then threatens women’s lives.”

June 27, 2016: Rainbow PUSH Coalition event, Chicago, IL.

“Clinton’s primary focus was gun violence and introducing legislation to require background checks for the purchase of a firearm. She spoke about the importance of reducing gun violence saying, “I think saving our children and other people from gun violence is a civil rights issue right now in America.”

May 1, 2016:  Clinton is keynote speaker at the Detroit NAACP dinner.

“During her speech, she spoke about a number of platform topics including criminal justice reform, prison reform, gun control, and the refinancing of student loan debt. Clinton said that she wanted to continue to the progress of the last eight years.”

May 9, 2016: Stone Ridge, VA on women and work/life balance issues.

“She said that raising a family and having a career is harder today than it was when Chelsea was a kid. “Costs are greater, everything from commuting time to feeling like if you take that vacation day, you are going to be viewed as slacking off,” she said. Clinton went on to say that she knew that her proposals would change the current system, but it is important to realize that times have changed. She said, “We need to really start looking at these programs from the lens of what life is like today and not what it was like 50 years ago.”

May 10, 2016:  Lexington and Louisville, KY events on the economy and the family.  Follow this link to the bullet point outline of Clinton’s proposals.

May 22, 2016: Keynote address to the Circle of Mothers Restoration weekend, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

“Something is wrong when so many young people just starting their lives are dying. Something is very wrong, my friends, and this election gives us a chance to keep trying to make it right.”

Mr. Trump seems to have “discovered” minorities very recently?

And then, of course, there was the August 29, 2016 speech on mental health care issues – covered by Politico, the BBC, and PBS.  Those who missed what this was all about please follow this link to the briefing points and policy proposals from the Clinton campaign.

For those not content with beltway media blathering and who want a bit more good old fashioned CONTENT and context in their political discussions, there’s the Briefing Section/Fact Sheets portion of the Clinton Campaign.   As I’ve said before, I’ve given up on the corporate media doing much more than giving Trump free publicity and chasing after twitter streams.  Fortunately in this day and age we can do some of the heavy lifting ourselves without waiting for them to catch up.

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Filed under civil liberties, Clinton, Hillary Clinton, NAACP, Nevada politics, Women's Issues

Unsolicited Advice for a Police Union

Rockwell cops I write this from the perspective of a former public sector union member and officer. I write this without rancor for other public section union members and their officials, but I write this because there is a difficult line to walk between protecting the interests of the membership and drawing lines between the members and the communities they serve.  Once those lines are drawn they are very difficult to erase.

There is always a temptation on the union side of the ledger to focus  on protecting the individual member from disciplinary actions, from demotions, involuntary transfers, dismissals, or refusals to re-employ.  That’s part of the job.  However, some disciplinary actions are both appropriate to the situation and often inevitable. Therefore, the focus of the union representatives is more productive in the long run if the philosophy is to protect the due process rights of the member, and the provisions of the master contract.  Put ever so much more bluntly, there are times when it’s necessary to tell a member, “I’m here to help you offer the best defense you can, if you can dream one up.”  

What is not helpful is to operate on the assumption that every member (or non-member in some instances) is worthy of full throated public support.  Nor is it helpful to assume that criticism of one, or a few, is necessarily criticism and vilification for all.    Yet, that seems to be the standard operation in a few high profile union/community examples.

“The St Louis Police Officers Association claimed that officers found the actions of (St. Louis Rams) Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Tre Mason to be “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory”, and demanded that they be disciplined.

Five of the players emerged for their game against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday with their hands aloft, a gesture used by protesters who claim that Brown was surrendering when he was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson on 9 August. Last week a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson.” [Guardian] December 1, 2014

Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, aviation employees, letter carriers, and state and municipal employees were respected for the countless hours of service they provide?  If everyone understood that first responder vocations are of paramount importance? If everyone understood that teaching and nursing are high stress occupations with long hours and little overtime?  However, respect doesn’t necessarily indicate adoration, reverence, and exaltation.   Further, demanding veneration means there will be higher standards applied to the members of the organization.  The old line applies: If you want to be respected do your job; if you want to be worshipped you have to do your job perfectly.

Mix a bit of racial tension into this toxic stew and there’s a recipe for unhelpful recrimination.  

“Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, blasted de Blasio for his inflammatory remarks, which followed Wednesday’s decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict cop Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“What police officers felt yesterday after that press conference was that they were thrown under the bus,” Lynch said.

De Blasio had called the Garner case “profoundly personal for me,” saying that because of “the dangers [Dante] may face, we’ve had to literally train him . . . in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.” [NYPost] December 4, 2015

That a father would have The Talk with his son about interactions with police officers is common in the African American community.  I have yet to meet an African American who hasn’t been followed in a department store at least once, or hasn’t had The Talk with a son, grandson, or nephew.  Yes, The Talk implies a negative perception of the police, but an essential part of The Talk is to show respect for the officer and the directions given.  No one is getting tossed under the wheels of any imaginary bus – this is simply generational wisdom passed along regarding how to cope with some people in authority.  There are also  Talks about how to cope with cranky teachers, or how to behave in a department store.  These same talks are replicated in the white community, although without the sense of urgency and fear.  “Respect your teachers, respect police officers, keep you nose clean and mind your manners.”  Aren’t those things what we want all kids to do?

When the dust settles, let it settle. The outcome of mediation, arbitration, or litigation may not be the desired outcome for the union, but once it’s done it should probably “stay done.”  Such as in the case of the Eric Garner settlement in New York:

“Sergeants Benevolent Association head Ed Mullins, meanwhile, had a different take. In an interview with the NY Post (who else?), Mullins described the settlement as “obscene” and “shameful,” asking the tabloid’s readers, “Where is the justice for New York taxpayers? Where is the consistency in the civil system? In my view, the city has chosen to abandon its fiscal responsibility to all of its citizens and genuflect to the select few who curry favor with the city government.” [Translation: AL SHARPTON AL SHARPTON AL SHARPTON.] [Also: AL SHARPTON.]

“Mr. Garner’s family should not be rewarded simply because he repeatedly chose to break the law and resist arrest,” Mullins concluded. (Police claim Garner had been selling loose cigarettes outside a Staten Island deli when officers approached him.)” [Gothamist]  July 14, 2015

Or, in the case of Tamir Rice’s family in Cleveland:

“The head of the Cleveland rank-and-file police union says the family of 12-year-old Tamir Rice should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the use of look-alike firearms.

Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association association, was criticized on a national scale for statements he made to the media in the weeks and months after two officers in his union were involved in Tamir’s death.” [Cleveland PDealer] April 25, 2016

When enough has been said, enough has been said.  Until it happens again —

“Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers working the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center on Saturday night walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warm-up jerseys.  Lynx players did not wear T-shirts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of Tuesday’s game in San Antonio.

“The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers,” the team said in a statement. “While our players message mourned the loss of life due to last week’s shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. … We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.” [MSTrib]

[…]

“Kroll (Minneapolis Police Federation) criticized Lynx players, citing the “false narratives” in the past two years in which some allegations of police misconduct in the killing of black people were refuted. “Rushing to judgment  Police sign up for off-duty jobs to work Lynx games, Kroll said. “They can start or stop a job whenever they want,” he said. “They are working on an independent contract.”

Asked about a report that seven or eight officers had walked off the job, Kroll said, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.” [MSTrib]

Here we go again.  Lt. Bob Kroll commends the officers for walking off, and then slathers on a bit of misogyny about the “pathetic draw.”  Putting distance between your union and your community doesn’t serve most positive purposes – in terms of  issues both philosophical and practical.

On a philosophical level, if we assume  there is already a divide between the African American community and the police – how does walking away from a potential opportunity for “constructive discussion” help anyone? What of, “I protect and defend your rights, including freedom of speech, until you say something I find offensive?” From a practical standpoint, the Lynx organization already hires private security; does it help other police officers trying to earn  extra pay if they are perceived as potential ‘walk outs’ should they be in any way offended by players’ statements?   The police chief tried to tamp down the rhetoric:

“Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear,” she said. “While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now.” [MSTrib]

Here’s a thought: When the employer is trying to smooth the waters for the union, there’s a possible need to curtail wave making actions.  There are already calls for the privatization of police  [HuffPo] popular in some libertarian quarters, and touted as a ‘solution’ to police/community relations.  If your opponent wants to make a cudgel, refrain from handing him a tree branch.   Or a tree trunk, as in Denver:

“It’s only natural that some police departments reassess how they handle protests after the terrible shootings in Dallas last week that left five officers dead. But the demand by the Denver police union in the wake of the tragedy that local cops wear riot gear during protests was truculent and out of line.

The union has been pushing for the use of riot gear at protests for two years, ever since demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., spread across the country. But the tone adopted by Nick Rogers, president of the Denver Police Protective Association, in a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock and police Chief Robert White, was rude and combative, while some of its factual content was questionable.

Basically, Rogers warned those two officials that if any officer not wearing riot gear is injured during a protest, the union will attempt to hold them personally liable, citing federal court decisions that “officials can be liable for the acts of third parties where those officials ‘created the danger’ that caused the harm.” Presumably he means the union will sue the mayor and chief in an effort to blame them.” [DenverPost]

There’s also something to be said for an employer who is trying to maintain the public image of police as public servants and not an armed militia out to suppress citizens, some of whom are already reluctant to give the police the benefit of the doubt.

Highly publicized emotional comments in highly volatile times, too often made from intransigent positions predicated on “us vs. them,” may garner approval from some quarters but approbation from others.   It’s best to function from the position that there are those who will always be in support no matter what the issue; however, it’s the increasing level of approbation which ought to be of primary concern.  Listening to supporters is always comforting; listening to the adversaries is always necessary.  On a more tangible level one thing the police unions would do well to avoid is the perception (now conveniently applied to public school teachers) that the union will protect the “bad apples.”

The recent devolution of respect for the teaching profession includes the argument that “schools are bad, they are bad because of bad teachers, and unions are bad because they protect those bad teachers.”  That none of this makes any sense isn’t the point. We certainly don’t need for some elements in the political spectrum to start arguing that “policing is bad, it’s bad because of bad officers, and the unions are bad because they protect those bad officers.”  Once this contamination spreads it’s more difficult to resist the privatization proponents.

If the perspective is truly to defend the due process rights of police officers, and to protect the provisions of the master contracts, then it’s much easier to defuse confrontations.  Due process and contractual elements aren’t personal.  Personalizing them adds emotion, emotion reduces discourse, and reduced discourse increases confrontations.  Negotiations are rarely improved by adding confrontation into the milieu. There is, indeed, a time for more collaboration and less conflict.

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Filed under civil liberties, conservatism, labor, Politics, privatization, public employees, racism, unions

Police Accountability: No one model and no single system

Crime Scene Tape

There was a meeting in Reno, NV between members of the community, representatives of Black Lives Matter, and law enforcement officers. That’s good. [RGJ]  It’s a start. Or, to put it another way it’s another step on a path forward which has the tortuous feel of a mountain trail with numerous cut backs.  We might be able to more fully address the issues related to policing our communities if we’d take some additional topics into consideration.

One of the most obvious topics is the use of force, in perhaps too many cases deadly force, and how police officers may be held accountable in controversial situations.  The importance of Tennessee v. Garner can’t be overestimated, and further, administrative and legal cases do seem to have an effect on policing policies and practices. [Hudson] However, public perception is also related to faith in the system, and the system is fragmented.

In Nevada, for example, how a citizen can report instances of police misconduct varies with each jurisdiction, and sometimes within a single metropolitan area.  Reporting a favorable comment about policing is very easy in Reno.  There’s a website form for that.  Reporting an instance of possible police misconduct isn’t as simple.  Reno, Washoe County, and Carson City each have their own process and requirements for filing an allegation of misconduct. [ACLU]  There are four ways to file a complaint in Reno, three ways in Washoe County, and only one way (in person) in Carson City.   The report information goes to the Internal Affairs Office in Reno, passes to the Sheriff’s office in Carson City, and through the Sheriff’s office in Washoe County.

The Accountability process is also a matter of local jurisdiction. There is a local Review Board in Las Vegas, which while it does have some investigative powers is confined to making recommendations only.  Even this improvement met with a critique from the Justice Department in a 2012 investigation:

“Metro’s Use of Force Review Board — currently a mix of residents and department personnel — needs revamping because of procedures the COPS Office found “outdated and insufficient.” To remedy the situation, the report recommends Metro create a stand-alone manual for the board, which would outline its purpose, operating procedures and clarify roles of the board’s members.” [LVSun] [DoJ] [DoJ Report pdf]

This wasn’t all the Department of Justice had to say on the matter in October 2012.   The report found that the Coroner’s inquest process related to the review of the use of deadly force was ineffective at the time. The District Attorney’s office needed more training and expertise related to investigating deadly force incidents, and while the Clark County DA had begun to review officer involved lethal shootings, and to issue decision letters, there were no letters for serious, non-fatal use of force incidents. [DoJ Report pdf]  The current accountability public perceptions may rest on how much progress has been made since the 2012 recommendations, and on the application of the review processes in the context of Nevada statutes on police use of force.

The public is beginning to perceive that investigations of police officers are quite different from those a private citizen can expect.  For example, in Las Vegas the officer will receive a 48 hour notice before an interview, and even if that notice requirement is waived it must be approved by the association.  Additionally, the officer will be provided with ALL evidence during an interrogation to facilitate correcting “inconsistencies.”  There are also contractual provisions allowing an officer terminated as a result of an investigation 30 days to appeal and to enter into binding arbitration. Written reprimands will be removed from the officer’s personnel file after 18 months; minor suspensions after 3 years, and major suspensions after 5 years.  There is to be no retention of investigation records in which the officer is exonerated, or the allegations are held to be unfounded, or un-sustained.   The contract in Las Vegas is about “average” in its provisions for police protection, with the major exception that the city is not exclusively liable for civil actions related to the incident.

There are some jurisdictions in which an officer cannot be interrogated for more than 6 hours in a given session, and may not be threatened with vile language or threats of demotion, transfer, or termination of employment. (Fort Worth)  Louisville, KY allows no threats, coercion, or promises made during an interrogation, and St. Petersburg, FL allows only one interrogation session.  [CTP interactive]

“Public Employee and Public Ideology” issues are also entangled in these topics.  There are some conservative voices only too pleased to blame teachers’ unions, for example, for allowing the retention of “bad apples.” However, these voices are strangely silent when the subject of police unions comes to the fore.  It is in no one’s best interest when any public employee is subjected to discriminatory, capricious, or arbitrary treatment regarding his or her demotion, dismissal, or refusal of re-employment.  However, when other public employees are alleged to have been responsible for the death or physical injury of another the notice and the interrogation limitations are not available to them, nor are the requirements that they have access to all the evidence collected prior to the interrogation.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

That there is no single model and no single unifying concepts for police accountability means that each jurisdiction is left to its own devices to cope with community and police relations.  Some, like the Dallas PD, have done a better job than others, such as Baton Rouge and Ferguson, MO.

Perhaps we’d be well served to think outside the dotted lines at some tangential issues which exacerbate the situations in which both law enforcement and community members find themselves.  Let’s start with what is likely to be one of the most obvious.

Racism.  Could we at least recognize that it exists? Could we at least acknowledge that it informs some actions that are not necessarily overt? Remember the African American college student who was arrested in NYC for buying a belt the clerk and officers said he couldn’t possibly afford, and concluded that he’d thereby committed fraud? [HuffPo]  Or, the African American actor who was arrested for buying his mother a $1,350 watch, as a present for her college graduation? [DNAinfo]  These are simply more high profile illustrations of the problem as related by one of the participants in the Reno meeting:

“Don Dike-Anukam said he was glad he attended Sunday’s event and hopes others will consider what life is like when “the shoe is on the other foot.”

“It’s hard to explain to people who never had to literally prepare for a police stop or have been followed in a supermarket when you’ve done nothing wrong or know what it’s like to have that feeling of suspicion and done nothing wrong,” Dike-Anukam said. “It makes you a little angry and annoyed inside and sad at the same time.” [RGJ]

Combining racism and fear is a truly toxic mix. What of the police officer  knowing that he is dealing with a white person in a traffic stop who may be armed, and feels less insecure? Or, more insecure if the person in Black? Is the white citizen more innocent until proven guilty, or the Black citizen guilty until proven innocent?

Police as collection agents. One of the things that precipitated the mess in Ferguson, MO was the use of the police department as a collection agency in an effort to bolster the town budget.  In 2010 the Ferguson police department generated $1.4 million for the county treasury, almost 25% of the city’s $13 million budget. [RS]  To put the issue more bluntly:

“…when budgetary whims replace peacekeeping as the central motivation of law enforcement, who is more likely to write up more tickets, the good cop or the crummy one? When the mission of the entire department shifts from “protect and serve” to “punish and profit,” then just what constitutes good police?” [MJ]

Most of the incidents that initiated the current turmoil began as traffic stops and other very minor items in the grand scheme of things.  We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask how many of these stops were associated with increasing revenues for local governments? With fulfilling quotas of some kind? With “keeping the numbers up?”  None of this having much to do with good police work.

Police Training. Now, if we combine racism and revenue generation, then why are we surprised when minor incidents become major news?  One element which seems to need further discussion is the addition of de-escalation policies and training for police officers.

In March 2016, the Los Angeles Police Commission voted to implement a use of force policy emphasizing de-escalation and the use of minimal force in encounters with the general public. [LAcbs]

“One of the recommendations suggests the LAPD’s use-of-force policy be revised “to emphasize that deadly force shall only be exercised when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or appear impracticable.

The revision in policy will also establish the expectation that officers redeploy to a position of tactical advantage when faced with a threat, whenever such redeployment can be reasonably accomplished in a manner consistent with officer and public safety.” [LAcbs]

Unfortunately, the police union doesn’t seem to be on board:

“Clearly this is not a collaborative process by the Police Commission,” he said. “We are very concerned that the recommendations as written may jeopardize officer and community safety. We’re afraid that this policy does not take into account the split-second, life-and-death decisions police officers must make in the field.”

An internal LAPD report was released earlier this month that found LAPD officers used force nearly 2,000 times last year, including 21 cases in which people were fatally shot. More than one-third of the 38 people who were shot by police were mentally ill. [LAcbs]

However, making those decisions is a function of training and experience, and if the training includes how to de-escalate a volatile situation then both the safety of the officer and the safety of the citizen could be improved.  It hardly seems fair to criticize an officer when the predominance of his or her training is consumed in fire arms training, and then complain when the person shoots first and faces the questions later.

Guns. Eventually it all comes back to guns.   Now, there’s research reported on the subject:

“The results were shocking: line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with the low gun ownership states. Between 1996 and 2010, in other words, there were 0.31 officer fatalities for every 10,000 employed officers in low gun ownership states. But there were 0.95 fatalities per 10,000 officers in the high gun ownership states.” [WaPo]

Law enforcement officers “working in states with higher levels of gun ownership faced a greater likelihood of being shot and killed on the job compared with their peers in states with lower gun ownership,” the study concludes. The relationship was strong enough that every 10 percent increase in gun ownership correlated with 10 more officer deaths over the study period. [WaPo]

If we’re truly interested in the safety of our law enforcement personnel then we have to address what’s killing them. Guns.

This partial list of “Things To Think About” is a heaping portion of problems on our collective plate.  None of these discussion will be easy, or simple, or without rancor.  However, I don’t think that we can afford to ignore any of the elements.   Those who refuse to consider the possibility that there are problems in our contemporary system will not be convinced there is a necessity to address these topics; those who do should take heart that communities around the country, like Reno, are at least beginning the discussion.

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Please Stop Making Excuses

Remember back in the day when Granny quoted Benjamin Franklin for the umpteenth time, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else?”   If any positive commentary has come from this miserable week in America it’s that at least no one is trying to excuse the assassination of police officers in Dallas, TX.  But heaven knows there are enough other excuses floating about.

There is no excuse for the perpetuation of a system in which members of minority groups and ethnicities are subjected to lower standards of service and respect.  Let’s look carefully at some of the excuses.

## Consider this commentary from a right wing writer:

“When communists, anarchists and other left-wing rabble-rousers march through the streets of New York City chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops,” and, “When do we want it? Right now,” they aren’t merely attacking that thin blue line that has sworn to defend us; they are, in fact, trying to topple our very form of government.

When they block our streets, disrupt our stores and hurl epithets (and worse) at those who have sworn to protect us, they aren’t merely trying to protest a grand jury decision they didn’t like; no, their real goal is to make clear their utter disdain for the country that grants them the freedom to flout our laws and traditions.”

The essential premise is that the present system, including policing practices, is perfectly acceptable and any attempt to criticize the white controlled power structure must be done in dulcet tones with tea room manners.  Otherwise, it is to be condemned as the object of “communists, anarchists, and other left wing rabble.”  Yes, this is nothing more than an ad hominem attack meant to excuse or temporize the actions of a small minority of law enforcement personnel who should really consider another occupation.   This form of excuse making utterly ignores the reality that no one is calling for “toppling” the government – the purpose is to make the government more responsive to and respectful of the lives of ALL citizens.

## And then there’s the now infamous excuse making by a former New York City mayor:

“When you say ‘black lives matter,’ that’s inherently racist,” the ex-mayor said. “Black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.” [NYDN]

Are we supposed to excuse the excesses by blaming the victims?  The former mayor seems to have truncated the expression “Black Lives Matter” and attached to it the prefix “only.”  The people attaching the prefix are those who excuse their opposition to even listening to the protesters (much less acting on their demands) by saying in essence, “I’m white and any attack on MY government or its officials must be racist.”  This argument is best explicated in this essay in response to a sophomoric complaint about an instructor’s t-shirt.   How about if we made the signs less succinct and said, “Black lives matter as much as everyone else’s.”  They don’t matter more than other lives, and they certainly shouldn’t any matter less. Again, there is no excuse for making anyone subject to a standard other than equal before the law.

## Riffing off Black Lives Matter and creating Blue Lives Matter isn’t helpful to either the African American community or the police because it too often seeks to excuse excesses by replacing Black with Blue and subverting the message that all lives should be valued equally.   There is no analogous history of blue lives being under extra scrutiny in their neighborhoods, placed under arrest more often than others, and being perceived as guilty until proven innocent.   However, in the wake of the assassination of two Las Vegas police officers by right wing morons who draped anti-government flags over them there is a need to protect blue lives …. as if they were white, or black, or Hispanic, or Asian… [See also HuffPo]

## A corollary to this comes in the form of the FOP request for a hate crime investigation into the assassination of the Dallas police officers. [NPR] Indeed, an expression, if verified, that the shooter wanted to kill white officers would constitute a motive based in hate.  However, a ‘blue lives matter bill’ is essentially grandstanding.  If the killing is predicated on racial bias then we already have laws on the books for that.  In fact, Nevada is rather specific about aggravating circumstances in seeking the death penalty if:

The murder was committed upon a peace officer or fireman or an employee of the Department of Corrections who does not exercise general control over offenders imprisoned within the institutions and facilities of the Department, but whose normal duties require him to come into contact with those offenders when carrying out duties prescribed by the Director of the Department. And the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a peace officer or fireman. [DP.org]

In short, there are already statutes granting extra consideration if a first responder is the victim, why adding the category of “hate crime” isn’t superfluous needs to be explained.

## A more subtle form of excusing the perpetrators of excessive force is the media tendency to report on the demerits of the victims.  Cases to the point: (1) Where were the calls to find out how the Charleston, SC church assassin was ‘radicalized?’ Not that we didn’t  have a pretty good idea already – shady and disgusting white supremacist sites – but exactly where did he find those writings which ‘inspired’ his hatred? Who wrote them? What else have they written?  What threat do they pose to the security of our nation?  (2)  Should a person end up dead on a sidewalk after a traffic stop why should I know  they have accumulated a handful of misdemeanor arrests, or owe court administrative fees?  Does this excuse the actions which might be adjudicated as excessive force?

The time has come to put away the excuses, warehouse the rationales, and listen.

“Condemning a culture is not inciting hate. That is very important. Yet black people will continue to die at the hands of cops as long as we deny that whiteness can be more important in explaining those cops’ behavior than anything else.”  [Michael Eric Dyson]

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