Saturday, July 16, 2016

American Minorities and Police Accountability: The Task Ahead for whoever ends up being the forty-fifth President of the United States?

Keywords or Terms: American Minorities; Policing; Dallas Texas; St. Paul Minnesota; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Second Amendments; Secular Humanism; Diversity and Humanity in Policing; Psychology of Policing Minorities; Accountability; Black Lives Matters; Philando Castile; Alton Sterling; Loren Ahrens; Michael Smith; Michael Krol; Patrick Zamarripa; Brent Thompson; and Dallas Police Chief David Brown

Although the deaths of two black men in the past fortnight arouse raw emotions and protests by the public, it may be worth a brief moment to consider post events’ debates on the issue of using excessive force in policing, especially when it comes to American Minorities; and, the probable impact of reprisal killings of five police officers in the City of Dallas, Texas.

The legality of using excessive force in public safety, even in time of wars, was long settled in 1952 by the President of the World Court, Sir Humphrey Waldock. Unlike the random violence of reprisal killings, the use of force in policing is relatively accommodated, when there is: 1) an imminent threat of injury or deaths to the public or nationals; 2) a failure on the part of local, state and or federal law enforcement agencies, including a foreign territory or state to protect itself against further violence; and, 3) an obvious weighted measure of the likelihood of violence spreading beyond the confines of the immediate events, atrocities of killings and or hostage taking. There was no failure on the part of the Police in Dallas, Texas, nor St. Paul’s, Minnesota and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to protect itself against further violence; however, the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, flunked the first and third test.

Based tentatively on the released videos viewed by millions across the globe, excessive or fatal force was applied in policing Philando Castile, resulting in his demise for driving, or being an occupant of a car with busted tail lights; an issue that has raised a red flag in police accountability. Further, excessive force was used in policing Alton Sterling, the “CD man” outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge Louisiana; another issue raising a second red flag on police accountability. Both victims were considered model citizens in their respective communities; and, depending on which American pressure groups you belong or default to, either deaths may be termed unnecessary death, or justifiable homicide.

Accosting Police officers in either cases may argue that excessive force was necessary, to prevent further violence, because either citizens had constitutional right to carry gun or a permit to bear one; and, may choose to use the weapon at the time of interaction with the police. Second, the accosting police officers in both cases may advance the argument that they found themselves in situations in which they had no other option but to use excessive force; although this argument will be lightweight or far-fetched. Attorneys or families representing the interest of Castile and Sterling may counter with the argument that the safety of the public was not in question, neither were the actions of both men involved in fatal shooting so egregious that the use of fatal force was the best and only available option. In both police interactions, first at Baton Rouge and second, St, Paul, Minnesota, the safety of the public was not in evidentiary jeopardy, neither were there weighted measures of likelihood of violence spreading beyond the confinement of possible atrocities, nor were the behavior of the accosted citizens, so intimidating to the police officers to warrant the use of excessive fatal force. Conclusively, absent any other documented or consequential information from both videos of use of fatal force by police, there were no imminent threats to public safety, neither were there eminent reasons to believe that the use of force was the best option to effect public safety. All these arguments and or positions will be sorted out before a judge and jury in the coming months.

Where these arguments, or positions, are going to be tough, conflictual and or problematic, begins with three liberties and constitutional questions that have bedeviled the process of policing Americans: 1) the right of citizens to bear arms under the second amendment; 2) the secular humanist concept of diversity as articulated in US Civil Right laws, or found in the romantic notion of a rich and diverse America; 3) the psychology of policing minorities, especially, black and brown members of American population. Police Journals are full of scholarly discussions on the subject of police use of force to effect public safety. Unfortunately, scholars disagree sharply on when the use of excessive force or fatal force is necessary in accosting suspect or effecting public safety. For readers who are not scholars of policing or criminal justice, the violation of human rights, possible allegation of racism and infallibility in policing minority groups in America is open to interpretation or levitation.

Does it matter if the use of force leads to increasing number of minority deaths, or will fatal shooting of American citizens in a routine traffic stop amount to a violation of police ethics or standard decorum of normal policing? Only the courts have the legal power to effect death after a conviction before a jury of citizens peers. It is important that uniformed police officers affecting public safety, do not resort to fatal shooting as first order of action in a routine police stop or interaction with citizens, except where the life of the police officer or the public is in imminent danger. Some ultra conservative police unions and police protection groups suggest that Americans need not be concerned with routine policing that results in fatal shooting of citizens, where there was a disrespect of police directives; incidentally in both cases here, there hardly appear there was either a disrespect of police directive or refusal of arrest that led to the use of fatal force.

But it does matter whether police use of excessive force comply with the rule of law, police ethics and professional decorum. It matters precisely because we are a democracy guided by the rule of law, with both geopolitical and philosophical reasons not to resort to the use of fatal force in policing citizens; or defaulting to considering citizen’s race, religion, national origin, and other superlatives, in policing America. No Democracy may flourish in a lawless state; and the way citizens are policed, determines if the principle or rule of law, fairness and transparency, are allowed to flourish. To rise above suspicion, police actions must adhere to steps, ethics and principles of accountability, going far beyond shooting citizens for reasons of busted tail lights or selling CD’s and Videos in a neighborhood store.

Second Amendment Rights:

United States would be free of violence once she articulates that protected rights under the constitution, the first amendment right to protest, the second amendment right to bear arms and any other amendments, are sacrosanct; and rarely in any situation, would police brutality be accommodated; and or, mowing down of police officers be part of the equation in public safety. It is imperative that policing rules adhere to the highest standard, absent the use of fatal or excessive force, except where the loss of lives is potentially involved; and although errors may occur in the process of effecting public safety, uniformed police officers must realize they could be held accountable for their actions, when it appears a line has been crossed that hardly contributes or ensures public safety. This element of accountability serves as a protection for police officers who uphold the standard ethics of their jobs; provides some comfort to citizens who fear their welfare is rough shadowed by police actions in many instances; and, alley fears of many who may identify elements of prejudice in the way police conduct their business, a few of which has resulted in questionable fatality.

The status quo of having prejudice, hatred and or violence driving policing; and or, killing police officers as retribution for police shootings can hardly be accommodated on the realm of public safety. Further, the mentality that police officers, out of convenience, easily resort to fatal violence, would always be frowned upon for a number of reasons, including the potential of lawlessness or vigilante justice by citizens and or groups who feel they are being targeted; and, the efficacy of operating a democracy with the rule of law being paramount. We may be sad for having police officers lose their lives to unwarranted violence, or retribution killings, with members of their families sharing in grief and risks of their profession. It is also very depressing to think that Castile and Sterling may have lost their lives to police excessive use of force or police brutality. In both cases, the issues of excessive or fatal force are untenable and negate principled interpretation of the laws of the land.

Diversity and Humanity in Policing

By now, there needs to be an open discussion of ethics, race issues and the right to bear arms by ordinary citizens with respect to policing and public safety. On the question of ethics in policing, humanist ethics - ethics of man, by man, and for man, men and women of the police forces, like all citizens, often make choices and assert themselves in whatever endeavor they are engaged. The assurance that police officers will conform to a set of policing ethics that would not endanger citizens cannot continue on presupposition that everyone would hold themselves to the highest standard of behavior; and, that all law enforcement officers commit themselves to the highest moral principle in providing public safety, whether there is a camera or no camera in documenting citizens’ interaction with police. Without conformity or assurance to the highest etiquette in policing, no one may guarantee safety of all Americans with the new development of policing minorities of color.

Unfortunately, just as many police officers believe in ethical transparency in policing, and many citizens share this philosophy, there are others among us, citizens and police alike, who are still grounded in ethical relativism; that the nature of ultimate reality, differs based on situation or persons involved in police interactions. The police officers involved in the use of force that led to the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, may be in the right, may argue that their use of fatal force in both instances may be unfortunate; however, they are based on prior experience in policing minority population in both respective cities. They may advance the argument that citizens asking police officers to exercise better judgement or restraints, are not faced with the day-to-day activities of policing, and could neither understand the risk and danger associated with a split second failures from paying attention in an interaction with the public. Police officer(s) advancing this latter argument or, who are gong-ho on holding their grounds on whatever measure in providing public safety, may advance further that ethical judgement in policing may be subjected to relative interpretations: will an accosted suspect resort to fatal violence if the police does not; or, would he or she conform to police directives when accosted by police officers? Yes, ethical judgment is necessary in the context of policing; however, it is essential that police officers interacting with the public, maintain standard principles. The use of force must still be within nationally acceptable policing guidelines; and if a police officer perceives danger in extraneous circumstances, the use of fatal force must always be the last resort, not the first; and preferably within national policing guidelines.

While Police officers who wrought fatal violence on the public may hide under the precept of relativism, insisting at all cost that their action in all circumstances are justifiable; and most of the recent events, while suspected aberrations in some quarters, are still within the prerogative of public safety. Relative to specific situations, while providing public safety, many citizens at the receiving end of police violence and brutality, especially many men and women of color who have died, and their families, demand justice on the ground, that objective reasons must be the salient criteria or acceptable efficacy in use of fatal force in policing. Suspicion may be an acceptable parameter for policing; however, neither racial, religious or national origin profiling of citizens, are acceptable factors in stopping, frisking or using fatal force in the course of police interactions. As articulated by humanists, policing must be conducted or based on insight, humanity and prudent reasons within the guidelines and provision of national standards and provisions of the rule of law. Police officers must learn to face their fears, or perceived fears of a certain segment of the population, on verifiable and acceptable universal morality and standards, never giving to prejudices or preconceived notions of what they imagine a suspect has done or is likely to do; or what had transpired in similar cases of interaction of particular segment of the population with the police. Verifiable reasons of violence may be acceptable in case of repeat offenders; however, a citizen interacting with the police officer must be given the benefit of doubt or innocence. Prior records of similar events or people, profiling of citizens must never dictate interaction between citizens and police, whether African American, Asian-Americans, Mexicans, Native Americans or Whites. It is only when police allow ethical judgement to become the focal point or parameter in police-citizens’ interaction, will the police find reciprocity of truthfulness, trust, honesty, sincerity and collaboration in effecting public safety.

Using robotic bombs to take out Micah Xavier Johnson may have been prudent to enforce safety and security of residents of Dallas, Texas, on that horrible night last week; however, this same reason, could hardly be justifiable, if Mr. Johnson was sitting or driving a car with the broken tail lights or selling CD’s at the Convenience Store. Unfortunately, the loss of additional lives happens to be the end result with Mr. Johnson decision to take the law into his hands. The traditional assumption that all police officer will live to the highest standard of ethical behavior when confronted with the same situation appears not to have been borne out with instances of policing all Americans, especially with the case of men and women of color. That is why the use of fatal force in policing Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, continues to be a matter of concern for many citizens.

Ethical impulses could not exist within reason and are often sought in irrationality; police officers confronted with a situation in which they had to accouter men of color have often resort to impulses that men of color are going to do them harm, and out of irrationality, many have used fatal force in taking out many good and law abiding citizens. This is why we now have a trust issue in policing minority men and women of color, with the following sad and questionable killing by police of the following: 1) Aiyana Stanley-Jones: while sleeping, an innocent 7 years old sleep; 2) Akai Gurley :while walking a flight of stairs in an apartment building; 3) Alton Sterling: while selling CD’s before a convenient store to make ends meet; 4) Amadou Diallo: while holding his wallet; 5) Corey Jones: while waiting for roadside assistance, bothering no one, by an undercover officer; 6) Eric Garner; while selling loose cigarettes around the corner; 7) John Crawford III: while holding an air rifle in a Walmart store; 8) Jonathan Ferrell and Renisha McBride: while seeking help for a broken car after a car accident; 9) Michael Brown: while walking down a neighborhood street; 10) Philando Castile: in a traffic stop for having suspected broken tail light, just as the police officer witnessed him bringing out his wallet to get his ID; 11) Rekia Boyd: while partying with friends and associates; 12) Samuel DuBose: while being pulled over for routine traffic stop; 13) Sandra Bland: while making an alleged improper lane change before shot by a cop; and, 14) Tamir Rice: while playing with fake gun in a community park.

The 1964 Civil rights laws and as amended in 1972, articulate the protection of minorities among us, because of the past experience of centuries of discrimination. The land mark discrimination law, outlawed discrimination in all realm of social life, including enjoyment of full and free lives as American citizens. The law was not meant to divide but to end all forms of divisions. Thus, policing disparately under any ground, by any police officer, that leads to an unusual loss of lives, including consecutive multiple deaths of minorities within two weeks, would reasonable contravene the civil rights law. The law was not meant to completely correct every moral failing of Americans, through legislation; however, it was meant to address provable harm to body politic where there has been suspicion of unusual violation; two in this case, involving the recent deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.

Psychology of Policing:

The greater psychology of American policing is data driven; and the narrative begins with, not proven, but mostly suspected incidences of criminal acts in many deprived neighborhoods and communities; most of which are occupied by citizens of color around the country. Yes, there are alarming statistics of minority on minority crimes; however, isn’t this the same reason for policing of all citizens. Using the handicap argument that there are rising minority on minority crime as a crutch is a failure of the mind in identifying and defining the purpose of American policing. Police officers putting on their uniform everyday are called to serve the public, not decimate it. Policing is a higher order of calling, just like serving in the military; and, to paraphrase Biblical John 15:13, no other love hath a police officer, man or woman, to lay down their lives for their community. It is a honorable job not meant for just anyone, but a few chosen ones who understand the selflessness and confidence society repose in those wearing the blue uniform and badge with pride.

American Police officers believe that based on the incidences of crime statistics, there are higher ratio of minorities of color in neighborhoods or regions of higher incidences of crime. Nothing could be further from the truth; as Washington Post longitudinal data from 2014 -2016 (news reports, public records, social media and other sources) indicate a disputable contrarian, regarding the criminality of minority groups and put in focus the need to question unnecessary use of fatal force in policing men and women of color. Compared with mainstream American Population, 2016 killings, at least the case of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, mirror so much the experience of 2014 Ferguson, Missouri Killings of Michael Brown, which has resulted in the acquittal of the police office, which resulted in the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that has devoted itself to raising the awareness of police accountability in policing of American Citizens.

Except American Police defaults to the Biblical Christianity psychology that, all of us are sinners, and the killings, whether justifiable or unjustifiable, are protected under the Judeo-Christian ideology on which American Nation or democracy is founded, there can be no other reason for continued disproportionate killings of minority men and women of color through the use of excessive force by American police. Yes, practicing Christian Policeman or Women may need to get in touch with the inherent goodness of anyone to build societies, rather than decimate or destroy it through the use of unnecessary force that result disproportionately in more of men and women of color  dying compared to mainstream population in course of their interaction with police.

The trigger happy policemen, a few with psychological problems, may want to re-evaluate their desires to curtail freedom of men and women of color by inflicting violence or engaging in vicious circle of violence that damage the body, spirit and psyche of many Americans. The ‘rebellion’ from the Black Lives Matter group, one driven by the strain of minds and spirits to find solution to the inexplicable deaths of fellow human beings; not necessarily a confrontation with the style of American policing, can also be imagined in the realm of finding answers to questionable deaths of other beings; and, the frequency of use of fatal force in random policing of Americans. Many in Black Lives Matter group, are saying, we are not okay with the way minority men and women of color, are being importunately policed; some often resulting in fatalities that are heart wrenching. The twist now is for the totality of the thousands of American police precincts to look themselves in the mirror and ask: Can we articulate the very deepest of human psychological problems, guilt, in situations where the community we are policing are dying in our own hands?

If Christianity, Islamism, Judaism, Sikism, Obatala, Osun, or whatever religion you believe, is superior to the materialistic worldview, so should any police officer practicing any of these religions, reflect ever so often the pedigree  of their religion in keeping the people and communities safe. If men and women in American Police Uniforms, caught or about to be caught, in one of the inexplicable deaths of one of the minority men and women through their own act or style of policing, would it be too much, if other Americans who truly believe in the spirituality of the fallen man or woman, ask the inevitable question, is killing of that other man in the hands of police keeping public safety; is it offering humanity a spring of water welling up to eternal life as prescribed in the scriptures? If many minorities are too scared of being killed by the cops, should it not be the duty of police to ask themselves, are we treating everyone equally and unsuspecting, no matter their race, religion, nationality or sex?

The truths and the words may be hard to see or come by, they may even test us, but mourning of fellow Americans are equally so dilapidated for everyone, including those wounded from the mayhem in Dallas, Texas; however, the truth is, we all have to look inwards, we have to reflect so much on how America polices her citizens. Just as many are saddened and terrified by unspeakable violence from the hands of Micah Xavier Johnson, so also are many Americans seeking answers to those videos showing the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Just as be wielding are the deaths of five fine and judicious officers in the Dallas City Police Department, Loren Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson, so also are many terrified that this same unfortunate events could have happened to any one of us. Maybe the consolation for now, would be found in the message of Dallas Police Chief David Brown, as he mourns the deaths of his five officials at the open air memorial service: “Let us change the truths to love; as we deal with the preponderance of violence on Americans streets, let’s keep loving each other until kingdom come.” This may only be the formidable and forcible future about American Policing.  May God Bless the United States of America.

                                                        ROSA PARKS (b. 1913 –  d. 2005)

                                                PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPH – 1950
                                        Source: Library of Congress – Visual Materials


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