COMMUNITY POLICING IN DALLAS AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS?
NOT EVERYONE AGREES
You might have seen news articles about a just released study of police racial bias by Roland G. Fryer Jr., the author of the study and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study shows that black men and women are treated differently at the hands of law enforcement. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, even after accounting for how, where and when they encounter the police.
But when it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.
You can imagine how exited the folks at Fox News must be at this turn of events since it undermines the entire rationale for the Black Lives Matter movement that is so highly criticized by Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and their contention that it’s Barack Obama who’s been the prime mover in widening the country’s racial chasm. I don’t have to listen to Rush Limbaugh today to know what he’s saying either.
But here’s what you won’t hear the rabid right wingers tell you about the study:
It relies on published police reports and police supplied data for its findings.
The lack of accurate data in such matters is why the Washington Post found it necessary to head up its own research team in the absence of reliable national data on police killings. Perhaps if Congress, back in 1996 had not banned the CDC from expending funds to research gun violence, we might have a clearer picture of the prevalence, nature and causes of police shootings. But we don’t. This ban is still in place today.
When the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee headed by super Congressional Cop & Fighter For Law and Order For Everyone Who’s Not a Republican, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), doesn’t believe the nation’s foremost law enforcement agency, the FBI, we are supposed to believe that all police incident reports are objective, fair and invariably true? We are simply to trust them, as apparently Roland Fryer did in his study, yet the year long investigation by the FBI is simply not credible?
An example from Dallas as reported by the New York Times this morning, might give one pause when it comes to putting the full faith and trust of the American people in police reports.
Collette Flanagan, 53, helped found the Dallas group, Mothers Against Police Brutality, when her unarmed son, Clinton Allen, was killed by a Dallas police officer in 2013. The officer who killed her son said that Mr. Allen had been choking him and that his killing of Allen was justified. The officer faced no charges. In the police incident report, Allen is listed as an “armed suspect.” His weapon? His hands.
“Clinton wasn’t a martial arts expert or a boxer, yet all of their investigations find in favor of the officer,” said Ms. Flanagan. She has a point. Sure, one could readily claim that the hands of a Mike Tyson or a Joe Frazier could legitimately be called a “lethal weapon” but it’s a “stretch” to tag Joe Citizen or Clinton Allen with such a designation. In fact, it defies logic and common sense. But this is what the police report cited as the cause of Allen’s death.
In addition, the Times article points out that back in April of this year, Dallas Police Chief, David Brown, issued this statement in a departmental newsletter in response to U.S. Justice Department pressure to release “use-of-force” data:
“By doing it [releasing use-of-force data] on our own terms, we can release this information in our own format, which allows us to tell our story.”
The problem here is that the police “format” – from initial incident reports to Civilian Review Boards to District Attorneys to Grand Juries – is the very insular and protective “format” that has historically failed to hold police accountable.
But the Chief’s statement explains the rationale behind the “hands as lethal weapons” police report in the death of unarmed Clinton Allen. It also explains why the use of “police incident reports” in Fryer’s Harvard study might not give the clearest picture of what actually happens in the real world when it comes to the deaths of unarmed Black people at the hands of the police.
Of course, the death of Clinton Allen and his designation as an “armed suspect” is cherry picking data. It certainly doesn’t represent the totality of police actions and the deaths of Black, White, Hispanic and everyone else at their hands. But remember, just like no one was talking about “income inequality” before Occupy Wall Street took to America’s streets, the issue of deaths at the hands of the police was not a topic of general conversation until cell phone videos and the Black Lives Matter Movement brought into question these deaths.
Another Dallas resident, Yafeuh Balogun, 32, has taken a different approach to the problem. He and other activists had already fought for the release of data on use of force, petitioned Dallas City Hall to overhaul a citizen-review process that had failed to hold police officers accountable for fatal shootings. But it wasn’t enough. He and others founded the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in 2014, named after the famed Black Panther leader who advocated armed self-defense. Black Panther Party members open-carried guns where it was legal including in California. Balogun and his associates have taken a page from the New Black Panther Party, an organization recently established and advocating the same “tactics” of the original 1970’s Black Panther Party.
Rest assured that Fox News, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, et. al. have already condemned the New Black Panther Party as racist, dangerous, and a dire threat to law and order across America. But remember too that these are very same folks who championed the armed confrontations with police authorities by Cliven Bundy and his Second Amendment supporters in Nevada and the armed takeover and occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Sanctuary in Oregon by another group of fellow Second Amendment travellers. According to the right wing, these two incidents were examples of legitimate grievances against the overreaching arm of the Federal Government. They were, according to Fox News, the result of longstanding complaints by Freedom Loving, patriotic ranchers that had been ignored for years.
Is it too obvious or absurd to point out that the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the New Black Panther Party have resulted from the very same “unaddressed, longstanding complaints” about police brutality against Black men, women and children?
But in this case we aren’t talking about the Federal Government’s legal control over grazing lands out West, we are talking about dead Black people.
Have a good day.