CASH IN THE APPLE FOR JULY 14
By Cash Michaels
LET’S GET TO THE TRUTH, SHALL WE? – Since this is supposed to be media column (though I will be the first to admit that I do stray into other areas at time), there can be little argument that the news we see and read greatly affects, informs, and yes, even misinforms what we know about our world today.
Take last week, for example. By all accounts, a horrendous, emotional week that highlighted two controversial police shootings of black men, and tragically, the assassination of five brave police officers in Dallas, Texas who were protecting a demonstration and march against police violence.
America was clearly not displaying its’ best face last week.
Now we had controversial police killings of black men before, and sadly, we’ve also had black suspects responsible for killing police officers. But what was very different about last week is that these events literally happened, and were headlined virtually one day after another, in effect causing all traditional sides of the “race in America” argument recalibrate their traditional stances almost be the moment.
That’s not to say that anyone black with any sense wants to see police officers killed. Of course not. Christian-centered leaders like Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. always warned us that “an eye for eye” is nonproductive, and nothing good ever really comes out of violence.
And it’s also not to suggest that just because you’re white and right-wing, you necessarily want to see black men killed, though some, I’m sure, can make an argument that past conservative pronouncements and public policy rarely expressed much love or concern for the plight of African-American males, let alone black people in this country.
But listening to the punditry in the aftermath of the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn., and the five Dallas officers mercilessly gunned in that Texas city last Thursday evening, while much of the discussion in the media was clearly restrained, and justifiably so as wisely requested by Pres. Obama in his reaction, there were still those who felt the need to wage a war of words because as far as they were concerned, the other side of “Americans” are the enemy, always have been the enemy, and always will be the enemy, so let’s damn them every chance we get.”
Here’s the problem…when I watched MSNBC and CNN, I heard at least a balance of measured, reactionary voices from both sides. Fox News, the “We hate Black Lives Matters no mater what” cable network, some of the most vicious, evil lies possible were spewing from people like conservative host Sean Hannity and various guests.
But part of what troubled me greatly was hearing from many in or close to the law enforcement community who appeared on these channels. As in the past after a police killing of a black citizen under suspicious circumstances, almost to a person, many of these representatives were saying, “ Our job is to put our lives on the line to protect you, and your job as citizens is to love and support us no matter what.” They go one to collectively say, “ Yeah, yeah, once in a while one of us may screw-up. That’s going to happen. But like former New York Rudy Giuliani says, black people need us the police, or else they can learn to live without us and see how far they last.”
You also have those who go so far as to blame Pres. Obama for being anti-police just because he expresses sympathy for the victims of police abuse, while at the same time support for good policing. They also hate Obama for embracing the Black Lives Matter movement, as certainly a Republican president would if one was in office right now.
So when I heard right-wingers doing their best to force a further divide between the black community and the police, and make it seem as if brave officers who leave their homes and families every day to protect and serve are not appreciated, I knew instinctively they were wrong.
Ever been to a National Night Out event in the black community? Ever been to a block party in the black community? How about a carnival or festival at a local park or recreation center? Did you ever notice how many cops there were at each of these events, walking around, saying hello to the people, sharing a laugh or having a neighbor fix a plate of food for the officers?
Hard to share a slice of homemade pound cake and Dixie Cup of Kool-Aid with a police officer who only stays in his/her patrol car watching the festivities from up the block.
And what about community meetings about crime in the neighborhood? Are the right-wingers on TV telling me that there is no positive interaction between residents and police officers then?
And the one that has never left my mind…the summer of July, 1997 just this week, when a young drug dealer fatally shot a white Raleigh police detective in a Southeast Raleigh driveway, and then drove away leaving the officer on the ground to die.
Raleigh police put on a manhunt like none other, and they caught drug dealer and put him in prison. I covered that story, and I’ll never forget authorities crediting the people of that neighborhood for calling in valuable tips that led to his capture.
Those people detested that an officer was killed, and they wanted to help all they could, and they did. I have no doubt the black community would do the same thing today.
Yes, truth to told, most law enforcement officers are decent individuals who have a firm dedication to upholding the law and protecting the public. And, as I’ve indicated above, our community does honor them, and thank them, and yea, appreciate them. We need them. We have too many elderly people who need protection; too many young people who deserve safe neighborhoods, and too many families that want to know they will have good futures.
But what the right-wingers refuse to get is when a 12-year-old black boy is shot to death by police in Ohio because they didn’t take the time to determine he was playing with a plastic gun in an open carry state, or a grown man is strangled to death by five officers on a Staten Island street corner just because he was selling loose cigarettes, or a young woman goes to Texas to start a job, is jailed, and days later is found dead in her cell with little explaination…. and the legal system we’re all supposed to obey does NOT punish any of these officers for these acts, making them, in effect, above the law, then history tells us there is no justice.
And that is supposed to be perfectly fine to some folks.
Tell you what…if we’re going to have a dialogue about these age-old pressing problems in our nation, let’s have an open, honest one, with all of the cards on the table. The black community needs good, fully trained, honest cops on our streets. For the most part, that’s what we get. But when we see what are supposed to be the good cops covering, or making excuses for the bad ones, that sends a chill through all of us regarding trust. When we see a criminal justice system literally offer protections for bad cops that the average citizen could never get, that chill becomes fear. And soon, many of us are afraid to allow our teenage kids out of the house for fear that they too will become the next tragic national headline.
Make no mistake, our community does not, and will not condone the ungodly, hateful and deadly actions of the lone Dallas gunman who senselessly slaughtered five brave police officers who were protecting the rights of demonstrators. And we certainly pray for their families.
Those brave officers weren’t the problem. But those who feel that they are above the law they are sworn to enforce, and take innocent black lives in the process, with impunity, are. Until our system of justice fairly deals with them, we will be seeing a lot more tragedy on all sides, and Lord knows we ne no more.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.
BUTTERFIELD: “LONG, HOT SUMMER”
WITHOUT GUN/POLICE REFORMS
By Cash Michaels
In the wake of the police killing of two black men - in Baton Rouge, La. and St. Paul, Min. respectively - and the slaughter of five Dallas police officers by a lone, deranged black gunman, North Carolina Congressman G. K. Butterfield [D-NC-1] warned that Congress must immediately act to stem the tide of violence with meaningful gun and police reforms.
“If we fail to act, this will be a long hot summer,” Rep. Butterfield, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters last Friday during a CBC press conference.
Before Congress broke for the July 4th recess, the issue was gun control in the aftermath of the tragic Orlando nightclub massacre where 49 were killed a month ago this week. In fact, NC Congresswoman Alma Adams [D-NC-12] held a June 30th tele-town hall in Charlotte on what could be done to quell gun violence in the community.
House Democrats – including North Carolina congresspeople Butterfield, Adams and David Price [D-NC-4] - staged a dramatic 26-hour sit-in on the House floor, demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican House majority at least bring a bill to the floor that would enhance gun owner background checks, disallow people on the No Fly list from purchasing guns, and limit the sale of assault weapons like the AR-15.
"I do not believe [gun legislation] is the answer," Rep. Pete Sessions [R-Texas] of Dallas, maintained.
Based on tentative press reports, there were indications that Speaker Ryan told members of the GOP Caucus that he would be willing to have a bill to keep guns from suspected terrorists reach the floor for a vote after the recess, but when Congress reconvened last week, no bill was forthcoming, outraging Democrats.
And when the police killings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul occurred, culminating in the police slayings in Dallas, House Democrats, and specifically members of the Congressional Black Caucus, soon realized that pushing for gun reform was not enough.
“We’re hearing frustration not only from the law enforcement community, but the African-American community and other communities all across the country,” Rep. Butterfield told MSNBC Monday. “It’s pouring in everyday from the American people who want action on gun violence. They’re demanding that we, as members of Congress, legislate to make sure that thoe who are not capable of flying [on] an airplane because they’re on a no-fly list that they are disqualified from owning a weapon. Ninety-percent of the American people believe that there should be background checks before you can purchase a firearm.”
Rep. Butterfield continued, “ The American people are peaking very loudly so we need a hearing here in Congress on gun violence that we need legislative action, and we need it now. Anxiety and fear is gripping the nation, so we need a legislative response and we need it now!”
Addressing the growing concerns that relations between the African-American community and law enforcement have become increasingly worse since the recent police shootings and nationwide protests, Rep. Butterfield said that Congress does have a role in lowering the temperature.
“The statistics are clear – of all of the unarmed men shot by police in this country , at least last year, 40% were African-American, even though black men make up only 6% of the nation’s population. So the data is clear – African-Americans are two-and-a-half time more likely to be killed by police than other Americans.
“We must immediately stop what we’re doing here in Congress and appropriate money for law enforcement agencies across the country so that they can train and retrain their officers, so they can separate the good ones from the bad ones, and get to the concept of community policing, thereby creating this bond of trust between the community and law enforcement,” Butterfield said Monday. “Until we do that we’re going to continue to have unrest in our communities, and we are better than that.”
Congress goes on a seven-week recess one day early today, combining the traditional two-weeks off for the two national political conventions, and taking off the month of August. When Congress returns at the beginning of September, it will only convene only for a brief period, and then recess again allowing members to return to their districts to tend to their November re-election campaigns.
According to The Hill.com, “After delaying a vote on a gun control bill this week, GOP leaders told rank-and-file members they plan to adjourn for the long summer recess beginning Thursday, a day earlier than expected.”
The Hill.com continued, “The measure currently lacks the votes to pass given divisions among Republicans and widespread Democratic opposition.”
NORTH CAROLINA CITIES
VALUE COMMUNITY POLICING
By Cash Michaels
Earlier this week, a tired, weary Dallas Police Chief David Brown, admittedly still heartbroken over the murders of four of his department’s officers, and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer during a shooting rampage July 7th by a crazed gunman, still wanted the world to know that despite what had happened, by all accounts, he led the “best police department in the nation.”
Chief Brown had solid numbers to back him up – the murder rate in Dallas dropped way down under his tenure, as did civilian complaints against Dallas police officers. The entire community was supportive of DPD, and the force was well-known and regarded for its extensive community outreach, particularly in poor neighborhoods like the one Chief Brown grew up in.
“Community policing works,” declared Chief Brown to reporters Monday. “It makes us safe.”
“Community policing,” a concept dating back to the 1800’s where law enforcement routinely interacts with the communities they serve not just to stop or solve crimes, but also enhance the quality of living, is generally seen as key to help building strong police –neighborhood relationships, and ultimately improve public safety.
Here in North Carolina, many of the state’s major city police departments apparently share Chief Brown’s view about community policing.
Early Monday morning, The Carolinian sent requests to the police departments in Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington and Winston –Salem asking two questions:
1 - What ongoing programs or policies does your department have that are geared towards improving police relations with the black community?
2 - What percentage of your police force is black, and what measures are your department taking to improve recruitment?
By press time Tuesday, the Durham Police Dept. had not responded at all. The Wilmington Police Dept. it would respond, but had not done so by deadline. Chief Barry Rountree of Winston-Salem consented to an interview, and Jim Sughrue, public information officer with the Raleigh Police Dept. also responded.
“Every district has a community policing element that focuses its work on interacting with community members and addressing their issues,” said Sughrue of the RPD, noting that the Southeast District has two. “[Police] Districts conduct efforts designed to reach the community on an ongoing basis, like the “Coffee with a Cop” program. And the districts host special events for youths and adults through their community policing squads.”
Indeed, Raleigh’s current police chief, Cassandra Deck-Brown, a black woman, rose to the top after spending many years in community outreach, attending meetings and events, problem-solving and working with both young people and the elderly. So when Raleigh experienced a controversial police shooting last February, it was Chief Deck-Brown the community trusted in, because she took the time to build relationships, to determine the truth.
On Monday, Chief Deck-Brown attended several prayer vigils, where she was questioned vigorously, but also warmly received. She told audiences that she believes in accountability for her department.
“We consider proper conduct of our personnel to be both the foundation of a strong community relationship and a strict requirement, and we expect every officer to play a role in continually building the trust and the relationship between the department and the community he or she serves,” says Sughrue.
“Chief Deck-Brown has focused recruiters and resources on minorities and women,” he continued. “Probably most notable in that regard are the closer connections that have been developed with HBCUs, including campus informational and recruiting visits and the forging of deeper ongoing relationships with professors and the institutions themselves.”
Per recent numbers, Black females comprise only 1.84% of sworn officers, while Black males make up only 8.8%. White females ate 7.88, but white male are a whopping 75.95% of the Raleigh Police force.
Other aspects of the RPD’s community outreach include a plethora of youth oriented programs, working, with the 19 Citizen Advisory Councils, and a series of “Face-to-Face” community meetings with Chief Deck – Brown., among other activities.
In Winston Salem, community policing is also seen as an asset.
Headed Chief Barry D. Rountree, the WSPD is a force of approximately 570 sworn officers. The WSPD’s community policing effort, headed by the Community Resources Unit, boasts of such programs as Police Explorers, the Citizens’ Police Academy, and of course, Crime Prevention, and NeighborhoodWatch
In its most recent newsletter, the Community Relations Division of the Winston-Salem Police Dept. featured a front-page message from Chief Rountree talking about the Winston-Salem Police Foundation, a charitable, independent 501 (c) nonprofit organization, and how it will “…secure financial resources the police need to strengthen community partnerships through mentoring, community outreach and police athletic leagues.”
“It is important to invest in community relations, but that goes both ways,” Chief Rountree told The Chronicle in an interview Tuesday. “As far as the police department is concerned, it works well because it shows the community that we are willing to work with the public, and have a good relationship.”
“Everything that we do it takes community cooperation. And by forging those relationships, and reaching out, it works better for us when there is a crisis or when we need information about a crime, or whatever it may be.”
“It just makes the community a better place for everybody – police officers and citizens,” Chief Rountree said.
Rountree has been police chief for three years, but a police officer for 29 years. He says the force has a “pretty good” relationship with the African-American community, which unofficially stands around 12 percent. One of the areas he has been working to improve is recruiting more blacks to the force, and the department has employed a number of outreach efforts to do that through churches, etc.
It’s when tragic events like the police shootings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul take place, that Rountree feels some citizens take it out on his officers, even though they obviously had no part in those incidents. That needs to be addressed, and a greater bond of trust must be developed between all sides.
“We all have to come together to sit down and understand what the issues are, without assuming what they are,” Chief Rountree said. “We can do a better job of educating the public, reaching out, and working with the public.”