THE POLICE: A BLACK AND WHITE EXPERIENCE
Pastor Carl Lentz of Hillsong New York, who is white, recently did a video discussion on race with Bishop T.D. Jakes who is black. Bishop Jakes offered these thoughts on why some people, specifically white people, don’t believe that the offenses by the police against black people, are systemic:
“The reason that the people you talk to don’t believe it is systemic is because they are not victimized by it. I don’t blame them for not believing it because the police in their neighborhood don’t do that...The police that pull up to them are a help for them, and encouragement for them, and they (the people) are assumed to be good people. They are assumed to be good people until proven otherwise, even if they’ve had a few drinks. They just had too much to drink. I’ll make it plain. If you live in one part of Chicago and you’ve got a drug problem, you go to jail, and if you live in another part of Chicago, it’s a sickness, and you go to rehab. What is a crime in our community is a sickness in your community, treatable with sympathy and empathy and kindness, and it’s talked about openly. If I had the same problem and live in the wrong zip code, I’m a criminal and a dog and an outlaw. These kinds of inconsistencies… “
The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization — a think tank — dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace. Its scholars and analysts conduct independent, nonpartisan research on a wide range of policy issues. Here is an excerpt from one of its publications. It points out differences in perception of the police due to race and the resultant impact on the community:
“Although a majority of Americans express a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, the same is not true across all racial and ethnic lines. Less than one‐third of black respondents to a Gallup poll expressed a large amount of confidence in the police. And while a majority of Hispanics still have a lot of confidence in the police, just over 40 percent of other nonwhites do. Research by Charles Epp and others at the University of Kansas shows that support for police declines when individuals and the people they know have negative police experiences, particularly through investigatory stops.
This lack of confidence in the police can endanger communities. As Jill Leovy documented in her book Ghettoside, the poor relationships officers have with black Los Angelenos hinders homicide clearance rates and prosecutions. At the same time, the “broken windows” policing strategy that focuses on heavy enforcement of petty crimes has been shown to have no effect on the felony crime rate, the premise on which the strategy is based. Together, these create a tragic contradiction in which black communities are over‐policed for drugs and petty crimes, but under‐policed for homicides and other violent crimes.”
The University of Kansas study cited by the Cato Institute shows that “support for police declines when individuals and the people they know have negative police experiences.” To T.D. Jake’s point, for many white people in America, “the police that pull up to them are a help for them, an encouragement for them, they are assumed to be good people until proven otherwise.” For African Americans, many, as the University of Kansas study indicates, have had “negative police experiences” or know someone who has.
I saw somewhere in my research travels that the experience with police in neighborhoods is commensurate with the level of income, education, overall affluence versus race. Perhaps it is, but what about outside your neighborhood? I don’t believe that hold true outside the neighborhood. Here are a few examples.
Do you know who Sterling Brown is? I didn’t either. If you do, this will be surprising. If you don’t, I will share what makes him special after I describe what happened to him in January 2018. Mr. Brown’s car is illegally parked, very late at night, while he is inside Walgreens. His car is parked perpendicular to the lines instead of inside them, there are no other cars on the lot. As he emerges from the store, a cop aggressively confronts him, and as Mr. Brown is trying to understand what the cop wants, the cop shoves him. Mr. Brown maintains his composure but rightfully tells the cop that he shouldn’t have touched him. The officer’s response, he says, “I’ll do what I own this right here” and calls for backup. The video is of their interaction is from “Audit the Audit.” http://bit.ly/SterlingBrownWalgreens
Audit the Audit is a YouTube site that posts videos that “examine the right and wrong of police interactions” and explores “the laws, regulations, and violations showcased in first amendment audits, police interactions, and legislation.” In most cases, as in this one, the footage is from the police officer’s body camera. The video host intermittently pauses the video and shows how the officer in this video goes against the “guiding principles” of his department and against the department’s nationally acclaimed “de-escalation” training.
In the video the host says “that Milwaukee officers go through over 1,000 hours of de-escalation training yet Officer Grahams places the burden of de-escalation on Mr. Brown through his excessively hostile conversational tactics and confrontational body language. Mr. Brown has made no hostile gestures toward officer Grahams and has provided him with the information in a frustrated but peaceful way.”
Though Mr. Brown asks twice if this can be settled with a ticket, Officer Grahams detains him, and indicates that maybe more than a simple citation will be the result. Moments later, other police cars arrive, and Officer Graham's demeanor and tone changes, and he lies to one of the officers and says, “I’m trying to get on the horn and cancel all this.”
At this point in the video, I became very tense. One cop car arrives with sirens blazing. Then another arrives. Mr. Brown is stuck standing there, but the manner in which the other cars arrive gives me cause for concern as I have watched so many of these videos end up in violence and or death. Officers from several squad cars surround Mr. Brown and take him to the ground. In the end, the police did not charge him with a crime or issue him a citation. Though this is Milwaukee, Mr. Brown’s treatment by the police is consistent with the 2016 research cited previously in New York.
A little more about Mr. Brown. He was driving a very nice Mercedes and wearing an expensive chain and dressed very well. Who is he? At the time, he was an NBA guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. He sued the city. The city took disciplinary action against eight officers, suspending three. One of the officers was fired for posting racially charged things on social media, in which he also boasted about his role in the confrontation. Though the city offered Sterling Brown a $400K settlement, it did so in such a way that it would only “name the city” and “absolved the individual officers for their roles in the encounter.” Mr. Brown’s attorney said that they would refuse to accept any offer that did not contain an apology from the officers involved.
It stood out to me that Officer Grahams took no notice of the way Sterling Brown was dressed or what he was driving. From my vantage point, Officer Grahams treated him on his status as a black man without respect to how he presented himself or what he was driving.
At one point in the conversation, Officer Grahams says, “I don’t know who you are,” as he demands that Sterling Brown tell him who he is even though he has Mr. Brown’s driver’s license in his hand. I can’t say that at that point, I wouldn’t have said, “I play for the Bucks.” Unfortunately, from watching the video, I don’t think it would have mattered as the officer was on such a power trip.
Here is Sterling Brown’s account:
“Former SMU guard Sterling Brown spoke out on his 2018 encounter with Milwaukee police in an essay published by The Players Tribune on Thursday.
Brown was arrested on Jan. 26 of that year after illegally parking his car at a Walgreens. Brown, a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, had a stun gun used on him, and Brown said an officer kneeled on his neck.
The arrest was caught on police body cameras, and led to the officers being punished. One of the officers was fired. Brown filed a lawsuit, and said in the article that he rejected a $400,000 settlement offer.
‘I rejected the offer because I have a responsibility to be a voice and help change the narrative for my people,’ Brown wrote. ‘In order to do so I have to tell my story, so dialogue and conversations about police brutality can help influence and change a corrupt system. It goes deeper than me just illegally parking.’
Brown, who played at SMU from 2013-17, wrote that an officer escalated the situation by shoving him as he opened his car. Then six more cars arrived after the officer called for backup.
‘One of the officers had a knee on my neck,’ Brown wrote. ‘Another stood on my ankle. The cop who tased me had initially pulled his gun.’
Brown spent the night in prison. He said another man was brought into the jail that night with injuries. He was telling everyone that he’d only had a traffic stop.
‘Eventually they put me in the back of the cop car and took me to the police station, where I was thrown in a cell for a few hours,’ Brown said. ‘For what? Because I was a Black man with a nice car in the hood.’
He told his story now amid an ongoing national Black Lives Matter movement. He spoke about how the world wouldn’t have believed him and wouldn’t have had sympathy for George Floyd had it not been for video evidence.”
Audit the Audit sums it up nicely with this quote:
If an incident like this can happen to a high profile celebrity and result in a lack of accountability in yet another city insulating its officers from their wrongdoings, then it can happen to anyone.
Who is Dr. Lawrence Crosby? Who is he? In October 2015, he was a Northwestern University engineering Ph.D. student who was making a repair to his car.
“Unfortunately, a woman looked out of her window and saw a black man wearing a black hoodie trying to get into a car. What she thought she saw was car theft. What she actually saw was an innocent young man simply getting into his own car. Lawrence Crosby was on his way to Northwestern University’s engineering lab to do some homework around 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. The woman who reported what she thought was theft decided to follow Crosby in her car so that she could give police his exact location. In the audio recording of the 911 call, the woman says, “It looked like he was breaking into the car…I didn’t mean to, like, racial profile. I feel bad.”
Police caught up to Crosby and pulled him over near 1500 Ridge Road. The dashcam footage of the arrest shows Crosby stepping out of his vehicle – both hands in the air, one holding a cellphone – to multiple police officers pointing loaded guns at him. As Crosby tries to peaceably explain that the car belongs to him, the officers tackle him and begin repeatedly punching and striking him – all while Crosby continuously says, “I’m cooperating, I’m cooperating.” The officers kick and punch Crosby at least ten times.
Here is another view of the story from Dr. Crosby’s vantage point that sheds more light on the story:
“’I didn’t know about implicit bias either until I’d gone through this,’ Crosby said Tuesday by phone. ‘I would like to bring attention to the issue of implicit bias and how it can influence people’s decision making, in particular important decisions. Especially with someone whose life hangs in the balance’…
An engineering doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, Crosby was driving from his apartment to the science building on campus when police arrested him, according to his attorney, Timothy Touhy…
‘Getting stopped by the police for what was very clear to me wasn’t a normal traffic stop because there were at least four or five police cars, that told me there was something more serious,’ Crosby said. ‘I thought of all these other incidents I heard of in the media, black men and women who had been shot and killed in their cars.’
In the moment, Crosby said he wondered if he might be next.
He got out of his car with his hands up, which can be seen on dash-cam video of the incident. Officers approached Crosby with guns drawn. Police ordered Crosby to get down and when he did not quickly comply, a group of officers rushed him and brought him to the ground. Crosby said that officers hit and kneed him.
A video of the arrest was released Jan. 11, 2017, by Evanston police includes dashboard camera recordings from both an Evanston police car and a camera that Crosby had installed on his own dashboard. Crosby said he had the camera to help determine liability in case of an accident for insurance purposes.
At the time, an Evanston Police Department spokesman said the use of force by police was justified as officers were responding to what they thought was an auto theft. The spokesman said officers delivered knee strikes and open-handed strikes to major muscle groups, as trained. He said Crosby later told officers the reason he hadn’t immediately complied with their instructions was that he had been trying to move to the front of his car so that any ensuing interaction would be captured on his dashboard camera.
Crosby was arrested and charged with disobeying officers and resisting arrest, according to a police report, after officers learned the car belonged to him. A judge later dismissed the charges, according to Crosby’s attorney.
Crosby said he realizes police officers have a difficult and stressful job. More than the traffic stop, though, he was bothered by the city’s decision to press charges against him after officers realized that he owned the car and they’d made a mistake in pulling him over.
‘Instead of apologizing when they had an opportunity to do that, when they ascertained that I was the owner of the vehicle, even that would have ended the rest of the night,” Crosby said. “It would have been somewhat traumatic still, but the actions they took after that were the most egregious to me. They knew that I owned the car, they made a mistake, and they decided to persist in prosecuting these crimes that they knew I didn’t commit.’
If Crosby could talk to the woman who first reported him stealing a car, he said he would ask why she followed him in her car if she thought he was a dangerous criminal.
‘That just doesn’t fit with the rest of it. It just doesn’t make sense to me,’ Crosby said.
He also wondered why she didn’t try to talk to him or get more information about the situation before calling police. Crosby said the woman was honking her horn at him and at first he thought there was something wrong with his car.
‘I don’t know. It’s hard for me to give advice,’ Crosby said. ‘On one hand, if she really did think she saw an auto theft in progress, it should be in her right to report that. On the other hand, if she is unsure, you would think that she would not, that the doubt should be relayed.’
‘At the end of the day I guess she was cognizant that she at least was potentially engaging, she was cognizant that she was potentially influenced by implicit bias. Which is an ironic twist in this whole story,’ he said.”
If you watch the dashcam video it is so much more disturbing than described in either account. The narrative is that he didn’t quickly comply with orders to get down. With all that we have seen in America, I understand why he might take the risk to position himself in front of the camera he installed in his car. Even the police’s own running dashcam was not enough to dissuade them from using excessive force. While he is yelling out, “I’m complying,” “I’m complying,” he is being kicked with knees and being punched with fists. He also then begins to yell out the license plate number, purchase date of the car, and other specific information about the car that I know for a fact I don’t know about my car. NONE OF THAT stops the blows.
It goes back to my discussion of America’s system of policing. This is Evanston, IL. We have already seen how in New York, Milwaukee and in Florida (with the 16-year-old bicycle rider who was body-slammed on a patrol car for refusing to sit down after running a stop sign), that any hint of non-compliance it met with brutal force. I believe these methods have become part of the police’s systematic response to any subtle type of resistance.
The NBA player, Sterling Brown, was unarmed. The 16-year-old kid on the bicycle was unarmed. Dr. Crosby was armed with a cell phone. All triggered the same flashpoint in the system of policing by subtly resisting the commands given.
On top of all of the physical and emotional abuse, the police arrested Dr. Crosby even though they realized that they had made a mistake. And the police department in Evanston, Illinois, like the police department in Milwaukee, refused to apologize. He ended up receiving a $1.25 million dollar settlement. But the fact that he was a doctoral student in engineering at Northwestern, driving his own car, and unarmed, could keep him from having six weapons drawn on him, being brutalized by the police and arrested.
Finally, I would like to look at Tim Scott. Tim Scott is a Unites State Senator. Here is an accounting from Forbes.com of his treatment by the police AFTER he became a Senator:
“Conservatives who are inclined to dismiss the significance of disparities like these[IT8] should listen to Tim Scott, one of two blacks and the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate. A couple of weeks ago, Scott told his colleagues about some of his own experiences with the special scrutiny that black men tend to receive, including seven traffic stops within a single year when he was already an elected official, exclusion from a political event to which four white companions were admitted, and demands for identification on Capitol Hill after he was elected to the Senate.
“There’s absolutely nothing more frustrating, more damaging to your soul, than when you know you’re following the rules and being treated like you are not,” he said, quoting a former staff member who replaced his Chrysler 300 with a less fancy car after it repeatedly attracted police attention. “I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell.”
Scott made it clear he was not claiming most cops are racist, saying “the vast majority of our law enforcement officers have only two things in mind: protect and serve.” But it only takes a few less enlightened cops, combined with a system that allows them to act on their prejudices at no personal cost, to create what Scott called “a trust gap” between police and minority communities. “I simply ask you this,” he concluded. “Recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish, of another, does not mean it does not exist.”
Even a U.S. Senator cannot escape being initially viewed as black by police. None of his educational, phenomenal political success, or even political party matter because the color of his skin speaks so loudly and often speaks first.
In a previous chapter, I quoted a Forbes. Com analysis of 2016 NYPD data on the use of force that said that African Americans “are more than fifty percent more likely to have an interaction with police which involves any use of force.” The same study cites
“Data from the Police-Public Contact Survey, which asks people about their encounters with cops, indicate much bigger racial differences in the use of force. Blacks are more than three times as likely as whites to report that police used force against them. Noting that the NYPD data and the survey data come from two different perspectives, Fryer suggests the truth “is likely somewhere in the middle.”
Fryer’s “likely somewhere in the middle” comment was made in 2016. The more regular wear of body cams by the police and the phenomenon of citizens using cell phones to record police interactions, suggests that we should lean to the higher estimate and beyond. Bishop Jakes talked about how white people experience the police as opposed to black people. In America, you can be a multi-million dollar athlete, a PhD candidate at a prestigious university, even a U.S. Senator, and America’s system of policing will often address you first by your racial credentials rather than your economic, educational or political ones. Often in America, it’s as simple as black and white.
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