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Police brutality has run rampant throughout American history. Here's a closer look at the victims and singular cases.

Police Brutality: A closer look at who the victims and the villains really are

Police Brutality: A closer look at who the victims and the villains really are. Increasingly, in cases involving the police, we are observing instances where a single perceived criminal act leads to a second unlawful act by a different individual, culminating in two alleged crimes running concurrently, each feeding off the other and creating grief, anger and pain –and, in many cases, the destruction of entire neighborhoods. 

The tragedy of this complex situation is often found when one individual is viewed as a glorified victim and the other is seen as an unforgivable villain. Neither description contains an adequate truth. Unfortunately, we find ourselves living with an agenda driven news media, where truth is sometimes camouflaged, evaded or completely denied, thereby leaving the public with the inability to understand or comprehend the whole of any matter. 

Because of the toxic social and political atmosphere in which we live, certain principles of right and wrong have been completely abandoned, leaving the adherence to the rule of law to individuals, and sometimes mob interpretation thereof, leading to disastrous results. In some schools of logic, there is something referred to as the causative effect, which tries to explain the cause and resulting effect of certain human conduct. Simply put: If Party A had not robbed Party B, Party C would not be accused of using excessive or lethal force in the apprehension of Party A. 

Any complete disapproval of Party C’s actions (which may have been criminal) without the consideration of Party A’s conduct would be premature. It is within this premature arena that the “victims” and the “villains” are defined. All acts, whether good or bad, produce consequences that must be answered to; living in a civilized society demands such. 

Police work by its very nature can be very hazardous, and they are often caught in situations where a split-second decision regarding their life and the life of others must be made. It should be made perfectly clear that any and all misconduct on the part of an arresting police officer should be dealt with quickly, completely and fairly. We know that there are some bad cops that do bad things, and if criminally convicted they should be sent to prison.

To make sense of this age of rage, where police brutality has become the centerpiece of it all, there must be a recognition that there is a problem here, a problem that happens to be two-fold. One part centers around police conduct and attitudes, which covers a wide range of issues, running from improper vetting and job training to pure old-fashioned racism. 

Admittedly, the history of law enforcement in this country, as it has been applied to Blacks is questionable at best, and alarmingly atrocious at its worst. The volume of traffic stops without cause, the planting and falsification of evidence, to the shooting of unarmed Blacks are examples of a long train of abusive behavior that has been administered and inflicted upon the Black community. 

The second part, which is as problematic as the first, involves young Black men who find themselves trapped, trying to navigate through a culture that has ill-prepared them for the task of learning life’s conditions and concepts of being accountable and responsible for their own actions and conduct. 

Being void of these principles, one develops an attitude of distrust and disrespect for authority at all levels, and when asked to conform, the attitude tends to be one of combativeness and confrontation, often creating bitter results, that we will later explore in this discussion. Every bad confrontation between police and a Black person is not necessarily caused by a “racist cop” responding. People call the police because they fear or believe a crime is being committed or that a domestic disturbance is taking place. 

In most instances, the matter of race does not become an issue. If all goes well, things are resolved routinely. It is when one or both parts of the problem described above comes into play that trouble starts. There were many scenes of racial unrest involving the police that were flashed across our TV screens this past summer. However, there were two scenes, one national in scope and another local, that epitomizes the problem being discussed. 

First, the matter of George Floyd which created a national uproar. It is very difficult to conclude that the death of Mr. Floyd, a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police, was not, to some degree, racially motivated. As seen on worldwide media, officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee, with the full weight of his body, against Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while three other (none Black) officers stood idly by as Mr. Floyd struggled for his breath and his life. 

Coming to a proper conclusion, one would have to say officer Chauvin acted in the manner he did because he did not place equal value on the life of Mr. Floyd as a fellow human being. Under similar conditions, Adolph Hitler or Jack the Ripper would not have received such hideous treatment at the knee of officer Chauvin. 

In police work, as in all other facets of life, undesirable racial attitudes cannot be eradicated by decree, but they can be detected through proper vetting and observance, and when such attitudes are discovered they should be dealt with immediately through proper training or dismissal. The law enforcement side of this problem is one of proper management and enforcement more than anything else. Bad attitudes in a work environment, if properly checked, can be changed. 

The following is an edited news account of a police shooting of a young Black man that took place in Detroit on July 10, 2020. The story was supplied by WWJ Newsradio 950. A young man who allegedly struggled with and fired shots at Detroit police was shot and killed by officers on Friday. Detroit Police Chief James Craig says the shooting happened on the city’s northwest side, at around 12:30 p.m. 

Police officers, who were investigating a weekend block party shooting that left three people dead and five wounded, were arresting a man with a felony warrant when another man approached. Craig said video shows there was a struggle between an officer and a second man, identified as Hakim Littleton, who it turned out was armed. According to officers, Littleton said something to the effect of: I am not going to let them take my man. 

“(The suspect) then removed a small caliber blue steel semi-automatic pistol and began to fire a number of rounds at the officer over his shoulder,” Craig told reporters. “As that was occurring the officer pushed him away and that’s when the additional officers, fearing for their life – the fact that he was actively shooting – they fired several rounds, striking the suspect.” Littleton was pronounced dead at a local hospital. No officers were shot. Chief Craig said there is some “gang involvement” regarding all of the suspects involved. This shooting, as described above, was actually shown on local television. 

George Floyd, 46. Hakim Littleton, 20. Both of their lives tragically ended. Floyd’s allegedly at the hands of rogue police. Littleton’s, in my opinion, by way of impulsive suicide. As noted elsewhere in this article, there is a serious problem among a measurable number of our young Black men when it comes to responding properly to authority at any level. 

As a former educator and probation officer, I’ve seen this malady birth itself in the late 1960s – where a visit to the principal’s office would solve most disciplinary problems – to now, when armed, in-house security teams must patrol the hallways of some of our schools; where now a request by police for one’s driver’s license may lead to a confrontation resulting in death. 

Time and space do not allow me to get into an almost meaningless discussion centered around condemning and bemoaning why slavery and all of its offshoots have led to this sad state of affairs, where young Blacks all around the country, to varying degrees, are resorting to a form of impulsive suicide because they have not been taught that confrontation is a tool of last resort – not the first; they haven’t learned that self-respect, self-preservation and personal responsibility for one’s actions are the only avenues that lead to meaningful manhood and success. 

This aspect of the “police brutality” problem has been largely ignored by society as a whole and has been left to resolve itself at the side of and in rear seats of police squad cars, where the results have been devastating. Politicians, social activists and the local and national news media have shamefully been quiet on this issue. Hopefully this will change. 

I commend the sports world for its newfound interest in why and what happens to Black people, but emblems on the side of helmets and slogans on the back of uniforms promoting social justice and equality do not offer, in any minor or major way, solutions to the problem. While well intentioned, these are nothing more than symbolic gestures designed to tell the world, “We have been awakened – we care.” 

Ultimately, these gestures will reveal themselves for what they are: a form of social pacification, letting America feel good about itself again while having solved nothing. This being said, major sports leagues and associations still offer the best hope for reaching the troubled Black youth in this country. There are 92 teams that make up the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB). 

The estimated combined value of these 92 clubs is in excess of $200.84 billion, according to statista.com as of 2019. They are all, for the most part, privately owned by very wealthy individuals, which gives them a great deal of flexibility in what they can do and what they can spend – and they spend plenty! Taken as a whole, the players that make up these teams are largely men of color. Viewed demographically, all but two or three cities in which these teams are located contain large black populations. 

Taking these key factors into consideration, much can be done in providing the type of long-term, hands-on leadership that is so urgently needed in helping to correct this crippling problem. We are talking about meaningful commitment here – not symbolism. All three leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB) and their owners have made strong statements about their commitment to racial justice and equality in this country. The players have been even more vociferous about this matter. 

So, let’s go to work. The program would work as follows: A team in each city would partner with a local school district in adopting an underserved/underperforming middle or high school for a four-year period. The leagues, through their respective teams, would assume the responsibility for repairing and maintaining the school buildings, including the gym, football field and swimming pool, etc. A first-class library would be maintained. Computers for every need would be made available. 

A nutritious focused cafeteria would be maintained, ensuring that no student goes hungry. Teachers’ salaries and other administrative costs would remain the responsibility of the districts. Locations like the city of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, for example, could end up sponsoring three to six schools because of the number of teams located in their cities. Until now, we’ve looked at the deep financial commitment the leagues and owners would have to make toward this effort. 

But in order for this to work, a much deeper commitment of time and involvement would be required of the players. Apart from being key intermediaries between leagues and schools, they will become counselors and mentors; they will become assistants to principals; they will become assistants to coaches; they become a part of the security team. 

They will maintain an official office in each school and will be ready for any task strong leadership requires. Finally, they will show up as men – helping to turn boys into men. -As has been written- To whom much is given much is required.

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