Filed Under:  Columns, Opinion

The Hard Truth — Last resort!

18th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Min. J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

Christopher Dorner may have answered a question that I have been asking…and then again, maybe not.

I’ve been wondering how far the Black community would have to go to get our problems of police abuse addressed in a meaningful way. I’ve been wondering what it would take to generate police-community relations that are healthy and respectful to my people.

I’m wondering this because of the increase in calls I get about police abuse situations. I’m wondering this moreso because of the way people look at me when I ask if they have approached their local police Internal Affairs component. They always think I’m nuts. You can almost hear their thoughts, “They told me this guy is supposed to be good at helping people and he doesn’t know how useless and often hostile Internal Affairs is?”

Fact is, I DO know how useless and hostile IA is. I know about the delays and the red tape. I know the potential harassment one faces. I do know that their purpose is to validate police misconduct with bogus investigations. I do know that IA is a committee of cops who are committed to protecting their fellow cops. I know that no matter how many witnesses, photos, videos or other evidence you present that they will almost always rule in favor of the cop. I know that in the unlikely event hell freezes over and they do rule against one of their own that in most cases nothing of significance will happen to that officer.

That being said, the process of addressing most of these cases begins with filing the complaint, getting the situation down in writing. That written affidavit can then be shared with lawyers, politicians, advocacy groups and others who can often help get something like justice out of the situation. However, most folks that can help want to know that you went through the motions of filing a complaint before coming to them.

All of this points to the fact that there may not be a police department in the entire United States that is the least bit interested in protecting the public from abusive, terrorist cops. Most elected officials that could help won’t do or say anything for fear of their own legal indiscretions being exposed. Most lawyers do not want to take on the cops in the city they live in. As one community-minded lawyer told me last year, “You’ve got to go outside of the city to get somebody to take on those cases.”

So here we are; you keep getting cases where cops harass, beat, falsely arrest, steal from or kill people. You go through the process. You know that they know their guy is wrong. You also know that everybody in the process is on the side of the officer—the DA, judges, Attorney General, U.S. Attorney, etc. are all working together trying to make it all just go away. So all the official channels are committed to letting their guys get away with abusing people, what recourse do you have other than accepting abuse? What options are left to those who are tired of being sick and tired?

Most of the agencies and officials above absolutely hate the idea of a citizen review board or any other structure that would make “laws” directly accountable to the people they are supposed to protect. Most elected officials punk straight out when it comes to calling for this kind of accountability or scrutiny. When the people of New Orleans forced the Department of Justice to get involved with the issue of police abuse, DoJ still came up with a structure that excluded anyone who is not employed by a law enforcement agency. The people most likely to experience or observe abuse were not wanted on these accountability bodies. Yes, they are playing games.

So you wonder and ask, what will it take?

And while the bullying, corrupt cop is a problem, more sinister is the system that keeps making new laws or reasons to go to jail. That system (consisting of your elected officials) is in cahoots with the prison in­dustry that hires lobbyist to push for more laws and longer sentences, not for the public good but to increase their own profits. This pushes even good cops into a more adversarial relationship with those least likely to be able to pay cash for “justice.”

This is big.

Which brings us back to the question, what will it take to make police fair, respectful and accountable to the Black community?

I believe that sustained mass action is the answer. I actually don’t like protesting, but this is one situation where it is essential. I also believe that putting pressure on all elected officials to implement changes is a step. Any review-type body must include representatives from the community that are chosen by the people and these bodies must have teeth. We need to increase the practice of catching cops in the act of harassment and posting it online. We need to start compiling a list of repeat abusers that can be exposed and targeted for personal picketing. I think class action lawsuits are a good move if we can find ways to pay for them. I still believe that charging this nation with genocide in the World Court is a good move to bring attention to the issue. Of course the UN can’t make the US do anything, including pay dues. They can only say that the government is wrong for allowing police abuse to flourish from sea to slimy sea. There are more ideas but the point of them all is to engage any and everybody who can make an impact on this national problem.

If the system absolutely refuses to make the necessary adjustments things will worsen. You can only push people so far before they start pushing back. This would result in a situation that would produce lots of violence and casualties but no real winner.

It’s time to make serious changes in this system before things get any further out of hand…

This article was originally published in the February 18, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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