Driving while Black: Coast to coast
Way out of line, council candidate Letitia Pepper comparing Riverside incumbent Dom Betro to Mussolini. But it was a slam-dunk that he'd storm out of a candidates forum over a Mussolini jab after recently accusing moi of an ethnic slur for writing that the city "threw their PAY HERE pasta at the wall and it didn't stick ..."
I wonder if Betro would have stayed if Pepper had argued there's a difference between "Democracy" and "Domocracy."
Jury selection is beginning in the case of a San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department deputy who shot and wounded an airman. A lengthy questionnaire has been distributed to potential jurorss filled with questions to answer that will help determine which ones will make it on to the next round and return to court for jury selection in the trial of former deputy, Ivory Webb who faces criminal charges for shooting Elio Carrion.
About 400 jurors will either be asked to fill out the forms or will be dismissed from the selection process if they can't serve on the jury during the month-long trial.
Questions that prospective jurors will be asked include the following.
(excerpt, Press Enterprise)
Have you, any relative or close friend ever been mistreated by a law enforcement officer?
Could you judge the guilt or innocence of the defendant, irrespective of the color of his skin or his ancestral heritage ... or the fact that he was a sheriff's deputy at the time of the incident?
How do you feel about firearms?
What guns do you have or do you own?
Have you had combat experience?
Did you receive any serious injuries (in combat) or take a human life?
To what extent have you followed this case in the news?
Have you already formed an opinion that this is a case of excessive use of force by a sheriff's deputy?
Do you have any opinions regarding high-speed chases by law enforcement?
If you were charged with a crime, would you want someone with your mind-set on your jury?
A national study has been done involving traffic stops conducted by law enforcement officers and it showed that Black drivers were searched more often, feds say , according to an article in U.S.A. Today. Latino drivers were also more likely to be searched than were White motorists.
Black drivers are three times as likely and Hispanic drivers are twice as likely to be searched as white drivers, the study shows. The data show that a similar percentage of drivers of each ethnicity was stopped, 8%-9% in 2005.
Police stopped 18 million drivers in 2005 and found evidence of a crime in about 12% of the searches, according to the report by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.
"It tells us that there are a lot of things that need closer examination," says Dennis Parker, director of the racial justice program for the American Civil Liberties Union.
"People of all races and ethnicities are stopped at the same rate. It is after the stop that disparities appear."
According to the study about 1 in 5 people in this country who were interviewed said they had some contact with police officers, with over half of those contacts as a result of a traffic accident or traffic stop. White men were pulled over most often, but it was after vehicles were stopped by police officers that the treatment of motorists appeared to change. Black and Latino motorists were also more likely to report that they believed the officers behaved improperly.
The Washington Post also did a story on the same study. The article mentioned that to gain perspective on the higher search rates for Black and Latino motorists, it was important to know the percentage of searches that resulted in the discovery of contraband such as drugs and/or weapons.
Between 2002-2005, the Riverside Police Department was required to do similar studies involving, race, gender and traffic stops. The requirement to do this was included in a list of reforms that comprised the stipulated judgment imposed on the department by the state attorney general's office in 2001.
The studies were done with information gathered from police officers who were required to collect data on each traffic stop they conducted. The data was then analyzed by sociologist and former law enforcement officer Larry Gaines, a professor at the California State University, San Bernardino.
His studies were interpreted by the department to mean that there was no evidence of racial profiling by its officers. However, Gaines admitted at a public forum sponsored by the Human Relations Commission in June 2005 that his studies could not prove the existence of racial profiling either way and that's the problem with most of the studies that are conducted.
Riverside's studies did show that the search rates for Black and Latino motorists were also higher than those done involving White motorists, even though the "hit" rate for Black motorists was either at or below the same level as that involving White motorists.
The Post's columnist Eugene Robinson weighs in on the issues arising from the national study. He mentions the high release without citation rate for Black motorists. In the studies done in Riverside, similar rates were seen for Black motorists versus those who were White.
"About 1 in 10 searches during a traffic stop uncovered evidence of a possible crime," the report says. What could be wrong with that? Isn't that what police should be doing -- enforcing the nation's laws, capturing criminals, making law-abiding Americans that much safer?
Of course that's what we pay our police officers to do, but not selectively.
Whites, too, drive around with drugs, illegal weapons, open containers of alcohol or other contraband in their cars. The numbers in the report suggest that if white drivers stopped by police were searched at the same rate as blacks or Hispanics, police would uncover evidence of tens of thousands of additional crimes each year, doubtless putting thousands of dangerous people behind bars.
But, of course, we don't want a society in which everybody is being patted down by police officers all the time. We don't want a society in which people have to stand by the side of the road, fuming, while police arbitrarily rummage through the stuff in their cars -- shopping bags, children's toys, McDonald's wrappers -- on the off chance of finding something illegal.
If you're black or brown, though, may I see your license and registration, please?
The study done by the Department of Justice can be found here.
After the dissolution of its judgment in 2006, the Riverside Police Department did say that it would continue its annual studies and provide analyses of the data from different experts. In August 2006, the department said in a letter that it had allocated $25,000 towards the March 2007 traffic stop study. However, March came and went and no study was released. The department's explanation was that since the studies looked the same year to year and proved there was no racial profiling, that there was no need to continue them annually. They would be conducted on a multi-year basis without much explanation provided whether they would be done every two years, five years or ten years.
When questioned on this issue at a recent public safety committee meeting not by the public, but actually City Manager Brad Hudson, Asst. Chief John DeLaRosa said that the next study would be released in March 2008 and include statistical information collected in 2006 and 2007.
Interestingly enough, the department also claimed that it did conduct an annual study in March 2006 as well, but the Human Relations Commission which usually receives the studies had no record of having received this one on file.
Here's an interesting opinion on the issue of civilian review that's been floating around by a lieutenant who was the president of an organization of internal affairs investigators.
Elected officials, community leaders, activists, and others have come to the conclusion that we, the police, must have oversight from outside our departments. They are asking or demanding an external process be put into action. This process is known as a civilian review board. Some have little power to do anything. Others are given subpoena power, access to active crime scenes, and conduct public hearings.
Are these the wave of the future or a thing of the past?
Whatever we think or believe, they are here and we have to accept them. So, the question begs to be asked, "How should we react?" First, we should look at some of the causation factors.
There are many reasons that communities explore this idea. At the top of the list are police involved shootings and uses of force. The community will call for outside investigation after a questionable shooting. We all know the upheaval when this happens. People come out of the woodwork. These folks are usually not from within the community where the incident took place, but are associated with organizations that make their claim to fame by community activism. Is this wrong? Not always--at times it benefits all concerned to have a mediator between the police and the community available .
Departments should have an agreement with a state, federal or neighboring agency to conduct the criminal investigation. Of course, the department should handle the internal investigation into policy, procedures, and training. At all times the community, press, activists, elected officials, and families should be kept advised of all details that can be made available to them. Departments must be open and truthful. If there is an unjustified shooting, we have to take it on and do the right thing.
A department that has a strong internal affairs unit will always conduct a fair and impartial investigation. Once the investigation is complete, it is handed over to the command staff for review, and sanctions taken where appropriate. Furthermore, the local district attorney will review the case for criminal misconduct. In most cases the punishment dealt out by command staff is harsher than that of a civilian review board. This often surprises the activists and the review board itself.
Oversight of government organizations by civilian review boards is not uncommon. A quick Google search reveals citizen review boards over departments of family and children services, juvenile courts, clerks of the court, and of course police. In the State of Georgia there are designated reviews of child fatalities, child abuse, and domestic violence. The first two are mandated by the Georgia Code. Initially there was great resistance to these boards. However, they are now accepted institutions and have created a sense of security ensuring that these cases are investigated thoroughly. In some cases their oversight has led to new procedures, laws, and revealed evidence not discovered prior to the review.
So, why are we the protectors of society in a state of panic when these review boards are brought into our house? Should we not be in a glass house to begin with? Any police department in this country ought to be proud to have inspected any internal matter that they have investigated. It would display good will and instill a sense of confidence to the public. After all, who are we here to protect? Are we above being held accountable? We are held to a higher standard than the average citizen. We have to be. We are in the public eye. How can we go to court and take another person's freedom if we are not?
What hurts is when we do not thoroughly investigate, or when statements such as the following by former NYPD Officer Michael Dowd surface: "I had been in internal affairs investigations a couple of times, and they were very easy to breeze through. I answered a few questions. I lied through every answer, and I went back to patrol."
When this happens we are in deep trouble. Understand that statements such as these can and do occur in cities throughout the country. No matter the size, area, ethnic make-up, or any other considerations, statements such as this produce outcry from the public.
So, where is Rider heading with this, one might ask? Whether we like it or not, citizen review boards are here. We have to stop our resistance and do all we can to accommodate them. I have resisted CRBs for many years. However, I believe we must be held accountable to the public and to ourselves. The less we resist the easier it will be to transition to the system. I place emphasis on transition-- we are not caving in here, we are transitioning. It is another way to do community oriented policing. Besides, what do we have to hide?
Randy Rider: Lieutenant Rider was elected president of the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association in May of 2005. The association has a members employed in agencies throughout the United States and Canada. Lieutenant Rider is also a national instructor for the Public Agency Training Council, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Interesting, indeed. The author does raise some very interesting points, and even more interesting questions. Community members have long raised both. It's interesting seeing someone in the law enforcement profession do the same.
Given the current and indeed latest onslaught against the beleaguered Community Police Review Commission in Riverside, answers to Rider's questions have essentially been answered one way or another as they will continue to be in months to come.
The fatal officer-involved shooting of Lee Deante Brown provided a forum for some of those "answers". No doubt, the process will continue with the shooting of Douglas Steven Cloud coming up on the horizon. The response to that by all the assorted parties will no doubt reveal where Riverside is in terms of comparison to what Rider wrote about. How will the city and the department answer his questions?
In Los Angeles, William Bratton who heads its police department received overwhelming support for a second term to do the same, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
The police commission took public comment before it meets next week to decide whether or not it will recommend appointing Bratton to a second term. That decision will ultimately be up to the city council.