Dear Visible Man,
I think it is terrible that a 13 year old can have something with sexual connotations
placed in the database. This will follow him unfairly. I am surprised the police can do this with no proof. What about being innocent until proven guilty? I hope his parents can get a lawyer. Although the justice system being what it is, a lawyer may not be able to help. However the son would know everything possible has been done. I am really angry. What are your thoughts about this?
Angry & Concerned, Seattle, WA
First, for those who are unaware of what “Angry and Concerned” is referring to, I urge you to review the writing of the Visible Man entitled “Never Too Young to Gain Placement in the Police Computer Database System” (9/2/13).
Let us be clear regarding the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” There is the presumption of innocence that has merit once any individual is charged with a crime. In this situation, although the police can show that a crime was committed, they are unable to specifically name who sent the sexually inappropriate and threatening texts.
Therefore, since no charges are being filed, the standard of innocence until proven guilty does not apply. This should not be confused with the unwritten standards of the “court of public opinion” where legal standards do not exists and perceptions of guilt are derived from internalized beliefs based on fears and widely held opinions and misconceptions.
However, what is of concern are the two unwritten standards that seem to be cast into play:
· Fear- the fear of the majority population towards African-American males specifically adolescents and young men. This fear allows the majority to turn a blind eye while police engage in behaviors that the majority population may find intolerable and unacceptable in their communities.
· 3W’s (withhold, watch, wait)- this would be the unwritten policy that encourages individual police officers to withhold and place information (into the database) of individuals that are deemed to be suspect or have “gotten away” without being charged due to the lack of sufficient evidence to charge with a crime.
With this information on the targeted individual, individual police officers are able to maintain surveillance on movements, activities, etc. and continue to gather “intelligence,” which is added to the information within the police database.
Angry & Concerned suggests that the parent seek legal assistance. What purpose would this serve? No charges have been filed, but the question of whether his civil rights have been violated via placement of the adolescent’s information into the police computer database.
The parents, through legal representation, could seek to have any information regarding their son removed from the database. In doing that, one would have to have belief, faith and trust that the information is actually being removed instead of shifted to another place so information could continue to be accrued.
Families tend to have limited resources. Legal counsel averaging $250.00 per hour will most likely consume those resources. Such limited funds would be better spent directed towards preparing the adolescent for entrance into an undergraduate degree program.
In response to request of Angry & Concerned for my thoughts, I would suggest that first, one must want to balance one’s feelings with reason. Reason tells me that the family will not win should they chose to confront the police bureaucracy. One must remember that the police have the support of a population that depends on them for protection (and thus, a blind eye).
I would suggest the following:
· Learn from the experience.
· Run the race smarter, not harder.
· Instead of focusing on “winning,” the race, focus on “crossing” the finish line. It does not matter how long it takes. Finish what you start. Just finish the race.
This strategy would require the adolescent to come to terms with the concept of RACE:
· R- (Responsibility): I, and I alone, am responsible for watching out for my best interests.
· A- (Accountability): I will be held accountable for actions taken or not taken
· C- (Consequences): I understand that these are reactions to behaviors of what I do or are being accused of doing.
· E- (Empowerment): I seek to be empowered. I am aware that power is external, comes from “without” (outside of me) and can be taken away. Empowerment is internal, comes from “within” (within me) and only I can surrender it or give it away.
Lastly, the parents must want (not need, WANT) to move away from the internal demands to either “prove” their son is not what he is being “profiled” to be, or to “save” him from the police. The “court of public opinion” with its internalized fears (based on biases, stereotypes and presumptions) has already ruled.
Instead, the parents must want to add to his psychological foundation and continue to prepare him for the realties he may face as an adult male in a fearful and hostile society. This can be done when the empowering strategy is one that is based on how to balance living with fear and being able to strive and thrive despite the hostilities and negative perceptions of a fearful society.
Remember, the police are merely abiding by the will of a fearful society; a society that will continue to turn a blind eye until the flagrancy of police misconduct impacts “their” community. Instead the parents can assist their son to empower himself.
At 13, one may question, isn’t he too young to do so? Is he too young to accept such an enormous responsibility?
My response is the following: if he is old enough to gain placement in the police computer database, then he is old enough to learn strategies to empower the psychological self.
Once burned, we learn. If we do not learn we only assure ourselves that we will be burned again and again and again until …we learn.
-“Ten Flashes of Light for The Journey of Life”
The Visible Man