The Visible Man: Balancing the Black Code of Silence on the Thin Blue Line

“While I have an expectation that officers are out of their cars, on foot, and engaging with citizens, I expect that it will be done professionally and constitutionally. I have zero tolerance for behavior like I witnessed on the video today. Officers have a responsibility and duty to control their emotions in the most stressful of situations.”

-Gary Tuggle, Interim Police Commissioner, Baltimore Police Department

 “Police officers are sworn to protect and serve, and when that oath is taken for granted and an abuse of that power is evident, we will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

-Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State’s Attorney

“His partner was not charged with a crime. He should be also be held responsible for failing to stop the attack. He should’ve stopped him before it was so bad.”

-Sandra Almond Cooper, President Baltimore chapter NAACP

“Arthur Williams, you have become what your community hates.”

-Charlamagne Tha God, radio talk host, The Breakfast Club (New York)

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My Dear Readers,

The Arthur Williams police brutality video has spread over social media like the wildfires spreading across the Pacific Northwest.  The repeated showings of the video has not only created intense trauma within the African-American community, but it has also, added to the further marginalization and isolation of our black and brown police officers, men and women who seek to serve and protect our diverse communities.

Willful blindness, political motives and yes…FEAR are the major factors feeding the flames.  There are more and more individuals willing to hop on the bus that former Baltimore Police Officer Arthur Williams has been tossed under.  The Interim Police Commissioner, Baltimore State’s Attorney, and the President of the Baltimore chapter NAACP have all lined up to stake out their positions, condemning the actions of Officer Williams.

And then there are those commenting in social media:

  • “Even the black police dislike ghetto blacks.”
  • “That thug cop is a total embarrassment to the black community.”
  • “Obviously Williams had a thuggish attitude before he joined the police department which was amplified once he was given the power of a gun and badge.”

Any comments that suggest any empathy or understanding for Officer Williams’ actions were disheartening at best:

  • “It’s not always the officer’s fault, but what Officer “Dickhead” did was wrong.  He became a thug.”
  • “Officer Dickhead?”
  • “Thug?”

Really?

The Black Code of Silence

Besides being black and rushing to tossing Officer Williams so deep under the bus that his body will disappear, what does the Interim Police Commissioner, Baltimore State’s Attorney, the Baltimore NAACP, and random social media commentators have in common?

  • They are members of a marginalized group, steeped in historical and inter-generational trauma, and:
  • They are reacting to the fact that they are Living in their own internalized Fear.

 

Historical and Inter-generational Trauma

 Historical trauma refers to the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding of an individual or generation caused by a traumatic experience or event.

Inter-generational trauma is trauma that is transferred from the first generation of trauma survivors to the second and further generations of offspring of the survivors via complex post-traumatic stress disorder mechanisms.

Over the last 300+ years of policing interactions with African-Americans, the community has deep-seated hard feelings and resentment towards the police, some of it well-deserved.  To combat police abuses, our community continues to press for more involvement and representation of black and brown people within local law enforcement. Those initiatives have been successful.

The percentage of minority police officers in U.S. law enforcement agencies has almost doubled between 1987 and 2013. In a study last conducted in 2013, found there were 130,000 minority local officers.  This represents an increase of 78,000 officers from 1987. Black Americans have become law enforcement leaders as well. This summer, Carmen Best was confirmed as the first black female police chief of the Seattle Police Department and Regina Scott was named as LAPD’s first black female deputy chief.

The downside of these statistics is that the increase in diversity in police departments has not resulted in improved relations between the police and communities of color.  In fact, the intensity and frequency of violence has increased as evidenced by the recent series of police killings of unarmed black men.

Living in Fear

When a traumatic event happens, the impact it has on individuals is ongoing.  Humans continue to maintain an internal hyper-vigilance, which creates an agitated emotional state that contributes to chronic anxiety due to the constant fear of another traumatic event.

This internalized fear of police is the same internalized fear that Representative John Lewis felt on Bloody Sunday in Selma, AL in 1965 when he and over 600 other civil rights activists were brutally attacked by state and local police.   This trauma is passed down in policies that parents impose on their children, and the way that people are expected to act in these situations, repressing their own self-expression, and creating the implication that to express their own humanness is to invite violence.

The Rush To Judgment

 On The Breakfast Club, a New York City radio talk show, host  Charlamagne Tha God, stated the following: 

“An investigation has been ordered.  What the hell is an investigation needed for?  We investigated the video all weekend.  We can clearly see what is going on.”

Charlamagne continues, as if speaking directly to Officer Williams:

“I don’t know you personally, Arthur, so I can’t speak for you.  I can’t tell you the thing you hate.  I don’t know if you are part of that system of white supremacy; you might be an agent for them.  But I will tell you that you have become what your community hates.  If you are not trying to change things and become part of the solution, you might as well move on.  We don’t any more of you adding on to our existing problems.”

Officer Williams was arrested and was criminally charged for his actions.  So, without a judicial trial or internal investigation, he has been found guilty by the court of public opinion and is now a pariah; isolated and abandoned by his community. Social opinion leaders like Charlamagne Tha God are quick to criticize Officer Williams while at the same time, admitting that he doesn’t know the man personally.

Do we really know Officer Williams?  Who is this “thuggish” cop, hater of urban dwelling blacks and embarrassment to the black community? Information from media sources reveals the following about Officer Williams:

  • He is married, has one young child and is taking care of his mother who is recovering from a stroke
  • He attended a Jesuit High School in Baltimore where he was an athlete and star lacrosse player
  • He served in the US Marine Corps with two tours in Iraq and received an honorable discharge.
  • He graduated at the top of his class, receiving the Commissioner’s Award for Excellence. He won honors for defense tactics, physical training and emergency vehicle operations.
  • Due to his honors and advance academics, he was awarded the prestigious honor of “bearer of colors” of his graduating class at the police academy.

The information available indicates that Officer Williams was well liked and respected by his superiors and peers.  He is a family man, a good father, spouse and provider.  He provides care for his disabled parent.  He served his country during times of war with distinction and was on track following graduation from the police academy to a career and advancement in a police department rebuilding from years of internal strife and corruption. That is, until this event happened. In an instant, this promising career was gone.

  • Why did this unfortunate situation happen?
  • Why were there no safeguards in place?
  • Why didn’t Officer Williams receive support from the police department, police union or the African-American community of Baltimore, the place in which he grew up?

“Why” questions invite responses that circle back on themselves and as a result, they can be distracting.  They fail to provide an adequate understanding of the issues being targeted. A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on “what” questions instead.  Specifically,

  • What stressors do black police officers have to contend with while policing within their own communities?
  • What are the police interdepartmental and community safeguards for black police officers?
  • What are the possible psychological impacts that black police officers may deal with while policing within their own communities?

 

What stressors do black police officers have to contend with while policing within their own communities?

These are several stressors faced by Black police officers:

  • There is the community expectation that they will serve in the dual roles of serving the community and protecting the community from white police officers who might systematically over police and deploy violence against African-Americans.
  • There is the expectation of the police departmental hierarchy that in the process of policing, these officers serve as a “bridge” between the department and the black community.
  • There is the expectation that “brothers and sisters in blue” will protect each other while out on the street and when dealing with over demanding and unwanted policing supervision.
  • There is the presence of being observed by a watchful and naïve public/majority society who expects the presence of black police officers to be evidence that racism has been erased.
  • Finally, there is the stressor of negotiating and reconciling the psychological impact of striving to be “blue” and “black” in one dark body.

 

What are the community safeguards and police interdepartmental for black police officers?

Although civil rights and community advocates pressured local, state and federal governmental bodies for inclusion of black police officers at all levels, no specific safeguards were provided to protect black officers from racism within police departments. Following the end of WWII, black officers:

  • Were segregated in separate and unequal facilities and were not granted the same policing powers as white officers.
  • In many police departments across the country, black officers could not exercise arrest powers over whites and:
  • Black officers were restricted to policing black neighborhoods.

Black police officers have created their own safeguards to advocate within the police department, protect their interests and further their commitment to serve their communities.  One of these safeguards is an organization called the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).  Its mission is to “ensure equity in the administration of justice in the provision of public service to all communities, and to serve as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed to justice by action.” serve as the conscience of law enforcement by being committed

 

What are the possible psychological impacts would black police officers may respond while policing within their own communities?

There are several possible psychological impacts to be considered:

  • Conscious or unconscious racial biases might lead black police officers to aggressively police other African-Americans. This is also known as “same-race biases” or “intra-racial” biases because both the victims and the perpetrators of these biases have the same racial identity.
  • Black police officers, like white police officers, may experience a set of anxieties that increase the likelihood that they will employ violence as a reaction to a heated situation with other African-Americans. This is known as the “masculinity threat.”

Research has shown that police officers that feel their masculinity is being challenged or undermined in the context of a particular interaction are more likely to use violence than officers who do not experience that masculinity threat.

  • A black police officer may also experience “racial anxiety.” Research on this concept shows that police officers who worry that they will be perceived as racist in particular interactions are more likely to use force against black citizens than officers who do not experience racial anxiety.
  • Finally, there is anxiety of what can be called the “squeeze” or “tight fit.” This may occur when black police officers become overwhelmed by balancing the desire to fit into the law enforcement community of without having to disassociate themselves from their own African-American community and the concerns that face that community.

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Concluding Words-Dr. Kane 

My Dear Readers:

Although Officer Williams has resigned from the Baltimore Police Department, I will continue to refer to him as “Officer Williams.”  In my past interactions with police officers, I know that being a sworn and commissioned police officer will be in his heart forever.  Officer Williams did not dishonor the badge, his peers, his oath or the community he swore to protect and serve. Officer Williams lost perspective, lost his calmness and made a most unfortunate mistake.

I write for the general readership, but in this writing of The Visible Man blog, I am directing my concluding remarks to the African-American community:

SHAME ON YOU…  SHAME ON US.

As civil rights and community activists, we demanded and pressured the white majority, to open and employ African-Americans as police officers.  There was the expectation that these black officers would protect us from them while serving the community.

The police hierarchy looked to these black officers to serve as a bridge between them and us.  Mission accomplished, the white majority smiled and stepped away…. and so did we.

As we stepped away…we abandoned these dedicated people,  leaving them to fend for themselves within a system steeped in institutionalized racism.  Alone and encircled, they did the best they could.  They went on to create organizations such as NOBLE and local chapters to not only look after their own concerns, but the concerns of the community that abandoned them as well.

Along comes the incident with Officer Williams.  Yes, the actions taken by him as seen on video was wrong.  He should have his day in court.   As stated by his attorney Thomas Maronick, following the bail hearing:

 “Arthur is not a threat to anyone in the community. He looks very much forward to his day in court, his chance to tell his side of the story.”

Following exposure of the incident, Gary Tuggle, Interim Police Commissioner Baltimore Police Department stated,

“If it were borne out of emotion, we are trained — we should be trained — to never act in an emotional way, particularly when it comes to engaging with citizens.”

Shame on Interim Police Commissioner Tuggle.  As a black police officer, he is well aware that there is no training provided to any black police officer to respond to the stressors and psychological impacts that have been identified in this writing.

Shame on the State Attorney for seeking a no bail bond citing Officer Williams as a “significant threat to the community.” The judge, denying the prosecutor‘s request to release Officer Williams on his own recognizance, said that “there was no argument that he will show up for trial.”

Shame on the Baltimore NAACP chapter President for not advocating for Officer Williams’ civil rights of fairness and equality under the law.

Shame on the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 3 and National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives for their “silence” for a brother officer in crisis.

But most importantly, shame, shame, and shame again on us in the nationwide African-American community for either our indifference or support in abandoning this young man at a very critical time in his life.

Regarding Officer Williams’ resignation, Charlamagne Tha God, the radio talk host, said:

“He resigned because of the shame of letting his people down was too much to bear.”

I disagree.  I believe that Officer Williams is a conscious and committed police officer who resigned not out of shame, but because he did not want to bring more negative attention nationally on his fellow black police officers. Officer Williams is a representation of the best this community has to offer in public service.  He did not deserve to be abandoned by our community.  We must do better for those who risk their physical and psychological health every day they put on the uniform and the badge.

It is our shame that we abandoned one of our own.  We must want to live and learn from this tragedy. The African-American community prides itself as having a strong religious/spiritual orientation.  Let us hold to the scriptures below:

John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you let him cast the first stone.”

Matthew 7:1: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

We simply must do better.

I hope the day never comes when those of us in the black community will need a police officer who looks “exactly like me” to protect me from “them.”   If that day ever comes, I hope that officer will have forgiveness in their heart for the way we in the community treated one of their black brethren.

Black Police Officers have maintained a code of silence regarding the shameful way Officer Arthur Williams has been treated.  These dedicated women and men deserved far more support than what we in the African-American community have shown them.

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“(Arthur Williams), You are supposed to be one of us.  You’re supposed to have more patience with your people, no matter how angry you get.  You have to ball your fists up and realize you have all the power.”

-Charlamagne Tha God

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“To err is human” is a common expression, but we should not believe there is always room for error.  In some cases, there is no room for error.  None.

“Ten Flashes of Light-Journey of Self Discovery”

-Micheal Kane Psy.D Clinical Traumatologist

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A shout out to four of Seattle Police Department’s finest as they continue to serve and protect the African-American community and the citizens of the City of Seattle:

  • Captain John Hayes
  • Detective Denise “Cookie” Bolden
  • Felicia Cross, Community Outreach Program Manager (civilian)
  • Donna Brown, Community Program Manager, African-American Community Advisory Council (civilian)

 

Until We Speak Again…I am…The Visible Man.

The Visible Man: The ABCs of Black Male Safety

 

“Officer, Don’t shoot!  Please don’t kill him!” He’s just 12 years old!  If you got to kill someone, kill me instead!”

-A distraught mother

 “Yes, I feel guilty and relieved. I get on my knees every morning and scream to my Jesus, Thank you Lord, for protecting me from misery. Death knocked at my door, but it didn’t happen to me.”

-Mary, a mother of three adolescent boys

“The white policeman shot my son as if he was trying to kill a deer running through the woods.”

-Walter Scott’s father, North Charleston, SC

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My Dear Readers,

Every African-American male in this country who drives a vehicle has traveled by bus, or has been an air passenger has been a victim of racial profiling by police or other law enforcement agencies, whether they know it or not.

Regardless, of education, socio-economic status, class, or income, all black males are vulnerable to being viewed as a threat simply due to the color of our skin, and as a result, being targeted as such.

Targeting (in terms of human interaction):

  • A person, object, or place selected as the specific aim of an attack.
  • To look at or examine something or someone carefully in order to find something concealed.
  • A person or thing against whom criticism or abuse is or being directed.
  • To look at or beneath the superficial aspects of to discover a motive, reaction, feeling or basic truth.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that racial profiling violates the constitutional requirement that all persons be accorded equal protection of the law. Understanding that racial profiling violates the protection requirement of the constitution, why do police officers continue to engage in such practices?

1) Because they hold the stereotypical belief that a particular individual of one race or ethnicity (in this case, black) and gender (in this case, male) is more likely to engage  in criminal behavior and,

2) They hold the power in determining who receives protection as indicated in the law and who receives enforcement of the law.

An example of being the recipient of enforcement is the following:

“In Newark, New Jersey, on the night of June 14, 2008, two youths aged 15 and 13 were riding in a car driven by their football coach, Kevin Lamar James.  All were African American.  Newark police officers stopped their car in the rain, pulled the three out, and held them at gunpoint while the car was searched.  James stated that the search violated his rights.   One officer replied in abusive language that the three African- Americans didn’t have rights and that the police “had no rules.”  The search of the car found no contraband, only football equipment.”

The actions and words of the police officers words directly reflect the belief upheld in the Dred Scott decision of 1857, where the US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote that a black man has “no rights that a white man is bound to respect.”

Keeping that in mind, the past few months nationwide have been severely psychologically impactful within the African American community, specifically males.

  • West Memphis, TN 5/19/17– a police officer fatally shoots a 12-year-old who he observed having a weapon in his waistband. Upon further review, it was discovered that the weapon was a toy.  The incident is under administrative review.
  • Tulsa, OK 5/18/17– a white female police officer was acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black motorist in 2016.
  • Balch, TX 5/2/17 – a 15-year-old black male riding in a vehicle is shot and killed by a white male police officer. The officer is dismissed from the police force and currently charged with murder.
  • North Charleston, SC 5/2/17– former police officer pleads guilty for violating the civil rights in the shooting death of an unarmed motorist. During a previous trial, a jury deadlocked without a verdict in which the video evidence shows the former officer firing six shots into the back of the fleeing motorist.
  • Nashville, TN 2/10/17- a police officer shot and killed a black male during a physical confrontation following a traffic stop for running a stop sign.
  • Minneapolis, MN, 1/24/17– a police officer was charged with second-degree assault with intentional discharge of a firearm for shooting into a vehicle with six occupants. The officer acknowledged firing into the car when the driver was no longer a threat to his safety.

Despite the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, it is the black man’s reality in America that when it comes to daily interaction with the police “there is no guarantee of protection for those of our complexion.” 

  • How do we insure our physical safety and emotional wellness?
  • How do we protect ourselves from unreasonable search and arrest?
  • How do we protect our children?

 The ABCs of Safety: Black Males: & The Police

We can transform the way in which we interact with the police. Where the police have the “power” and authority, we can adapt strategies to empower our children, adolescents and ourselves.

One such strategy is the therapeutic model of Advocacy, Balance & Calmness.  The objectives of this model are to minimize the amount of  psychological trauma that may result from interacting with the police and to improve your opportunities for a safe withdrawal from the encounter. This is achievable through the following:

  • Advocacy– Know when to hold or show your cards. Know when to speak and what to say.
  • Balance– Remember that your power lies within you, and cannot be taken from you without your consent. Balance your anger with your wisdom. 
  • Calmness- Use your balance and inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world. Use this to defuse the situation.

When you encounter the police:

  • Know that the police officer will ask you for identification, and that it is legal for them to do this.
  • Know that your identity will be verified in a criminal database to identify any warrants or other notices against you.
  • Know that the police officer will be looking for suspicious behavior from you and from anyone with you.
  • Be prepared for a possible stop and search of your personal space and belongings.

What do you do when you are stopped by a police officer?

  •  Keep your hands open and exposed. Immediately tell the officer:  I AM UNARMED.  I AM NOT A THREAT TO YOU.
  • Always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions. Speak in a respectful tone.
  • If you are under the age of 18, inform the police officer of your age and be sure to request that your parent, legal guardian, or legal representative be present.
  • If you choose not to speak, inform the police officer of your intent to remain silent until you have representation. After that, immediately stop talking.
  • Use your powers of observation. Document the incident and any concerns regarding any behavior during the encounter.
  • Remember to get the date, time, and location, the license plate and vehicle number of the police officer and the name of the department the officer works for.
  • If needed, file a complaint with the local sheriff or police chief’s office.
  • Remember that the police officer is entitled to use deadly force if they feel physically threatened.

Knowing and understanding your ABCs can help you maintain the demeanor and mental clarity to make sure that you correctly and safely advocate for yourself, maintain your internal balance, and project an air of calmness into the situation.

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Concluding Words

“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you gonna get.”   Forrest Gump (1994)

I recently saw a YouTube video where three black boys around 12 years old were playing basketball in their front yard.  A police cruiser pulls up, the police officer draws his weapon and assumes a defensive position behind the door of the vehicle.  The police officer yells at the kids, “get on the ground, get on the ground.  The kids, shocked and scared, complied with the directions.  The mother comes out of the house screaming and crying “don’t kill my babies.”  The police officer tells her “Mam, go back into the house.  The scene ends with no shots being fired.  Good outcome?  No one hurt. Really?

Welcome to the Rites of Passage for black adolescents. This is the starting point of their psychological trauma.  They will never forget the incident in which a police officer drew a weapon and placed their lives at risk.

Sadly, this scene has become normalized procedure for police departments and is repeated on a daily basis in the lives of black males.

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Life can be running a daily gauntlet

If I can make it through the night,

Wake up in the morning,

And my son is still alive;

I have won.

-Dr. Micheal Kane

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Until we speak again….The Visible Man.

Safety First: African American Police & African American Males

 

“While we must support effective law enforcement, we must also exercise our constitutional rights to ensure law enforcement works as it should-to protect all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity.”

-National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

 

My Dear Readers,

There is an uneven playing field when it comes to encounters between the police and African-American males of all ages.  These encounters often become negative due to the lack of awareness by African-American males as to what actions the police may take when these encounters happen. As a result:

  • Overall, young African-Americans are killed by police officers 4.5 times more than people of other races and ages.
  • In comparison to white male teens, black male teens are 21 times more likely to be killed.
  • One study found that African-Americans are more than twice as likely to be unarmed when killed during encounters with police as white people.

Through our Loving Me More subsidiary, Kane & Associates LLC has created a brochure specifically directed towards encounters between African-American males and the police. Despite the intent to inform, there has been criticism on this effort.

Below is such a story……..

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Dear Dr. Kane,

Like you, I am also an African-American and the son of a police officer.  Unlike you, however, I am not anti-police, nor did I choose to betray my father’s profession.  In fact, I am a member of law enforcement in one of the local cities in Washington State.

While visiting my sister and two nephews recently, the oldest one handed me a brochure he had picked up at the local community club where he goes to play basketball.  The brochure, entitled African-American Males and The Police, apparently gave tips on how to interact with the police.   Being very concerned and alarmed at what my nephews were being exposed to, I looked you up and read a number of your blogs.

You appear to be a very angry person.  I was surprised that you are as educated as you are. I was even more surprised to learn that you are a counselor and are treating others for their problems.  If anyone needs treatment, you should be the first one in line. Why are you so angry and bitter, especially towards members of law enforcement?  Did you grow up hating your father?  Did you have a problem with authority figures while you were in school? Do you realize the damage that is being done when you tell young people to avoid being honest with police officers?  Do you realize or even care that you are teaching them disrespect for law and for those who enforce the law?

I saw how hard my father worked to keep the streets safe, interacting with people and enforcing the law.  My father was a very honorable man.  Before he passed away, he saw me get sworn in as a police officer.  He had tears in his eyes.  He was so proud of me. It infuriates me to know that another black man, the son of a police officer, could be so disrespectful to the profession that fed, clothed and provided shelter for his family.  As police officers, we are constantly under attack from members of the public as we enforce the law.  It is more frustrating for me that members of the black community do not trust or show respect for the police officer that patrols their community or the badge the officer wears.

I took an oath to protect and serve my community.  My fellow officers and I place ourselves at risk each time we put on the uniform.  Recently one of our brother officers, a state patrol officer in another state, was shot and killed by an intoxicated person carrying a sawed-off shotgun.   We know the risks and still, we do the job.

So, if you have daddy issues, seek help from your own profession.  And when it comes to the profession of policing, if you can’t write brochures that are positive and reinforce law and order in our society, especially the black community, it is best that you don’t write anything about policing.  We have enough headaches, nuts and dissatisfied people to deal with.

Speaking Up For The Profession, Kent, WA

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My Dear Police Officer,

First, I want to thank you for your service to our community.  It is clear that whatever community you patrol is safer due to your efforts.   I have no doubt that you and I, in our respective professions, received similar training and advice regarding what to take personally, and what is part of the job.  This is the life we have chosen. 

Many of us in the mental health and law enforcement fields select such professions because of a calling to be of service to one’s community.  Although much of what you wrote is a personal attack, I can also see the frustration you may be experiencing, being a:

  • Black male
  • Male
  • A police officer

I want to begin by addressing some of the statements and assumptions you have made.

My Professional title

My work, although you defined my work as “counselor” I am a psychotherapist serving in dual roles being a clinical traumatologist and forensic evaluator.  As a psychotherapist, I work in the area of complex trauma, working with those who may be severely emotionally ill following carrying trauma for many years in their lives. 

Mental Health Treatment

I have also been involved in receiving mental health treatment.  As a psychotherapist working with those responding to complex traumatic experiences, it is beneficial for me as well to sit in therapy with a fellow colleague and explore concerns related to my work.  It is normal in the work of psychotherapy that my colleagues pursue similar assistance. 

Daddy issues

I do not have “daddy issues,” and as it is not germane to our discussion, this is the extent to which I will discuss it.

 

Given this, I will address your more serious concerns:

 “Do you realize the damage that is being done when you give young people tips to avoid being honest with police officers?  Do you realized or even care that you are teaching them disrespect for law and for those who enforce the law.”

In response, the brochure specifically presents two action items, 1) a therapeutic model (CBT) to reinforce self-empowerment and 2) clearly defined behavioral guidelines of what to do when interacting with a police officer or any member of a law enforcement agency.

The therapeutic model is “Know your ABC’s (Advocacy, Balance & Calmness) 

  • Advocacy-Knowing when to “hold” or “show” your cards. Knowing when to speak and what to say.
  • Balance-Remember that your power lies within and cannot be taken from you without your consent. Balance your anger with your wisdom.
  • Calmness- Use your balance and your inner empowerment to project calmness to the outside world. Use this to defuse the situation.

Behavioral Guidelines (from the African American Males And The Police brochure)

  • Always comply and follow the police officer’s instructions.
  • Speak in a respectful tone.
  • If you are under the age of 18, immediately inform the police officer of this.
  • If you are under the age of 18, be sure to request that your parent, legal guardian, or legal representative be present.
  • If you choose not to speak, inform the police officer of your intent to remain silent until you have representation.
  • After that, immediately stop talking.
  • Use your power of observation. Document the incident and any concerns regarding any behavior during the encounter.
  • Remember to get the date, time and location, the license plate and vehicle number, the badge number of the police officer and the name of the department he/she work for.
  • Remember that the police officer is entitled to use deadly force if he/she feels physically threatened.
  • If needed, file a complaint with the local sheriff or police chief’s office.

It is my position that both the model and behavioral guidelines provide:

  • Empowerment rather than powerlessness in maintaining one’s safety and security.
  • Awareness of the ability to advocate for self as well as ownership of reaction and calmness in response.
  • Understanding that encounters with police officers can be resolved with administrative redress within the police department
  • Creation of a specific protocol, which may assist the individual to have a safe encounter with law enforcement.

It may be the main issues that contribute to your discomfort with information from the brochure are:

  • Minimization of the advantage of surprise by the police officer.
  • Increased knowledge of basic police procedure for a more informed public and,
  • Release of the general uneasiness of the person being stopped and questioned by the police

 

Concluding Words

I respect the concerns you and your fellow officers have regarding being safe in the streets and being able to return to your loved ones.   I also remember my mother and I staying awake waiting for my father to return safely home.  The recent death of the Louisiana State Patrol Officer was tragic.  As you mourn the loss, please know that the communities he and you and your colleagues protect mourn as well. It is my sincere hope that the information I have shared in the brochure will reduce tension and ease when there is an encounter between an African-American youth or young adult and the police.

This is a new day for community policing.  The time of trust simply because someone wears a badge has passed.  We have witnessed too many incidents in which young African-American males have either been severely injured or killed following encounters with police. Instead of focusing on trust for the badge, let us focus on respect between the person wearing the badge and the individual being stopped for a lawful encounter.  I am hopeful that the brochure will add to the respect so mentioned.

Let’s all be careful out there.

Until the next crossroads…. the journey continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Too Young To Gain Placement In The Police Computer Database System

Dear Visible Man,

I am a middle class African-American woman who has been married 25 years. I have two children, a girl (18), and a boy (13).  I want to share a recent experience that occurred regarding the police and my 13-year-old son.  My son loaned his cell phone to his friend, a boy his age, who in turn used the phone to make provocative and unacceptable texts to a girl his age.

The parent of the girl filed a complaint.  During the investigation, the texts were traced back to my son’s phone.  Although the police could not prove that my son sent the text, (his friend denies he sent it), the investigating officer stated that he was going to enter my son into the police database.

I am very frustrated.  My son is in tears, fearing that he now has a record with the police.  I admit that I may not have handled the situation well by berating him with “what did I tell you about loaning out your phone” and “ I told you so.”  However, what I am most concerned about is that my son is now known in the police database and he is only 13 years old!  My son is a good kid; he does well in school, does not use drugs/alcohol or is involved in gangs.

I am concerned as to how this may impact his future. Furthermore, I am fearful that this may be used to racially profile him should there be any indirect contact with the police.   I am considering consulting with an attorney as well as filing a complaint.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Seattle Area Mom
Dear Seattle Mom:
   First, please allow me to congratulate you on the hard work and commitment you and your spouse have as well as the success in raising adolescents.  Now let’s identify the issues:
  •    Your 13-year-old son being placed in the police computer database.
  •   Your response in how you handled the situation.
  •   Your concerns regarding your son being racially profiled.
   Although you may be upset that a formal complaint was filed,  imagine how you would respond if your daughter received a similar inappropriate text with threatening or sexually implicit language.  It is appropriate for a parent to take steps to protect one’s child from psychological or physical assault.
Rather than take personal action, it is preferable that an outside party such as the police look into the matter.
  That being said, it is apparent that your son made a poor decision in loaning out his cell phone to an individual who engaged in inappropriate behavior.  It is apparent that the person who engaged in the inappropriate behavior is not stepping forward to take responsibility; your son is the one left “holding the cell phone.”
   Young people must want to understand that when it comes to consequences for their behavior, the days of “kids will be kids” or “having a nice chat with Officer Friendly” are GONE.  Officer Friendly is dead.  He has been replaced by a computer database system that is shared by local policing jurisdictions throughout the state.  Furthermore, it may be accessible by other forms of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.   Today it is all about accountability and consequences.
   Your son is being held accountable for “loaning out his cell phone” to an individual who betrayed his trust.  The consequence is that he is now placed in the local police database that will be shared with law enforcement agencies throughout Washington State.  As upsetting as this may be, the plus side is that due to the inability to specifically place the phone in your son’s hands and affirm him as the “assailant”, the police are unable to forward the case to the district attorney’s office for prosecution.
    I do have concerns regarding how you handled the situation with your son.  First, understanding that you are angry and frustrated, be careful of the message you are giving while in this highly excitable emotional state.  Second, berating him with “what did I tell you” and “I told you so” only serves to inflict more hurt within the emotional wound that exists.
    Given your son’s emotional reaction i.e. tears, one can assume he may be feeling the consequences of both his actions and those of his “friend” who now is refusing to take responsibility due to fear of consequences.  For now I would suggest the following:
  • A respite period to reevaluate how the situation was handled.
  • The gift of an apology and acceptance of responsibility on your part for the way in which your feelings were expressed.
  •  A clear understanding provided to your son regarding the consequences of being placed in the police computer database.
  •  A discussion with your son regarding the experiences learned from this situation.
    What you have is a reasonable emotional reaction.  Now, what is desired is a reasonable behavioral response when (and chances are it will reoccur) the same or similar situation presents itself again.
    As an individual, parent and clinician, I too share your concerns regarding placement in the police computer database and racial profiling.  I believe we live in a society whose stereotypes, biases and belief systems reinforce their fears about African-American males, specifically adolescents and young adult males.
    Although there is no specific documented policy inherent in law enforcement or community policing, I believe there is a “unwritten policy” to document and place within the police computer database, as many African-American adolescents and young males and do so at every opportunity that is possible.  In this way, this ever fearful society will be able to maintain a “tracking, paper trail or database” on the comings/goings on individuals belonging to this specific group.
    As difficult as it may be for a parent to comprehend the following statement, I will say this: Given the limited choices and shuddering consequences, it is better that your son have this experience at age 13 rather than be placed in the criminal justice database system at 18.  At least now, you and other responsible adults around him can influence and impact his behavior.  At 18, it is too late, and he may become meat to be ground up in a vicious and unforgiving criminal justice and correction system.
You and your son have an opportunity to learn and benefit from this experience.   Or, you can become a “blocker” and attempt to save him from a system (strategies & structures) waiting in anticipation to psychologically destroy and physically control him.  As his parent and protector, you can enable him by hiring attorneys to minimize the damage.  After you have spent thousands of dollars in attorney fees, you may achieve success somewhat.
However, what about the next time?  Or, the time after that?  Will you rescue him again? And after he becomes an adult and/or after your life has passed on, who will be there to assume the role of saving your son from a hostile society or a psychologically disabled/disempowered self?
Please share the following with your son.  It comes from the Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life of the website Loving Me More:
A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue without direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.
The Visible Man