Legislators, CTRP3 Oppose Trayvon Martin Act / Workplace Bullying Report

This column appears in the April 3 – 10 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: Next week I’ll talk about the Connecticut General Assembly passing the minimum wage bill and the 2014 gubernatorial election…  TRAYVON MARTIN ACT ACTION ALERT: Sources at the State Capitol have informed us that legislators and members of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, which includes Redding police chief Douglas Fuchs, oppose a modified version of the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act traffic stop receipt provision. This amendment would allow motorists to obtain a copy of the traffic stop report (in person, via mail or online) patrol officers must fill out. This report includes the date, time and reason for the stop, how the stop was resolved, the officer’s identifying information and most importantly, a record of the race of the driver. The Department of Justice investigation of the East Haven police revealed that EHPD officers Dennis Spaulding and David Cari falsified their reports, entering Latino drivers as white. Last October Spaulding and Cari were both convicted on federal charges of harassing and brutalizing Latinos. http://www.justice.gov/usao/ct/Press2012/20120124.html  The police have been trying to kill our traffic stop report language for four years. Their story keeps changing; in 2011 the police exploited the state’s budget deficit by claiming that our provision would require the installation of printers in all police cruisers (only carbon paper for the report would have been required). Other excuses were that cops wouldn’t have time to fill out the report after each stop and that taking extra time to complete the form during a stop would “compromise the officers’ safety.” Now their story is that it isn’t “necessary” to include language requiring the police to provide motorists with instructions on how to obtain a copy of the report. CP member Mary Sanders issued the following statement on law enforcement opposition to the amendment. “Addressing racial profiling, the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act, and last year the revised Alvin W. Penn Act which had been on the books over a decade but shamefully unenforced, CT lawmakers who want to encourage unbiased policing have 2 options for at least one of the recommendations submitted … An immediate copy of the mandatory traffic stop report to the motorist, which they say is too much work / costly / whatever but would be best for the public or they could opt to add clear instructions on how to freely get the report copy as part of the CHRO pamphlet which is supposedly given to every stopped motorist. If neither of these is acceptable to law enforcement reps, what are they afraid the public will find out about these reports??? Maybe they fear the officers are filing falsified reports? Maybe they fear there are many less actual reports than occurring stops? Why wouldn’t they want a member of the public to have access to a report written about them? These are the questions to be raised …”  In my opinion another reason for the opposition to this minor proposed change to the current law is that it’s based on CP’s bill language. There is a structured effort at the Capitol to marginalize our grassroots, politically independent group. We are looking into reports that some patrol officers have not been giving the pamphlets to motorists, which makes the traffic stop report provision even more important. Motorists must have access to the report in order to find out if their race was misrepresented. CP will launch an education campaign in the coming months to inform community residents about the changes to the state racial profiling law. Black people in this country are killed every 28 hours by police, security guards and vigilantes such as George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn. http://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/  Traffic stops are one of the primary means of contact that the police have with Blacks.  Contact your legislators and tell them that you want the traffic stop report amendment to become law! Contact information for lawmakers is available at the end of this column. This week we’ll share former Capital Preparatory Magnet School teacher Michael Fryar’s commentary on abusive workplace conduct. Michael is also an attorney; he has joined CP’s campaign against workplace bullying in this state. Senator Gary Holder-Winfield will introduce CP’s Safe Work Environment Act in 2015. http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Holder-Winfield.php                                                                                                                  *****                                                                                                                                                                           It’s Time to End Workplace Bullying                                                                                                  By Michael Fryar Bullying – the word brings an image of schoolyard fights, kids demanding lunch money, large kids picking on smaller children.  While a common trope for movies and television shows, it’s an uncomfortable topic when it comes to adults.  “Haven’t we all grown out of that?”  “Adults can stand up for themselves, so why worry about it?”  But we have enacted laws to deal with some types of bullying.  The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) is the watchdog state agency that protects individuals from over 20 defined classes from being harassed, attacked, or demeaned based on such things as race, sex, national origin, or disability. Sexual harassment laws were specifically created to prevent bullying based on a person’s gender.  And employees and management all attend trainings, lectures and have printed materials detailing what is and isn’t, what can and can’t, what should and shouldn’t.  But the core of sexual harassment, and similar laws, is that we believe that people have the right to go to work, do their jobs, and then head home without the stress of people threatening, harassing, or bothering them. But why is it that only a certain portion of the population should enjoy that protection, and then only under certain circumstances? People have the right to go to work and not have to be subjected to the same treatment as they may have witnessed in the schoolyard at the age of 10. It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults will be the victim of bullying in the workplace, while still more will suffer similar effects as witnesses to the bullying.  For-profit companies have come to realize that bullying costs businesses billions of dollars a year in lost wages, hours, and staff turnover.  It is not just the victims who are likely to quit, but the witnesses and bystanders are just as stressed and as likely to move on.  And it is not just fellow employees, but management as well that suffers if they are unable or unwilling to stop the bullying behaviors. It’s easy to see an issue when your bottom line is impacted by the costs associated with turnover, training, morale and sick time all associated with a workplace bully.  But what happens in the public sector where there is no competition, profit, or incentives that force management to deal with bullying? Bullying exists within our state agencies. One does not have to go far to find a worker with a horror story of out of control staff, management unwilling to act, and turnover in departments that leave the bully and associates in charge as valuable, but frustrated, employees leave in a revolving door. I represented a victim of sexual harassment who filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). The case proceeded through investigation and up to the point of a hearing.  Despite videotape and eyewitness testimony of the bully’s actions, the department was unwilling to punish the bully and wanted the victim to change positions and work location to accommodate the department.  This is not an uncommon situation.  Management fears the bully more than any potential penalty blaming the victim. This usually works in management’s favor since the victim is likely to quit and leave rather than fight. After all, it’s easier to write a check than it is to confront a bully. Ultimately it took the hearing officer letting the agency know how large a check the department would have to write to finally get them to take action. They transferred (not fired) the harasser to a new location.  And only threats of a retaliation claim could move the department to block the harasser from coming back to the premises after the transfer to finally stop the harassment. Unions are beginning to respond to membership complaints about bullying.  While there is an attempt to address the issue through contract language, there is pushback from management and a lot of the time it becomes identification without teeth.  After all, it is just easier to give the bully what they want rather than address the needs of the victim.  It’s not an uncommon attitude – If the victim were stronger, if the victim stood up,if the victim wasn’t such a wuss, then management and HR wouldn’t be forced to deal with the bully. There is actual resentment on the part of those responsible against the victim for speaking up and demanding protection.And it is this thinking which allows the bully to flourish – the bystanders who watch it happen and, while it may be their job and responsibility to deal with it, as with my client in the CHRO case, it is easier to try to deal with the victim than the aggressor. The idea that the victim must be weak is outrageous. I am a trained combat military police officer (think SWAT with a really large budget), trained to work with a fire team of four soldiers in the most hostile of combat environments.  I am also a litigator who has had to sit across from a parent and explain to them why I was going to fight to terminate their parental rights.  I have been in some bone chillingly hostile situations.  But I was a victim of bullying in the public sector workplace. There is a stark difference between being in a threatening environment when you are part of a team, and an environment where you are isolated and targeted by a bully while those responsible for keeping you safe retaliate against you for seeking an end to the harassment. In combat you are surrounded by people who protect you. A bully isolates and demeans you while management and fellow employees enable the bully by not reacting.  Just like that child who is lying on the ground, under a bully, looking around at the crowd to see no one meet their eyes, no one moving to help, bullying in the workplace has that same emotional impact. You are alone and there is no one who will help. Worse, there are people in responsible positions who will lash out at you rather than take on the bully. And just as that lack of intervention is empowering to the bully in the schoolyard, the adult bully is even more empowered by the awareness of what they can get away with. The adult victim has more to lose than pride in front of peers. The fear of losing a job, an inability to pay bills or provide for a family is profound. The damage to reputation for quitting, for forgoing opportunities, or even the shame at being demeaned in public and those fellow employees who stand around…staring…watching…glad that it is not them, glad that the bully has a target, and angry that the victim would dare look to them for help that would put them at risk for losing everything as well. Time after time management in the public sector has demonstrated an unwillingness or inability to curb bullying behaviors from employees.  This has created hostile, unhealthy environments that only exist because employees need a paycheck until they can get a new job. The time has come for legislation that has been passed to be given teeth. Harsh penalties for bullying behaviors in the public sector need to be enacted, but harsher penalties for management who avoid or retaliate against the victim. It’s not enough that the bully should be deterred. If management reacted appropriately the victim would be protected and the situation avoided.  The true harm comes from the individuals who are responsible for creating a safe environment who stand by and do nothing, or worse, take on the victim rather than the bully. People deserve a safe environment in which to go to work. We all see that when it comes to the protected classes we have created. But why stop there? Aren’t we all deserving of protection?                                                                                                                 

                                                                                  *****

                                         ACTION ALERT: STOP RACIAL PROFILING IN CONNECTICUT!

We need folks to contact the Judiciary Committee and legislators in your district and urge them to support the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act amendments during the legislative session. Call and email committee Chair Sen. Eric Coleman http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Coleman.php and Vice Chair Rep. Matt Ritter http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/ .  The contact info for the other committee members can be viewed here. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/MemberList.asp?comm_code=JUD Identify your legislators by providing your info on this page. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/CGAFindLeg.asp  You can read our bill language here. https://www.facebook.com/notes/stop-racial-profiling-obey-the-law/community-party-trayvon-martin-act-bill-language/617004948349355  Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin Act and Safe Work Environment Act, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com.   David SamuelsFounderCommunity Party  

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