A Former Cop Speaks Out: Part 2

 by David Samuels
This column appears in the July 28 – August 4 edition of the Hartford News…
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This week we’ll share Part 2 of the Democracy Now! interview with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper. Check out the DN website. http://www.democracynow.org/


Ex-Seattle Police Chief Condemns Systemic Police Racism Dating Back to Slave Patrols

July 14, 2016
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to remarks made by the New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, who was speaking Sunday on Face the Nation.
COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON: Police officers come from the community. We don’t bring them in from Mars; they come from the communities they police. And over the years, increasingly, we’ve had much more diversity in policing—Muslim officers, increasing numbers of African-American officers, Latino officers. And that’s a good thing, because the community wants to see that. And that’s part of the way we bridge the divide that currently exists between police and community, a divide that has been closing and a divide that we hope, over time—and certainly here in New York, I can speak for our efforts here the last several years, myself and Mayor de Blasio—to not only bridge the divide, but to close it.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. Your response?
NORM STAMPER: Our police officers do, in fact, come from the community. As Bill Bratton said, they don’t come from Mars. They are of us. They live among us. They are motivated by a variety of different interests in becoming a police officer. It’s not that—that the candidates that we’re selecting, necessarily, are poor candidates. It is what happens to them when they get acculturated by this law enforcement structure that makes it clear to them that they are on the front lines of a war against their own people. And so you get police officers heading out to put in a shift who are feeling that the people are the enemy.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to turn to Republican Senator Tim Scott, who spoke on the floor of the Senate Wednesday about being the victim of racial profiling. Scott is one of only two African Americans in the U.S. Senate.
SEN. TIM SCOTT: In the course of one year, I’ve been stopped seven times by law enforcement officers—not four, not five, not six, but seven times in one year—as an elected official. Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some other reason just as trivial.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Republican Senator Tim Scott speaking Wednesday. So, Norm Stamper, can you respond to what he said, and also whether you think the police is plagued with systemic racism?
NORM STAMPER: Well, let me start with that question. The short answer is yes. I can also cite another example closer to home for me. A former King County executive, Ron Sims, African-American man, man of the cloth, spoke to a reporter recently and said, “I have been stopped eight times by the police. And invariably the question seems to be ‘What are you doing here?'” Do white members of our community get that kind of treatment? In blunt terms, it is racist. It’s a racist action on the part of an officer, if he or she does not have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. That’s what the law says. And yet that law is systematically defied by police across this country in unlawful search-and-seizure, stop-and-frisk situations.
But there’s also systemic racism. It goes back as far as the institution. And I know President Obama made reference to the long history, the centuries-old history, of the relations between police and community, and particularly communities of color. Policing in this country has its origins in the slave patrols. And from decade to decade, generation to generation, there are still police officers in this country who act with superiority, who act in a very authoritarian, very dominant way. Part of that is their training, and only some of that, by the way, takes place in the academy. Most of it takes place in the locker room or in the front seat of a police car, when the senior officer tells the junior officer, “Forget what they taught you in the academy. You’re in the real world now.”
AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to ask you about the people who are arrested, the people who are filming these police attacks on civilians, the police killings. Yesterday on Democracy Now!, we had this extraordinary show. First we spoke to Abdullah Muflahi. He’s the man who owns the Triple S supermarket in Baton Rouge, who was a friend of Alton Sterling, who sold CDs outside. He came outside his store quickly. He saw what was happening to Alton. He took out his cellphone, started filming. Right afterwards, after the police killed Alton, they arrested the owner of the store, Abdullah Muflahi, and they went into his store without a warrant, and they took out not only the video that the store had, they took the entire video camera. And then we spoke to Chris LeDay. He had posted online the second video of the police killing of Alton Sterling. He’s a 12-year Air Force veteran. He works on a military base outside Atlanta. He comes to work, and he is surrounded by police. He is first handcuffed, then he is shackled. He is put in an orange jumpsuit. He is held for 26 hours. He kept saying, “What are you arresting me for?” And one police officer said, “You fit the profile.” And he said, “You have to finish the sentence. I fit the profile of what?” Ultimately, he was charged with not paying old traffic fines. Can you talk about what happens to those who document the crimes?
NORM STAMPER: Well, what happens to those who document these crimes is exactly what happened to those individuals in Baton Rouge.
This is a good time for me to insert a really important point, and that is, we have some wonderful police officers—sensitive, empathetic, compassionate—who, if they harbor racist or homophobic or sexist bones in their body, have learned to manage themselves, have learned to calm things down, to de-escalate, to defuse tense situations. They’re worth their weight in gold. And they need to be recognized. They need to be appreciated.
But we have altogether too many officers that police chiefs and sheriffs are fond of calling bad apples. Well, when you get as many bad apples as we seem to see in police work today, it’s time to examine the barrel. It is time to look at the entire orchard and to recognize that even a fresh apple placed into that toxic environment is going to turn bad.
So, as we look at, for example, a police officer being questioned about—a police officer questioning others, a police officer behaving very aggressively, if not unlawfully, toward individuals, a police officer shooting and killing someone unjustifiably, to see some—to see a fellow American filming that, snapping shots, filming it, audio, in some cases, is a—should be a source of comfort to many of us in the community. It is completely, 100 percent lawful for an American to do what those Americans did.
Now, here’s what I’m sure the police are saying: “We were evidence gathering. We had information that somebody captured this, so we’re to go after that evidence.” And there’s nothing wrong with gathering evidence. The question is: To what end are you going to put that evidence, and how did you gather it? It is unlawful, by definition, to engage in illegal searches and seizures. The Constitution of the United States, the secular Bible of the land, tells police officers what they can and cannot do. And right now, a whole bunch of them are doing things that, by law, they cannot do.
AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, Norm Stamper, I wanted to ask you—last year, the large California-based affiliate of the United Auto Workers said they wanted the International Union of Police Associations kicked out of the union federation, claiming police have, quote, “utilized union resources to defend brutality and anti-Blackness.” The International Union of Police Associations is still in the AFLCIO. But what is your response to that, the role of police unions?
NORM STAMPER: Well, those who have read my first book understand that I’ve said I’m a labor guy through and through. I get goosebumps when I hear Joe Hill. My kin from Kentucky come out of coal mining. I am a pro-labor human being. But I draw the line at police unions. I think far too often they have shielded racist and brutal and trigger-happy police officers. I get their role to defend their fellow officers, but they do it in such a way that communicates to the community we’re going to circle the wagons, we’re going to do anything and everything we can to protect this lawbreaker.
I think it’s time for national standards, by the way, Amy. I think it’s essential that we recognize that policing is largely unsupervised in this country. There are no national standards—18,000 police departments, one Constitution. What does that tell you? It tells me that systematic violation of the Constitution is only rarely addressed in a Department of Justice investigation. Better to set national standards, certify all police officers and their agencies, and decertify those so they can’t go from Seattle, if they get fired, to NYPD the next day, which does happen. We need national standards.
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1 Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary. https://www.facebook.com/david.samuels.948   Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm and So-Metro Radio the first, third and fifth Tuesday of each month at 8:00 PM for commentary on urban issues http://www.sometroradio.com/  Check out our No Sellout blog (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns (http://www.northendagents.com/). Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com  

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