When Will Black American Police Chiefs' Learn?

Look, I never heard of Kerr Putney before Tuesday, September 20th and I know nothing about him other than he is a Black American police chief of an agency in the Carolinas. But just seeing and listening to him during a televised interview today says so much. Clearly, he displays the poise of a college educated man. There is no doubt he’s written a few graduate papers on policing. I also bet he’s been to every top executive-level police leadership seminar in the country. As well, his demeanor suggests he’s checked all the standard “chief of police boxes” and probably rose through the ranks of the agency (patrol, SWAT, investigations, commander, etc.) picking up all the required policing skills for this position. Hell, I bet he was on the fast-track to become the next President of NOBLE and maybe the next superintendent of NYPD or Chicago PD.  Well, that’s all over now over.  You see, a lesson block they don’t teach at the UNC campus or the FBI’s National Law Enforcement Executive Institute is the what, where, when, why, and how Black American police chief should use their Blackness to save the policing culture.

Although morally barbaric, I believe the police were legally justified in shooting and killing 12-year old Tamara Rice.

Whether most police officers realize it or not, and I have serious doubts whether most police officers actually have an applied understanding of the legal standards regarding the use of deadly force...but that's another conversation, the courts have in the past and unless there is an apocalyptic reversal, will always error on the side of police officer safety. In laymen’s terms, the law vehemently protects the rights of police officers to justify the use of deadly force, even under the most morally reprehensible circumstances. The use of deadly force is a legal standard with plenty of gray area, not a moral standard that sits at the center of right or wrong. Thus, I believe the cowardly shooting and killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice, was justified under the color of the law. I know it’s difficult to accept my opinion but what I’ve done is outline the seven legal standards that I used. I hope this helps make sense of a senseless police killing:

The True Enemy of the Policing Culture: The Apologists

Anyone who is truly invested in the wellbeing and cares about the success of the modern-day policing culture, as I do, knows one clear and undisputable fact: cultural change is inevitable in policing and the culture will either transcend or implode into change. You see, transcending the culture from one of “policing power" to "community empowerment” will be an ugly, rough, and sometimes torturous journey. During this process, the policing culture will continue to make horrible mistakes (racial profiling, excessive force, etc.) in their dysfunctional relationship and growing fear of Black America. This transcendence will force some officers to resign, be terminated, or become part of the inmate population, but in the end, the growing pains will be worth it. We will have a stronger and more competent policing culture, ready to morally and legally face the unique challenges of upholding their oath to serve and protect a globally diverse new America. However, there is the later and the much more painful process…implosion… and that’s what everyone is seeing today across the country. One look at McKinney, Texas says it all. Police officers are becoming a national punchline for incompetence, insubordination, and intolerance…and the world is laughing out loud at the policing culture, not with them.  The “imploding” process has created an environment where police officers are perceived as undisciplined children being placed in “time-out” by their own police supervisors, politicians, and communities, where their trustworthiness and respect factor has, with the exception of a dedicated few believers, been almost eliminated.

So, what’s holding the policing culture back from making this transcension? The true enemy of policing: the apologists.

The Loss of Moral Authority: Baltimore Police Department’s Neutered Response Is a Growing Nationwide Policing Trend

Over the next few hours, days, and weeks, as we all begin to digest the images of the City of Baltimore falling into a State of Emergency, one of the most glaring will be when a group of primarily white police officers are being pummeled by rocks and bricks from what appears to be larger group of young school-aged black males.  In fact, several police officers are seen throwing rocks right back at the crowd, in an apparent effort to defend themselves. As a former police–detective, one of the first things that came across my mind was “why didn’t they draw their weapons and use deadly force?” Surely, the police were legally justified in doing so…so why the hesitation to pull the trigger?  But then it hit me.  A lack of moral authority by police department's across the nation has racially neutered their response under the bright lights of a national audience, and Baltimore, with its black American mayor and black American police commissioner helplessly fell right into line with this cultural trend.

The Dignity of American Policing Now Falls In the Hands of the Second Police Officer at the South Carolina Police Shooting

My deepest and most sincere condolences goes out the family of Walter Scott , the clear victim of an act of pure cowardessness and treachery by Officer Michael Slager.  This incident epitomizes everything that is wrong with our current policing culture and its dysfunctional relationship with the black American experience.  In a very short time, the police officer who murdered Mr. Scott, will receive a crash education on what life entails for a white male, evidence planting, corrupt, black person murdering former cop, in a prison culture that houses  a population of 40 percent black males.  Slager will have wished for the death penalty when all is said and done. However, we are missing the bigger picture here. The focus of the South Carolina police shooting investigation should be on the second officer at the scene.  

Moving Past Ferguson, Any Hope For Solutions? Nope, Not A Chance

Without a doubt, the most common question that I’m asked by students, academic colleagues, panel and workshop facilitators, friends, and just everyday folks that I come into contact with as a criminal justice scholar, all center on the following topic: is there any hope of bridging the gap and rebuilding the relationship between black communities and police agencies after Ferguson? Although disturbing to many my response is always the same, “nope, not a chance” because our country has never sought redemption from its original sins of genocide, enslavement, and the African holocaust. I tell them that “Ferguson” is just a by-product of a 395 year social experiment on the black American experience, which started with the creation of modern American policing: slave patrols.

Justifying the Use of Deadly Force Is a No-Brainer for the Police

Given the objective reasonableness standard (Graham v. Connor) a police officer can justify the use of deadly force in almost any situation. “Truth” is the essential element in police accountability and police officers know that the concept of “truth” is legally NOT morally defined, and based solely on their perception of the events through the eyes of another police officer NOT through the eyes of a citizen. 

Perceived Entitlement: A Police Officers Most Seductive Vice

The one advantage of being from a family of cops is that you have a unique understanding of the entire policing culture. With a combined 70 plus years of policing experience between my brothers and me, we’ve had many conversations about the good, bad, and ugly of this profession.  Without a doubt, the absolute worse and most seductive vice a police officer must resist is the “perceived entitlement” to basically do whatever you want, whenever you want, and to whomever you want. Every single police officer in the nation understands exactly what I mean.

The Most Precious and Irreplaceable Part of Our American History: Old Black Men and Their Wisdom of Truth & Accountability

Today, I had a very special conversation with my dad and asked him to share with me, as I have asked so many times in his 82-year journey as a black man on this planet, his thoughts on the ongoing oppressive relationship between primarily white male police officers and young black males across the nation. You see, my dad, just like many “old black men” in America, are the most precious and irreplaceable part of our American history that we will ever see. Their eyes have seen it all and when they die, there will be no more "truth-tellers." The type of magical national legacy Arlo Guthrie describes in his classic song, “City of New Orleans” when he sings,

Passing trains that have no names

Freight yards full of old black men

And the graveyards of rusted automobiles

Good morning America how are you?

Say don’t you know me, I’m your native son…

Towards the end of the song, Arlo sings the chorus,

Good night America how are you?

Say don’t you know me, I’m your native son…

My dad lived through the most damaging part of the Jim Crow south. As a boy he witnessed black men being hung, as white police officers smiled and laughed at their burned, mutilated, and castrated remains. This same dad later encouraged his three black sons to pursue careers in policing in order to become “mitigators of justice.” He encouraged me throughout my entire life to become an activist of social change within the criminal justice system and to never give up on "my black people."

Dear Black America: A Few Thoughts on Ferguson

I would like to humbly provide a few words of wisdom to the millions of black Americans around the country following the events of Ferguson, Missouri. Please do not get hoodwinked into purchasing a ticket to the movie premiere of “the grand jury decision.” Spoiler alert…at the end of this movie black Americans will not see justice.  There will not be an indictment for either first or second-degree murder. If by some miracle a true bill were issued for a criminal charge, including manslaughter, it would ultimately result in a trial ending in another “movie sequel”…a hung jury or an acquittal. You see, a twelve-member grand jury in Missouri cannot “baptize away” the 400-year original sin of this nation.

Why Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the Leader of the Second Largest Police Department in America, Will Ultimately Fail

In June 2011, the recently hired Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the leader of the second largest police department in America, told a large black church congregation at St. Sabina’s on the Southside of Chicago some amazing things. He told them that he was not afraid to talk about the infamous “r-word”…race. McCarthy suggested that slavery, segregation, the black codes, and Jim Crow had one very important common denominator: “government-sponsored racism.” After some thunderous applause, McCarthy then said there was another component to this government-sponsored racism, “Federal gun laws that facilitate the flow of illegal firearms into our urban centers across this country that are killing are black and brown children.” After an even louder series of thunderous applause, McCarthy finally added that after recognizing these facts, he was “changing the face” of how policing would take place in Chicago because he had a “plan to address it.”

The Revolving Door of Defining “Truth” within the Criminal Justice System

After almost 30 years in the business of crime and justice, I’ve come to one clear and undisputable truth: the overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens have no fathomable clue how the criminal justice system really operates. As a start, the criminal justice system operates within a revolving door of how “truth” will be defined. The justice system is not designed to operate within the standard ethical world of “truths and lies” where most people in America try to live and breathe. It can’t. First, because the system operates in a world where its loyal customer base, whether they be white, black, or brown, drug traffickers, child molesters, white collar criminals, or murderers, live under a different code of ethical conduct. Secondly, and the most important, because the one and only means the criminal justice system can make money is to produce arrests and plenty of them. The courts and correctional components of the criminal justice system rely solely on the policing component for their survival.