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Hardy L. Brown

America's Law Enforcement Agencies are Out of Control

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Lately it seems, every week we hear of some national story of police abuse, brutality, and/or killing unarmed citizens (mostly African American or Latino and every once in a while, White), who falls victim to the madness by those who take a public oath to protect and be of service to citizens. Some of these acts of violence against citizens have left me wondering, who are these people being hired by law enforcement agencies? Better yet, when hiring, has a proper psychological evaluation been performed given that officers carry not only a badge, but a deadly weapon in the performance of their duties?

What is happening to the good people they hire in law enforcement? Is there something that is being taught after being employed that brings out the worst in some officers? Do some officers want to enforce the laws in this manner before they are hired but keep it undercover until such a time that they just can’t hold it any longer? Were they bad people from the start? These are some of the questions I have been recently asking myself on a weekly basis while trying to understand the current state of law enforcement.

Then we have those officers who know when another officer is wrong and help cover up for the bad behaving colleague. In some situations we have officers who will threaten those good officers if they do not cover for them.

There are many other questions that I have in trying to understand law enforcements actions in some of these abuse cases. The recent two cases in South Carolina and in San Bernardino County near Apple Valley leaves me to form some troubling conclusions that no law abiding citizen wants to believe. And, as I was writing this opinion, I heard of the most recent shooting involving a 73-year-old reserve deputy who shot and fatally killed an unarmed man in Tulsa, Oklahoma and stated that he thought he was firing his Taser not his revolver.

In South Carolina, a video taken by a citizen clearly shows a Black man running from a White police officer. The officer pulls his gun then as though taking target practice, fires eight shots thus killing his target. Then he walks at least twenty yards to the victim puts handcuffs on him without checking to see if the man was dead or still living. He then walks back to where something had dropped to the ground, picks it up and returns to the man’s side and drops it beside the victim. And in an audio recording released this week, the officer is overheard speaking to someone by phone and chuckles as he states, “Everything’s OK. … I just shot somebody.”

Another officer, an African American, comes into the picture and kneels down beside the shot victim but does nothing. After they return to the office they all write up that they did something that was not true as recorded on video. In other words, they are covering for each other.

The local newspaper did a story of the shooting and reported nothing unusual until the video surfaced to dispute the police officers written reports. The police chief decided to terminate and arrest the officer and charge him with murder.

This type of scenario happens all too often and is reported in most U.S. communities by the local press. They do not ask any questions but take the reports offered to them by the police departments. They take the police reports as gospel even though the community is telling a different story. This in my opinion is due to the fact that the local press has no relationship with the community they claim to report on. The reporters live somewhere else and usually do not look like the people they are covering. This is why our Black and Latino owned newspapers are so important in most communities.

In San Bernardino County, a television crew caught on camera San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies assaulting a suspect after the man laid face down on the ground with his hands resting on his back, and legs spread in a surrender pose. Two deputies approached the man and began kicking him to the head and in his groin area. Several of the other deputies approached the incident and decided they wanted a piece of the action and began piling on the man with more kicking. It was like watching a ‘Wild Kingdom’ television show where wild animals go in for the kill of their prey in gang fashion.

San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon said at first nothing was going to happen to the deputies until after an investigation but later changed his mind as national attention highlighting the incident and local people expressed outrage and disgust with what they saw on television. So now he has placed ten deputies on paid administrative leave. In other words they are on vacation without losing anything. This type of action by the sheriff is not punitive or disciplinary or demonstrates wrongdoing by the officers by any stretch of any ones imagination.

The officers should be fired and then allowed due process as employees in the legal process which is their right under current labor laws.

These incidents and others have turned my stomach. A lot of these questions I asked came about from my experience with the Tyisha Miller shooting. We had some officers covering for others and then threating others if they did not support them for their bad decision-making.

We had the local daily newspaper only reporting what law enforcement officials fed them, which was not the whole truth. Our weekly paper became the printed video to get the truth out to the public. The city council was later pressured to terminate the four White officers and eventually denied their reinstatement to the force. The mayor and council showed leadership in that decision even though it cost the city money.

But in my opinion, it was money well spent to restore some confidence in our local government. What I see in our society is a breaking down of any trust or confidence in the system that is suppose to PROTECT and SERVE all of the taxpaying public. They do a good job in protecting the business district while serving the country clubs of any community. It is this type of selective protection and service that must be stopped before all confidence is lost.

In the case of the four officers fired by the Riverside Police Department in the Tyisha Miller case, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department hired one of the officers because he needed a job and had a right to work. My question at that time was, didn’t Tyisha Miller have a right to live? Then we have District Attorneys all over the country who refuse to bring charges against officer because they view them as not capable of doing wrong.

In my opinion, as well as many citizens and communities across the nation that it appears as though our law enforcement agencies are out of control and must be reformed from top to bottom.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Diversity On Television Is Not The Issue, Racism Is

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One of the hot topics today is the popularity of television programs that display a cast predominately made up of people of color like Empire, How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Just Off the Boat, and Blackish. And just this past week, Comedy Central announced that Trevor Noah, a 31-year-old Black South African, would succeed Jon Stewart the host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Apparently some people view this as too much diversity on television. Going so far as to voice their displeasure in articles and on other media outlets. However, these dissenting voices are in a minority because most polls conducted by companies on television viewership state that 49% of the viewership for shows with a heavy minority cast are White which is equivalent to the viewing audience for other popular mainstream shows.

This demonstrates to me that those who have issue with the programs are in the minority and people are not allowing color to cloud their judgment and are watching what they identify with: the same problems or issues in a format that is funny at times but remains entertaining and engaging. In other words if the content of the program is quality it makes no difference to them. This sentiment holds true when compared to television viewership back in the late 50s and 60s with the popularity of shows like I Love Lucy, starring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball because it was funny with issues that people faced in their daily lives. The fact that Ricky could not speak the English language well was not important.

Now during the early days of television racism was a major part of the decision to put people of color on television because Whites would not watch the shows or producers did not trust the public to support them, unless it was Amos n Andy style. Whites would listen to Nat King Cole music but the southern Whites would not view him as host of a television show. Not until the Flip Wilson Show, I Spy with Bill Cosby, Robert Culp and Laugh In with Teresa Graves did the public begin warming up to Blacks being on television.

All of those shows had their detractors because of race but each year it became fewer. It became obvious to the television networks that people of color watched programs featuring people who looked like them and would spend money to look like their heroes on television.

One thing that has not been included in the discussion and that is the number of faces from Europe, Canada, Australia and now South Africa who play a major role in this new wave of television. Where do they fit into this minority voice of concern about who is on television? Some say that this current television programming represents the changing of America and the owners are trying to keep pace with this demographic reality.

From my experience of working in corporate America if the leadership does not change then the forces of change will change them. So I applaud the television networks for leading the way to help society break down some of the social stereotypes that have plagued our country for a long time. So to those few dissenting voices, diversity on television is not the issue but your racist view is.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Ferguson's Report–Eye Opening Findings

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Every one is talking about the Justice Department’s report on the city of Ferguson triggered by the shooting and killing of Black teenager, Michael Brown by White police officer Darren Wilson. Most people had already come to a negative conclusion about the police department but the findings on the entire city and court system were somewhat of a surprise.

The Justice Department basically said the city and the court system treat Blacks unfairly with unlawful stops, searches, traffic tickets, charging high fees, court issued warrants, being put in jail, and using code enforcement to raise money to pay for the operation of the city government. I am going to list some of the statistics so you will understand the impact of this report on Ferguson, a city where 67 percent of the population is African American. Now I cannot fault the elected officials for being elected but I find fault in how they ran the city and employed a police staff that is over 90 percent White with only three Blacks and one White woman. This kind of discrimination in hiring led to a non-community police force which does not live with or understand the people they are supposed to serve and protect.

The evidence is based on the years 2012 to 2014 where 93 percent of the arrests and 85 percent of all traffic stops were of Black people. Blacks were more than twice as likely to be stopped and searched for contraband while 26 percent were less likely to have any contraband found on them as compared to Whites. In other words, Whites were more likely to have something in their possession that was illegal but were not stopped and searched by police.

The Justice Department found that many of the police arrests were listed as “talking back” to police officers or engaging in unlawful protests. This is one reason so many Black parents warn their children that if stopped by law enforcement officers, “keep your hands in plain sight at all times, only answer the question they ask you, do not make any sudden moves when giving information at the officer’s request and don’t ask ‘why did you stop me’ or ‘what is your badge number’ or anything that can be misconstrued as disrespectful.”

Ninety five percent of all “walking in the roadway” citations were given to Blacks. Several years ago we published a story on a young Black man being issued a ticket for walking in the street where there was no sidewalk for any of the residents to use, yet a police officer wrote him up and took him to jail for a parole violation here in San Bernardino. When his mother went to see him, he was in Arrowhead Medical Center with a broken arm and other injuries from a beating given to him by the police.

In Ferguson they found that over 90 percent of the documented police use of force situations involved Black citizens. A few years back I was on the Legal Redress Committee for the San Bernardino Branch of the NAACP because of the numerous police abuse complaints brought to the branch by citizens. The branch even took the issue up with the state and national board of their findings, so Ferguson is not alone with their current issue.

The Department of Justice found in one case a Black woman was issued a single illegal parking violation in 2007 and spent six days in jail, paid $550 in fines and still owed $541. Now I don’t know if our court system is that bad but I know many of our Black and Latino citizens have lost jobs, cars, and their belongings because of minor traffic violations. I know in some cities police stake out schools where undocumented individuals drop off their children for school, then they confiscate their car and don’t allow them to get it out of storage for thirty days. The car would cost too much to retrieve so the tow company would take possession and sell the car.

San Bernardino and other cities use code enforcement of property and buildings as another way to raise money for their general fund to help pay the salaries of employees, yet will not hire citizens from the city that pay the taxes and fines.

Ferguson is a wake-up call for elected officials and citizens who pay the bills only to be abused by the ones who are elected to serve them.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Where Do You Stand on Citizens' Rights to Vote in America?

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This past week marked the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Alabama march in 1965, where some 600 civil rights advocates were beaten with batons, hosed with water, chased down by police on horseback and bitten by police dogs as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Highway 80 all done by state order from then governor George Wallace. This bridge was named after a Confederate General in the Civil War and Grand Wizard Leader of Alabama’s Ku Klux Klan. George Wallace had declared that “segregation yesterday, segregation today, segregation forever,” would be the way of life in Alabama forever. The 600 citizens were marching that day in 1965 for the right to vote in a state that would have Black citizens guess the number of bubbles in a bar of soap or cite the state constitution and pay a poll tax in order to register. Then if they were registered, the court clerk would call the landowner where the Black person lived and often sharecropped, and have them put off the land.

This was the same year I decided to take my young family back home to Trenton, North Carolina to meet all my family. My wife Cheryl did not know what to expect with all of the racial issues in the news but she took my word that we would be alright as long as we acted a certain way and did not venture off into certain areas. I did not let Cheryl know, but I did take some security measures so that just in case some isolated incident happened I would be able to defend my family like my dad had taught me. I did have some other concerns because I had just bought a new car to drive home and some people did not believe Blacks should have nice things or things better than what they had. We did not encounter any incidents or issues on the trip but I did show her the KKK sign on Highway 70 just outside Jones County that stated this is KKK Country.

This was also during the time when all our water came from a pump and the restroom was an outhouse. However, my Uncle Harry had indoor plumbing so Cheryl went down to their house. That is when I told my dad to get connected up with the city line if possible and we would cover the expenses. Yes, some things have changed.

As I watched the history being told on television and the current thousands of people of all races and religions gather to prove George Wallace wrong, economic segregation may still exist in Alabama but legal segregation based on race has been written off the books.

Today fifty years later we have some new George Wallace imitators all over the country trying to do the same thing; making it difficult for Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Indians, women, seniors, young adults, those who have committed a crime and paid their debt to society, those from the LGBT community to be full citizens in exercising their constitutional right to vote.

While all of this history is being commemorated we are trying to digest the current justice department report on the city of Ferguson. One finding the report confirmed was that Blacks are being charged and over charged for minor traffic violations that turn into warrants and jail time. The courts and the city council sanctioned this kind of action which funds the government that is oppressing the citizens.

This report was generated after the recent incident of a White police officer shooting and killing Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager in Ferguson. As I flipped the television channel to catch the local news, it was reported another unarmed Black teenager was shot and killed in Madison, Wisconsin.

I comforted myself in the knowledge that God is still on the throne and we must remain committed to fighting for justice in the greatest country on the planet. It is worth fighting for because Jesus Christ came and gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. I thought of those who have fought before me, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, Adam Clayton Powell, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, my parents Floyd and Essie Brown and of course Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others who have fought and are still fighting the good fight for freedom. My question to you today, tomorrow, and the future: Where do you stand and do you consider this and other civil rights and other unfair economic issues worth fighting for? If so, let your voice be heard.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of Black Voice News.

Freedom Is Not Free But Worth Fighting For Every Day

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My wife took me to see the movie Selma this weekend and it stirred up vivid memories of my life during the fifties, sixties and seventies. During the fifties I was in my hometown of Trenton, North Carolina under Jim Crow laws of legal segregation.

When you grow up in that kind of society, you realize the color of your skin is the only thing that prevents you from socializing with others of a different color which makes no sense at all. Television was new and you could see what other people were doing in other parts of the country and after listening to relatives that come home from up north you know that life could be different.

So I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and leave as soon as possible. As they say “catch the first thing smoking”.

As I watched the movie and the scene where the four girls are talking to each other as they walked down the stairs at church and the bomb goes off, it jarred me much like it did the day I heard the news. My emotions went from sad, then angry, and I said to myself there is still much work to do.

As the movie went on I realized again that freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday of your life. I witnessed the marches of the sixties and recalled voting for President Lyndon B. Johnson and listening to his “we shall overcome” speech to Congress and the country. I could not believe he was saying what I heard him say but it was true. Johnson was pushing the Voting Rights Act and wanted Congress to pass the bill. Congress did pass the bill and now today some in the Republican Party want to revisit that law and take that right away if you can not meet certain requirements such as proper identification.

Again I said, there is much work to be done and freedom is not free and must be fought for everyday. I am glad I went to see the movie because I always wondered why it took three tries to walk across the Pettus Bridge in 1965. My wife had the good fortune of walking across it when she went on a southern Underground Railroad tour in Alabama.

After the movie a young lady who recognized me remarked, “we have a lot of work to do” to which I replied, “yes the fight continues.”

In the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 6 it reminds us that the older generation has a responsibility to impress upon the younger generation our history of how we got over. If we do not tell them of our struggles and tribulations then they will not know how to negotiate, demonstrate, and resist when it comes to fighting unjust laws.

For example, in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, Blacks make up seventy percent of the city and yet they feel unrepresented in the government. They have not been told how to exercise their voting power to elect people who will make laws that represent their interest. The police force has only three Blacks on staff and Blacks pay over 95 percent of all traffic violations in the city. Somebody forgot to tell them the history of how to use their power at the ballot box to correct that issue.

Because the young Black voters decided not to vote in high numbers last year, this action might result in some voting rights that we fought for 50 years ago being changed. If that happens the numbers and diversity of elected officials in Washington and some states will also change. That will mean fewer people of color and women will be appointed to the courts with your interest in public policy.

So we must continue the fight because freedom is not free and because if we don’t it can be taken away.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

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