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Hardy L. Brown

No More, No Less – Justice

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It has been my opinion that the citizens in White communities have control over the police while in Black communities, the police have control over the citizens. All we want, which is not too much to ask, is the same justice for everyone. No more no less.

This was the response given last week by a young Black man to a CNN reporter’s question when asked what do you want in Baltimore? He summed up in this one statement what so many Black Americans want — no more no less, justice — and the same respect and fair treatment from law enforcement officials.

He is correct that police respond differently to White citizens unless they believe no one is watching as in the recent case last month in the San Bernardino County desert community of Apple Valley. Nine deputies in that incident thought it was impossible for them to be caught on a camera out in the desert so their mentality was to teach (in this case) a citizen you cannot run from law enforcement without being abused and taught some respect for authority.

We have known but are now learning more from each of these incidents that police leak reports to selected newspapers or reporters they have relationships with to sway public opinion and poison the jury pool just in case they are taken to trial. It is a police strategy to smear the name of the victim that they abuse or kill; I call it police officer strategy class protection 101. I saw it with Rodney King, Tyisha Miller and countless others. In the case of Tyisha Miller, they (officers) attempted to smear Miller’s family members going as far as her first cousins in the Butler family who would not give up the fight for justice.

Now we have 24/7 talk show hosts on cable television who now take their microphones into the Black community and act like attorneys as they interview uncoached witnesses. That same interview is later used against them in court as in Trayvon Martin’s killing. Maybe Black community members should keep their mouths shut like police officers and only talk with federal agents with a lawyer present or local NAACP officials. Have you noticed after each police officer involved shooting the police keep their mouth shut and don’t even talk with the chief or their supervisor? And in Baltimore they did not even have to do anything until after ten days. In other words, time to get their stories straight and on paper with the concurrence of any other officers that were at the crime scene. We clearly saw that in the recent North Charleston case. I know you are thinking this is contrary to what we have been told to do but we cannot continue to tell them “who saw” what so they can get their story to counter what you have seen or recorded on camera.

We must remember the White owned media does not see justice from the Black experience with the police departments. I am not saying that they cannot report in an unbiased manner but their coverage is different and does not capture the true feelings and living experience of what we are saying.

I have also noticed that all of the cities experience the same issue of police not living in the community they are protecting and serving, which is one of the major problems in America. I have pointed out for several years in the City of San Bernardino for example: San Bernardino was listed as having 240 police officers in June 2014 with only 18 living in the city limits. They had 150 non-sworn employees with only 32 of them living in the city.

That means only 50 out of a total of 390 police department employees live within the city limits that pay their salaries. Just like we have been hearing in Ferguson, New York and now Baltimore those police departments are an occupying force with guns on their sides, armor gear and tanks. We must reform this unjust law enforcement system as soon as possible before we lose all confidence from our citizens.

Hardy L. Brown is publisher emeritus of the Black Voice News.

It’s Not A Joke – Ingrained Behaviors ARE Deadly

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It is very upsetting to me the number of police abuse cases making national news with the most recent occurring in Baltimore that I am slowly losing faith in our ability to seek comfort in calling those who take an oath to protect and serve the public. It is getting ridiculous the frequency in which video recordings are capturing these abuses and the number of officers that stand around and watch or join in the abuse. They treat suspects – mostly Black — as though they are not human.

In my opinion this comes from years of joke telling and believing every negative thing they have heard or learned about African Americans from their family members, friends and our government policies. These negative images about Blacks have been so ingrained in our society that it is automatic for some police officers to shoot and kill then cover up their actions with lies, false reports, vilifying the victim and remaining silent before releasing the story to the public. The police are confident that the courts will not put them on trial and the public will believe them over any Black man especially ones with a record of any contact with our criminal justice system.

This is a carryover from Blacks having no rights as an enslaved people especially after the United States Supreme Court Dred Scott decision that Blacks had no rights that a White person had to respect.

Even though it was in the form of a joke at the White House Correspondents Dinner, comedian Cecily Strong said that the only police that might get in trouble from killing a Black man may be the secret service, referring to the president. She also told a joke about the president’s hair and now it’s white enough to talk back to police. Even though these are jokes it is part of the narrative of how society views the continued plight of Blacks in America.

I say and mean “our” country because in searching my family history it is clear my family lost members in the Civil War and fought in World War I and II. I had cousins in the Korean and VietNam conflicts. This is not to mention my family’s free labor from toiling as slaves on the farms in North Carolina and Georgia.

I share in the frustration of those who want to resort to violence but I know violence is not the answer and so we must tell our young people to show and practice patience.

I still do not believe justice can be attained through violent means.

We must restructure America’s justice system and retrain all police officers while integrating this same system with diversity and hire and require people be from the communities they serve. The people funding our law enforcement must also be represented as law enforcement officers. Our agencies need to reflect the diversity of our communities.

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

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.

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