National Black Police Association
The Entire System of Policing Must be Torn Down and Rebuilt
It appears that the remarks of Marq Claxton of the 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care may have ruffled feathers and damaged egos. We should recognize that when organizations like 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, the National Black Police Association, the National Organization of Blacks in Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Grand Council of Guardians, the National Latino Officers Association and Black Cops Against Police Brutality speak, they draw from decades of struggling for police reform. We do not need a report to validate what Detective Ridley, Desmond Robinson, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury and Alberta Spruill and countless others have “told” us.
New York has a history, dating back to the 1940’s, when Black officers in plain clothes or off-duty have been shot at, shot, or killed by their peers while doing the job they were sworn to do. It was in response incidents such as these that Robert Mangum organized the first New York City Guardians. The organization received their charter New York City in 1949. The Guardians as well as countless other organizations have led the call for enhanced training; revisions of policies; diversity throughout law enforcement structures (from the top down); and better community relations for decades.
However, before one can address these prevalent issues, there must be an examination institutional culture of policing that historically reinforced bias and discrimination. It was the economic benefits and socially divisive practice of slavery that led to the creation of uniformed police in southern cities decades before Boston (1838) and New York (1845) established the forces which remain the accepted starting point for the history of the police in the United States
In her work Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas (2001), Hadden notes that “there was some variation in the social structure of patrols, the point of establishing them was constant: to maintain white supremacy and privilege.” Dulaney in his book Black Police in America (1996) further noted that the patroller policed specific geographical areas in the southern communities called “beats” and that they were authorized to stop, search, whip, maim and even kill slaves caught off the premises of the plantation without a pass.
Like “patrols” which became the basis for policing in the United States as we know it now, the under girding racial perceptions that were borne out of these policing policies still endure. Black communities are contained like concentration camps. Racial profiling gives police the new authorization to “stop” Blacks without cause. No wonder relations with communities of color are often non-existent and interactions between police and residents are often strained.
Newspapers, newscasts, web casts and blogs are ripe with weekly, sometimes daily reports of cases of alleged and founded police criminality. While talk shows, community meetings, local forums and even Congressional hearings by Congressman John Conyers have placed these issues at the top of their agenda. The recent incident involving NYPD Police Chief Ziegler– the highest ranking black official in the NYPD –reminds us of the challenges we face as citizens of color and for Black law enforcement officers.
Black law enforcement professionals must be extra cautious when they react to situations when they are off duty or as plain clothes officers, lest they fall into the same situation as our brothers Detective Ridley or Desmond Robinson. It’s unfortunate that the only time they are truly recognized as law enforcement is when they don the blue uniform. Until perceptions of Black males are changed in the institutional structure of policing, the Black Law Enforcement community and the Black community at large in Westchester and the state of New York will remain at a disadvantage and in danger.
Clearly the entire system must be torn down and rebuilt. Band-Aid solutions like “special commissions” and their “recommendations” have done and will do little to stem the tide. We need local or state lawmakers with the testicular fortitude to act now. How many more Black men must lose their lives before someone says “stop!”? Annual training should not be an option for any law enforcement officer that can carry firearms under NY State Criminal Law Section 2.10 and Article 35 in Westchester County and New York State. This should be mandatory with no excuses.
Who is policing our police? The call for a state wide special prosecutor to ensure transparency in the justice system is essential for building trust in the community we serve and for the victims and the affected Law Enforcement Officers. Despite having a reputation as being one of the most “progressive” and wealthiest counties and countries, Westchester and the United States lack an effective oversight in law enforcement. We need to take a page from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan– all whom have governmental oversight in law enforcement and credible Independent Civilian Complaint Review Boards.
Let’s be honest. Westchester meets NY State minimum standards when it comes to training. The Westchester Department of Corrections has applied for National Accreditation. We are now required to have approximately 21 hours per year training after the academy to meet NYS minimum standards. Yet, the American Correctional Association, the body that governs the national accreditation, notes that 40 hours per year training is most effective. Clearly Law Enforcement in Westchester County is behind the times. The real question is how far behind is Westchester County and the Chief’s Association in relation to what is occurring on the national level? Is Westchester County’s police training and its police departments nationally certified and have national accreditation? Westchester County and the Chief’s Association should have a accreditation agency like CALEA to do a complete audit of our training and police departments so we can see how our tax dollars are being spent.
Is too much to ask to raise the bar? Raising the bar in Westchester will not only make us exceed the standard, but it will save innocent lives. Imagine 19 more hours of training could have saved the life of Detective Ridley and made January 25, 2008 just another day. We did not need a report to tell us what we already knew.
In Unity And In Peace
Damon K. Jones
Westchester Blacks In Law Enforcement
For Community Uplift
National Board Member
National Black Police Association
As civil service officers, it is our duty to uphold the laws of the state of New York. However, as natural leaders it is our moral, ethical, and human duty to reach and teach our families and youth by providing increased involvement and support. Thereby enriching lives and enhancing our communities.