Can The “Dream of King” Improve Police/Community Relations?
(Part 1 of 5)
Race, Poverty, Unemployment, Academic Failure, Black-on-Black Crime and Unfair Criminal Justice Policies All Contribute To Poor Police/Community Relations
As we celebrate a New Year and approach the birthday of America’s greatest Civil Rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important to reflect on exactly what he was trying to accomplish to make this a greater country. We owe it to our youth to create a platform that will allow them to move a little closer to fulfilling King’s dream. At the end of the day, to make America even greater young citizens must take matters into their own hands. If they fail to accomplish this task, we fear that recent rallies, die-in’s, protests and violence will run through the arteries of this country like never before. This is the time for America’s youth to shine and become a part of the solution and not the problem.
As the nation mourns the death of two NYC police officers that were executed as they sat in their car by a mentally ill thug, we have to assess what led up to the tragedy and how we can prevent this from happening again. According to the killer’s text message this was revenge for the killing of Michael Brown and/or Eric Garner by police officers. In his deranged way of thinking, it did not matter who he killed on that day, as long as they represented New York’s “Men in Blue.” It has been tough to be a police officer over the last several months because the unpopular decisions by the Grand Jury have created a climate of mistrust for the Police and Criminal Justice System. The Grand Jury process, which is at the center of all this chaos, is now on trial because the people are demanding a more transparent process.
People are saying that prosecutors who historically work close with the police have a hard time obtaining an indictment against those they have a strong relationship with. Civil Rights groups are demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor when the police are involved with a questionable death. At the end of the day, you can’t investigate yourself and still call the system fair. It appears to us that the misguided actions of a few prosecutors have opened up a can of worms. Now the light will be shined on policies related to the Grand Jury System, Police Corruption, Internal Affairs and the Civilian Complaint Review Board. All have contributed to the massive wave of distrust between the community and law enforcement agencies. The anger has been building up for decades.
Over the last several months we have had a chance to talk to many youth and young adults in schools and on the streets and they respect most police, but unfortunately, it is the behavior of a few officers whose actions have compromised the reputation and safety of all law enforcement agents. Thanks to the failure of the Department of Corrections to properly treat mentally ill inmates before they are released back into society, there are many patients out there who are leaders or members of a gang. Or they are just running around with an illegal weapon looking for an excuse to commit a crime or just take a life because they are frustrated with the system. According to a recent report there are 10 times as many people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other acute forms of brain disease that reside behind bars as opposed to state hospitals where they receive real help (356,000 to 35,000). As you can see the system is broke and a threat to public and police safety.
The police have to do a much better job of policing themselves if they want to regain the people’s trust. Most crimes are solved by good intel, but when citizens trust gangsters more than the police, there is a communication problem that has to be fixed. Our nation is in trouble and we had better get our act together before global terrorists take advantage of the chaos and distrust. If you are not aware, Global Terrorists have no love for Americans and don’t care who is wearing a badge. 911 is a perfect example of how they feel about all of us and the more divided we are, the harder we are going to fall. Let’s not fall asleep on the real enemy because ISIS seems to be much more dangerous than Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
In order for America to remain the greatest country on earth and become a nation of hope for a world that is starving for democracy we have to do a better job at dispensing justice within our own government. These words were echoed by Dr. King over 50 years ago and there has been some progress, but not enough. We can’t accuse other countries of being dictators and terrorists when we show no respect for the laws created to protect our poor and disadvantaged citizens. If we act like hypocrites, the world will not follow our lead, especially the youth who are the driving force behind most of the world’s uprisings. Our founding fathers created this great democracy with the hope of spreading our policies around the world and from the look of things they have to be rolling over in their graves. With the development of social media, the internet, smart phones, video and other new technologies, the “Civil Rights Revolution” of the 21st century is here to stay because these new tools will force our government and law enforcement agencies to change the way they do business. There are too many eyes in the sky and everyone has a phone.
If the image of a nation is judged by its military and criminal justice system we have a lot of work to do. According to the Daily News there were 179 fatalities involving on-duty NYPD cops in 15 years, only 3 cases led to indictments — and just 1 conviction, with no jail time. The deaths start with the 1999 slaying of unarmed Amadou Diallo and ends with last month’s shooting death of Akai Gurley in a Brooklyn stairwell. Where race was known, 86% were Black or Hispanic. Now, we love our brothers and sisters in law enforcement, because without their help we would have anarchy, but at the same time even you have to admit that to an outsider these numbers do raise flags and compromise the image of those who are doing the right thing on the force. This data also further erodes the building of a stronger relationship between the community and police. Let’s work as a Team in 2015 to bring the Dream of Dr. King to reality. That’s how NYC and the country remains the greatest on earth, a beacon of light for democracy, and a role model for the world to follow.
The Hip-Hop Summit Youth Council has a project named “Rap 2 Bridge the Gap.” The initiative was created to use the power and influence of Hip-Hop to improve relations between the youth, young adults, community residents and law enforcement agencies. The project is in its second year and was launched with former NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to address the “Stop, Question & Frisk” policy that caused a lot of friction in the Black and Hispanic communities. The project is now working with Commissioner Bratton and the NYPD, Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice, DYCD, the Source Magazine, Power 105.1, Video Music Box, “The Shark” Daymond John, metroPCS, along with a host of elected officials and government agencies, to improve police and community relations.
It is the goal of the project to bring all parties together and discuss what we can do as Americans to make this a better and safer country. There are many factors that have contributed to the problem between the community and the police such as race, poverty, unemployment, academic failure, black-on-black crime and unfair criminal justice policies. Over the next few weeks we will report on each element and show how they affect police/community relations. To find short and long term solutions we must first analyze the problem and that is what this 5 part series will do. To fulfill the “Dream of King” we have to eliminate the “Blame Game” because like it or not we are all in this together. If we remain divided we will be conquered by criminals, gang leaders and global terrorists waiting for a chance to snuff out innocent lives. Stay tuned for Part (2) where we show the role poverty plays in the divide between the Police, Community and the Dream of Dr. King.
For more information on the Rap to Bridge the Gap project and how to build relationships between the police and the Community hit us up at: RandyKFisher@gmail.com.
Posted by Charles and Randy Fisher (Twitter / Facebook / Instagram @HHSYC).