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Ferguson-Garner:Points To Key Of Law Enforcement Minority Hiring

Category: Barack Obama
Posted: 12/04/14 12:36, Edited: 12/04/14 12:37

by Dave Mindeman

I have been out of commission for the last few weeks. Had some medical issues to attend to. Things are fine and fortunately, our insurance (via Obamacare) made the financial impact reasonably light.

But let's get to the main topic of the day.

Race issues and police relations with the community.

Ferguson- Eric Garner, the conversation is polarized and dangerous....yet necessary.

There is a hopeless void of trust between city police departments and the urban core community. It is toxic. It must be fixed. And these recent grand jury cases have underscored this lack of trust...and the hopelessness that permeates the black minority in this country.

I understand the need for a higher standard of prosecution in the case of police officers. They need latitude to do their jobs. But it is painfully obvious that this latitude is not even handed. Black community members do not get the same respect, the same assumptions, given to white members of the same communities.

This is a core problem in race relations and solutions need to be found.

The roots run deep. Decades of mistrust are involved. The bad actions of a few in law enforcement have deepened that mistrust. That is something that cannot be fixed by any kind of magic bullet or empty rhetoric.

To me, there is only one change that can make a difference now. One change that doesn't require years of base building and slow, painful work in core communities.

I'm talking about minority hiring.

Ferguson has been a powder keg waiting to explode for years. The population shift from majority white to a 2/3's black majority has been rapid and blatantly obvious. The political and law enforcement power base did not adapt or change in any way.

That was foolish. Couple that with a stubborn refusal to change the police culture of targeting blacks for municipal fines and you have the makings of what transpired after the catalyst of a tragic shooting of a young black man.

The altercation between Officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown is not a simple, one side is wrong, type narrative. They never are. But you take a tragedy and compound it with negligent mistakes by the police department and long brewing tensions between the community and the authorities .... and you get anger, frustration, and the need for action (and unfortunately some violent action).

In the case of Eric Garner, you have long standing problems with the NYPD and a political system that seeks to minimize officer wrongdoing for fear of admitting that their authority has been a failure in implementation that can't meet a basic standard of respect.

The problems are deep but one solution begs to be addressed.

The number of black officers in Ferguson is in the single digits. The number of black police officers in New York is about 18%.

In Ferguson, the military riot gear and battle type weapons with white officers in that gear sent a not so subtle message that power and control was more important than discussion and compromise.

In New York, the Eric Garner video shows him being taken down by 5 officers - none of them black and one who appeared to be an Asian-American. How much different would that incident have been if Eric Garner had had a black officer to talk to?

Urban police departments with troubled community relations need to be aggressive in minority hiring. Some place are trying, but not with the urgency that is needed.

Minneapolis has its own issues.

Of the department's 807 sworn officers, 74 are black (9 percent), and 33 are Hispanic (4 percent). Of the 460 new cadets and recruits, 61 are black (13 percent) and 13 are Hispanic (2.8 percent). This in a city where the black population is estimated to be 18.6 percent, and the Hispanic population is 10.5 percent.

And as Molly Priesmeyer points out in the linked Minnpost article, 94% of Minneapolis officers do not live in the city. It begs the question of what constitutes "community policing", if the police personnel do not invest themselves in that community?

Of course, the concept of a good police officer does not depend on residency or color of your skin. But how the community you serve perceives you matters - and if we are to even attempt to fix these problems in a timely manner, then public perception is the key component. And that perception depends on trained black officers dealing with police relationships for a black populated community.

The key questions of the last few weeks revolve around a failure of police accountability for their actions. And the reality is....that even if both of the officers in regards to Ferguson and Eric Garner were indicted and given a very public trial, it would still not solve the underlying problem....the lack of trust in those hired to protect and serve.

A public airing of police failures may give some temporary satisfaction to the minority community, but after the show is over, we are still left with two divergent sides with an even weaker bridge between them.

Minority hiring in our urban police departments is more than just a feel good goal, it is critical to the future of our cities.
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