We are protesting. All States have been put on notice. Now, what can States change in response?
My main focus as an attorney is discrimination. I have the opportunity to look under the hood of private businesses, local governments, state governments and the federal government when issues of discrimination arise.
So that should qualify me to give advice on how to stop discrimination in the workplace and among the public. That should qualify me to train and inform police officers on how to stop treating African Americans differently when they are confronted with law enforcement. So if I was selected to conduct such a training, what would I do? What would I say?
I thought about it and I don’t think I could say or do anything to change the situation. All it would do is give further protection to the entity and individuals I trained so they can check a box to say that they trained their officers related to discrimination and police brutality in case a claim of liability was made against the entity down the road. They would use it to prove they did their best and whatever happened, they trained their officers and it is not the agencies fault as a whole. However, nothing I would say could make the change that everyone around the world is asking for right now.
Some companies show that awkward sexual harassment video at the start of your job or in response to a complaint made by an employee. The awkward sexual harassment video does not address or resolve the systemic work-place atmosphere and dynamic between employees and with law enforcement, with their interactions with the public. Each law enforcement agency is made of people with different backgrounds that interact differently and each response has to be tailored to each specific situation. In sum, the videos do nothing.
How entities generally handle discrimination in the workplace
Every government and private business generally has an employee handbook. In the employee handbook is says something to the nature of, “we do not tolerate discrimination based on race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, sexual orientation.” Everyone new employee signs the employee handbook when they are first hired. Sometimes employees sign the employee handbook online where they can just check a box which says they received it.
Most employees don’t actually read the employee handbook. Also, the language in every employee handbook is so cliche that the words really don’t mean anything that can effectively deter discrimination in the workplace or address the current atmosphere and dynamic. As an attorney, and what I do, I have learned that the employee handbook can say one thing but the actions of an organization can tell or show that discrimination in the workplace is in fact tolerated.
One big problem with organizations self-policing discrimination in the workplace is they always have their legal counsel at the fore-front of discrimination investigations. In law enforcement's case, it would be the City Attorney or County Attorney. The main purpose of legal counsel is to help avoid legal liabilities. If an organization comes out with an investigation report and finds that there was discrimination in the workplace then they are handing the victim the smoking gun to prove his or her case in a civil action.
Instead, organizations generally come out with reports finding the actions inconclusive. In many cases, discrimination is a “he said, she said” situation and sometimes they claim that because the victim has no witnesses, they cannot corroborate their claim, inferring that in order for the victim to be credible, they need a second set of eyes at all times. Sometimes the person accused may "plead the 5th" as it may involve possible criminal misconduct and they could claim they couldn't conduct an investigation because they could and will never be able to talk to the accused. Organizations are good at finding excuses and its not by chance.
Sometimes, employees don’t know where to make a complaint and when they do make a complaint to a supervisor, the supervisor may never report the complaint to Human Resources for an investigation, they may just downplay the situation and never actually investigate it, or the company may not have Human Resources. Also, most times, racism is based on circumstantial evidence where no one says they are demoted, their pay isn’t raised, they are terminated, not hired based on race, but the circumstances show that there is a causal link between the actions and race.
A company would almost never make such a finding of racism in the workplace based on circumstantial evidence. Generally speaking, Human Resources is also not trained in the law of discrimination in the workplace and knows what to look for or how to properly investigate a claim. Human Resources can also get internal pressure from legal counsel or other executives as to the investigation. Companies seldomly hire a third-party investigator to look into a claim of discrimination to show fairness in the process and lack of bias.
With that, it would could also be almost impossible to have a police agency on its own at this time internally investigate itself and make a determination whether or not its officers have a bias toward individuals of race. How could a police agency know if one of its officers will ultimately, illegally and unjustifiably kill or cause serious bodily injury to someone of race? How could a police agency know if that incident was racially charged?
This is a hard situation. However, it is apparent that some kind of change is needed and the situation cannot continue as is. Just affirmation from officers that they won't commit this kind of conduct will not change the atmosphere and mindset of the officers. The Civil Rights movement was somewhat easier. Lawmakers knew what they needed to do. They needed to cross out the words “separate but equal.” Here, the only thing a lawmaker could do is write words that say, “don’t treat African Americans differently than you do Caucasians when making arrests.” Those words though cannot change a human mind. I have found that individuals that are born in areas with less diversity makes it easier to talk freely about another race.
Can diversity and tolerance be taught?
I spent my high school years in the Seattle area where there was a high amount of Asian-Americans, Russian or Baltic State-Americans, Latin Americans and African Americans. We all spoke English fluently. We all were born in the United States. We played sports and other did other extracurricular activities together. There was no need to talk about race in such a diverse setting or claim that some particular person and their traits was inherent in their entire ethnic background.
As I moved to other areas and interacted with people that were born in America but with a different ethnic background and with people that were raised in a less-diverse setting, I witnessed individuals that would say a joke based on race that they thought was funny and proper. I on the other hand and the individual would be shocked that such a joke was freely made. In his setting where he was raised, there was no push-back to condemn his joke otherwise.
It was an acceptable joke. Everyone would snigger or think it was socially acceptable. Perhaps there was one person in his school with that ethnicity and got the joke so much that he learned to just embrace the jokes and let them slide off his back. The jokester thought from his background, there was no harm to say such a joke directly to someone from that ethnicity. His mind was inherently set to think differently.
I served a two-year religious mission in Chile. When I was there, there was a shooting at Virginia Tech University caused by a U.S. resident of South Korean origin. I had a fellow friend and companion who was born in South Korea and adopted and raised in the United States. After the shooting, my companion would have people yell in the streets at him to stay away from him because he might shoot them. At that time, Chile was not a diverse country. A few times I would see an African American in a larger city and everyone on the street would turn around to take a look.
The civil rights movement really wasn’t that long ago. Those that were directly involved are now in their 70s or 80s. The generation below them still has many individuals in the workplace. That generation grew-up with parents that knew separate but equal laws. Their parents were raised in a situation where they thought it was socially acceptable to treat and exclude people of a different race. The comments from many of those parents were more harsh, less comical and more vindictive toward people of other races. This includes parents that never interacted or hardly interacted with people of other races. Many of their kids are now police officers.
My Dad grew up in the South. Luckily, he had two parents that were well-educated and learned to accept diversity which was a very unpopular mindset at that time. However, my grandparents divorced and my grandfather re-married. I didn’t visit my Southern grandparents that often. I had the chance to see my grandfather for the last time though in 2009. While we watched the Thanksgiving parade my great-grandmother said some racial comments toward one of the singers that was on TV which shocked me.
Later, we went to a home to have dinner with some individuals I had never met. One individual told me that he played basketball with or went to school with Pistol Pete Marivich at Louisiana State University. I was fascinated obviously and asked a lot of questions. During the conversation he made a racist remark about African Americans and basketball. That has been the only time I have personally heard a vindictive remark toward a race in my life.
If I go back in my geneology on my father’s side which I have worked on over the past decade, I have come across census records that show my ancestors were slave owners in many of the Southern States. Prior to doing my genealogy, despite knowing my father’s Southern, roots it never crossed my mind that some of my ancestors would be slave owners. That was a rude awakening and made the situation of this country’s past more real to me. It also made me have many questions on the circumstances and setting of each ancestor that did. Some of my family moved to Texas which I can only imagine was to move to an area where slavery was not tolerated.
So again, despite my qualifications as an attorney that deals with discrimination all the time, could I train a group of law enforcement officers and help deter police brutality? Again, I don’t think I could. I know the law on discrimination. I know how to put a client on the stand and help them reiterate the facts to their experience. I can sit with them at a deposition and hand them a kleenex as they re-live the experience and emotions again, but I know nothing about racism and police brutality.
Do we know what this country has done to an entire race for over 200 years?
I don’t know what its like to have a written document that Americans holds sacred and reveres in this nation that once stated that African Americans are property not people but count for 3 /5 of a vote. I don’t know what it is like for the highest court of this country come out and interpret that same document and affirm that African Americans are property even if they have lived in a free state and their children were born in a free state.
I don’t know what its like to try and start from scratch without owning any property or having any inheritance and try and start life for the first time as a free person in a country crippled from war and be around individuals that still have the same mindset toward my race than when the war began.
I don’t know what its like to be fearful of my life knowing there were organizations out there where its members sought to take my life. I
I don’t know what its like to be blamed for crimes of moral turpitude I never committed including rape with a person I never met or knew and go through a biased justice system and jury to ultimately be found guilty and pay the price for a crime a Caucasian committed for the rest of my life or lose my life for it.
I don’t know what its like to be talked down to like I am a second-class person and be ordered to do or not do things at another person’s instructions just because of my race. I don’t know what its like to have laws passed whose purpose is to intentionally keep me from voting. I don’t know what its like to have my commerce, education and social organizations severely limited because of my race. I don’t know what its like to decide to serve my country and put my life at risk due to a World War and have my type of service and rank limited because of my race.
I don’t know what its like to have the law enforcement, politicians, the judicial system, neighbors and a community against me when I try and push for laws that say “separate but equal.”
I don't know what its like to start life in an impoverished community because of my family history and get a late start in this country, financially and education-wise, because of my family history, where drugs is what makes money and where there is pressure on me to join a gang as a young teenager. I don't know what its like to have people assume that is my upbringing and lifestyle and intent and motives just because of the color even though my parents are middle class and was never raised in that kind of neighborhood.
I don't know what its like to be stopped by a police officer and detained and questions just because the color of my skin unlawfully infers I committed somekind of crime. I don't know what its like having a family member in prison for years due to that lifestyle or have people assume I have been in prison or have a family member in prison just because of the color of my skin. I don't know what its like to know that my race, despite the lower population amount in total in the nation statistically, is the highest population amount in prison statistically.
I don’t live in fear of the possibility of my life being taken from me from law enforcement just because I am wearing a hoodie at night. I don’t live in fear of the possibility of getting severely beaten or arrested for a misdemeanor or infraction I committed or any other non-violent crime. I don’t live in fear of being detained by the police for no reason for hours just because of my skin color no matter what my social status is. I don’t live in fear of the possibility that former law enforcement officers may (allegedly) hunt me down and kill me while I am out jogging in the morning because of my skin color. I don’t live in fear that someone will overreact and call the police on me because of my skin color because I simply asked them to put their dog on a leash based on City Park laws and how it affects birds.
What changes can possibly be made?
What laws or policies can be passed to change an entire nations’ irrational sentiments and unjustified fears because of color? One of the principle founding fathers of this nation thought that African Americans was a inferior species intellectually based on his personal observations of them. Individuals who were deprived of the same education he had privity to.
Some police officers are drawn to the career because of the power that it wields. Police officers have the power to deprive you of your liberty. You must pull over if an officer’s lights are on. You must pull to the side of the road. There are criminal laws in place if one disobeys. An police officer can search your car if he believes you committed a crime.
He can get a warrant to search the privacy of your home. He can search the contents of your clothing. He can seize your car and property. Officers also spend a vast amount of time firearm training and need certificates of their training. They have more muscle memory and more autonomy and justification to point an armed weapon at an individual. They have the same mindset to pull the trigger.
Officers have a dangerous job. They put themselves in dangerous situations where possibly an individual has a weapon as well and they might retaliate and take an officer's life. Especially in this atmosphere currently, more officers are jumpy based on their perception of the public’s sentiment toward them.
How can you teach an officer to sort through any kind of training in a split-second situation that is coupled with a possible fear of the unknown because of his upbringing based on race?
Many individuals now have the same unjustified and irrational sentiment toward all police officers and how they treat African Americans. However, law enforcement officers have an upper-hand with their fears. They have a gun. They wield power and legal protections. If anyone retaliates against an officer because they are in fear of their life or someone elses’ life, they face serious felony charges if they act against an officer.
If an officer retaliates, they have sovereign immunity and higher, stricter standards that an individual has to prove to show legal and criminal liability toward an officer. Most cases where one could find liability against the officer if the two individuals were civilians, are dismissed instead because of the legal protections of an officer. Law Enforcement officers always work closely with prosecutors and mentally, it is much harder not to mention the political pressure, to charge someone you know and someone who is supposed to be on your side in law enforcement, to charge them with a crime.
Diversity could help.
One could say is that one thing that could possibly be done is to hire more African American law enforcement officers. However, that still might not change their sentiment toward African Americans that are born and live in high-crime areas and African Americans that were raised middle class may also still have unjustified and irrational sentiments toward the impoverished.
But still, it could help ease the mental bias that other officers have toward a particular race once they have more time interacting with that individual and learning who that person is internally, “the content of his character” and not the color of his skin. More diversity in the law enforcement arena could go a long way. Perhaps officers should be required to spend more time serving the communities they protect and interacting not as an investigator, but as a type of community volunteer to help them interact more with diversity. Perhaps officers should spend time with and interact with victims of racial police brutality and hear those individuals share their stories.
Diversity is what the government did to curtail discrimination in the education system with its busing legislation. Diversity for me is what helped curtail any bias I had toward a particular race. Just like how it is hard to charge a friend and colleague with a crime, it would be harder to claim that someone is violent because of his skin color after interacting with other individuals because of their skin color.
More oversight on who your officers are and how they treat the public.
The content of law enforcement’s character is also important. Why does this person want to be a police officer? Do they like the adrenaline rush of pointing a gun at another human being and wielding power over them? Is a particular officer more aggressive and more violent compared to other officers in the same situation? How does a particular officer treat its fellow other officers? Does a particular officer say off-color racial jokes in the workplace or any other kind of demeaning comments toward a protected class? How does a particular officer generally treat potential suspects? Does this officer want to serve and protect? Or does this officer want to get out some of his own aggression and anger on other officers?
So you are telling me that if I have a law enforcement officer that is a jerk, despite the quality work he does needs to be fired? Yes. As an attorney that deals with employment settings, law enforcement and businesses as a whole need to learn that bullies, jerks is not good business and not a healthy work-place atmosphere, especially with its constant contact with its citizens. A bully and jerk cannot be doing quality work as its affect the public and the other officers that have to work with him or her.
If you are are supposed to serve and protect the public which includes fellow employees, you should lose your job. Gone should be the days when an agency should think they need and require only WWF wrestlers to do this kind of job.
If you have an officer that is aggressive or is aggressive in once instance, those actions should be immediately condemned. If supervisors think that it was just a one-time deal, they should still go to some kind of therapy or anger management. It also might be wise to but all officers through anger management even if they are the ideal citizen. Officers should learn that anger and aggression is not at the top of the job description and a mandatory requirement to do one’s job.
They need to understand their role toward citizens, which is not an executioner role.
The one thing I think I am qualified enough to teach is tell officers that they are not the executioner. We don’t live in the European dark ages anymore. A Magna Carta was passed. A Constitution was passed. Individuals are innocent are proven guilty. You are the investigator. You are Sherlock Holmes. Your job is to gather evidence and submit it to the prosecutor for their determination on whether or not an individual should be charged with a crime. From there, a judge or a jury will weigh the evidence and determine sentencing.
Almost all people have a life after a crime and can overcome a mistake they made once their sentence is over. Most states have abolished capital punishment. It is hard to impose such a punishment in states that still do. No states allow beating, or lashing as a sentence.
No officer should ever think that they can or should bifurcate one of the most advanced social legal systems this world has ever seen and determine guilt and inflict punishment prior to a processed charge, to a discovery portion, to a trial, to a sentencing hearing.
An officer should transport and handle individuals as safely, cautiously and comfortable as possible. An officer should transport and handle individuals that commit the same crimes equally based on race. An officer should handcuff and transport the individuals or only issue a citation to all individuals equally and not cite a white person and handcuff and transport an African American despite them committing the same crime.
Law Enforcement agencies need to be more transparent and accountable to the
public on its scrutiny towards its employees.
Transparency can also go a long way. If police agencies were required to make public without a public request all information related to a prior complaints and findings in an investigation of a particular officer, it would force agencies to be less lenient during the investigation phase and on what punishment to impose on an officer. There should be a policy on if a police officer is overly aggressive on handling a civilian the first time they should be a fireable offense. No officer that treats civilians aggressively without justification should last long.
If a county or city has to process a criminal charge of an officer, it should be outsourced to at least two other counties due to a conflict of interest, that do not share the same border and have those counties make a finding on whether or not a charge should be imposed.
The laws of sovereign immunity on law enforcement and aggression toward civilians should have a lower standard. Agencies always hide behind the high protections the laws have toward officers and are almost impenetrable. It is always an uphill battle to prove liability against an officer, even in a civil case. Agencies need to face more legal liability to where their counsel and internal agency will focus on more efforts to abolish the aggression before the world has to spend days protesting its inactions.
If agencies are more accountable and more transparent, they will look at their police force with more scrutiny and weed out bad eggs before a tragedy happens. If police officers are more diverse in their settings and serve their community more without a gun, many officer’s irrational fears will diminish. Its a tougher situation to fix the problem like Civil Rights. Its hard to wash away irrational fears of a police officer. Its something that I could not teach or anyone teach in just a one-hour or even a one-day training session. However, the current atmosphere that is going on right now with officers face-to-face with the people they serve and hearing their grievances and perhaps their stories of past police aggression is probably the best training the U.S. has to offer at this point.