OK, this is a long response, and it’s more for general thoughts based on what I know is the standard crime & justice conservative argument. I’m seeking a third way past the variables of “left” and “right,” and to only what is evidence based.
Language & Persuasion
I might avoid the word “thug” if I were you Louis Weeks, but that’s me. There is racism out there, and within police departments for sure (just like anywhere else). But no, Michael Brown was not saint, and Black Lives Matter made a mistake hanging their movement on the Ferguson incident. Many of the facts you stated are true — nothing popped out at me. (And didn’t know or forgot that forensics prove Michael Brown was charging the officer; I had read the forensics proved he attempted to take the officer’s weapon.)
(Should I just make this a new post? I wonder.)
But most importantly, Black Lives Matter has no evidence of systemic racism in lethal force (or regular force) to bolster their argument either. They just have anecdote. And every year, there’s someone of the other 75% other people killed by police (750 total) that could have an “anecdote” to get written about for weeks on end.
Also, there’s no evidence that the 500 white people killed by police get “justice” more than blacks when it’s also true that anywhere from 1–5% of police are reprimanded for the rare “unjustified” shooting. All the police trials I’m hearing about involve African Americans; but someone needs to do an analysis.
And for all that talk of jailing black folks unjustly? I just follow the data:
One study shows blacks got 0% longer sentences than whites & are treated fairly by the system:
“The survey was based on a sample of 10,226 defendants representing 42,538 defendants in the Nation’s 75 largest counties. Survey findings revealed blacks were convicted of more serious offenses than whites, had longer criminal records, and were convicted in places that generally meted out more prison sentences. These differences explained why 51 percent of convicted blacks but only 38 percent of convicted whites were sent to prison. The survey provided no evidence that, in places where blacks had most of their contacts with the criminal justice system, the system treated them more harshly than whites.”
SOURCE (“No Racism in the Justice System,” The Public Interest, 1994): https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=174599
Two studies where blacks are given between 5–10% longer sentences:
The Bureau of Justice in October 2015 reported: “In the 8-year period between 2005 and 2012, black men received roughly 5% to 10% longer prison sentences than white men for similar crimes, after accounting for the facts surrounding the case.”
SOURCE (Bureau of Justice Statistics: Federal Sentencing Disparity, 2005–2012): https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fsd0512_sum.pdf
A University of Michigan Law School study in 2014 showing 10% longer sentences for blacks compared to whites at the federal level is the main citation in the Wikipedia page titled “Race and crime in the United States.” The study states clearly in the first paragraph: “Across the distribution, blacks receive sentences that are almost 10% longer than those of comparable whites arrested for the same crimes. Most of this disparity can be explained by prosecutors’ initial charging decisions, particularly the filing of charges carrying mandatory minimum sentences.”
SOURCE (University of Michigan Law School: Racial Disparity in Federal Criminal Sentences, 2014): http://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2413&context=articles
Solutions in Dealing with Crime & Criminal Justice Reform I’m Down With (w/ Qualifiers)
I have some solutions, and many I lifted from my Medium post calling for solutions as killings piled up in 2016 and continued on through 2017:
- Increased education spending prevents crime and saves money. Period. But that’s long-term, but should start immediately.
- Increase investment in the city for public safety. For example, one could expand on the template set forth by Mayor Emanuel in returning $14.7 million in unspent tax rebate funds for “critical safety programs” (after school programs, body cameras on police, park infrastructure, etc.)
- Increase spending on youth summer jobs programs.
- Assist in hiring more, better trained police — perhaps increasing the speed in the processing of 1000 promised cop hires by Mayor Emanuel. Instead of spending on the National Guard, spend the money on community policing. Indeed, communities of color want more police, not less: The Minority Rights and Relations Gallup survey conducted in July 2016 showed more blacks (38%) say they want a greater police presence in their local communities than do whites (18%) or Americans more broadly (23%).
And here are some new ones I’m thinking about tonight lately:
- Bail reform. Allow easier bail for low-level offenders who can’t afford it. If the Weinsteins and Manaforts of the world can be let out before their trials, so can a low-level non-violent person in possession of drugs, or possibly even a weapons charge. (I loathe guns; I do understand the logic of self-protection on the street. I do respect and encourage law enforcement to clear guns off the street, like the 5000 they already got off so far this year.) There was a show-down in March between Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle when Dart said he may not let some folks out early with gun weapons charges. He said it was a safety hazard. Reformers said he was wrong, and some threw out the “racism” charge. The Chicago Reporter pointed out: “Dart’s own figures showed that 10 percent of people with ‘unlawful use of weapons’ charges (generally, gun possession) were held with no bond.” So that means 9 in 10 had the possibility of being let out? Either way, I think the general case should be: Figure out all the ways you can ensure people are held accountable to justice, but you don’t need to keep people wasting away in jails if unnecessary.
- More lenient sentencing. But it has to be evidence-based. Why not make 10-year sentences 8 years? Just as we did with fair sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine during the Obama era, it makes sense in certain areas. I don’t see it as an easy fix. California is affected from some reforms, such as the fact it’s a misdemeanor if you steal anything under $950. Or do drugs openly. One 30-year-old California man who has had 16 drug and theft arrests, and bragged about it in the LA Times: “Now, you can get away with it because of Proposition 47.” Research says California hasn’t seen a crime hike, but anecdotally in San Francisco, it’s a different story with horrified tourist and recently a $10 million convention cancelled due to safety concerns. See my “War in Drugs” section in my SOURCES. Spoiler: 1 in 5 people go to prison for drugs and nearly 50% of prison sentences are for violence. Less than 5% of people in prison are considered “unambiguously low-level” drug offenders.
- Prosecutors are a big reason for sentencing. 95% of cases don’t go to trial. But was it 90% in 1970? I have no idea. Comedian John Oliver recently did show on prosecutors and the power they wield. Heavy on emotion and some evidence, but I’d love to see some data such as, “Are prosecutors actually doing plea deals more than the past?” And also: “We know some over-zealous prosecutions happen, but are we really locking up the wrong people for too long? Is it getting worse or better?” I remain somewhat skeptical on many criticisms, which don’t tend to set a standard for improvement, but just say, “It’s bad.” Kind of reminds me of the consent decree and DOJ Report on Chicago.
But if you want to know what I really think? We may bring down prison populations 10–20%. We’ll still have around 25% of the world’s prison population, and the social justice crowd likes to shock people by saying. They never can answer: Who exactly shouldn’t be in jail? (If they beat the hell out of your sister, and have a history of violence, maybe they’d feel differently.)
Bring Back CeaseFire?
I wrote this as part of my 2017 call-out to fix our violence problems: “Consider bringing back CeaseFire, a.k.a. “violence interrupters,” which were spotlighted in a 2012 documentary directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame.” Basically: The community doesn’t want to deal with police, very often. The “violence interrupters” come in and settle violent disagreements before retaliation runs its course.
I also wrote the following about them:
If it expands in Chicago again, CeaseFire should be monitored closely, based on past financial accountability problems and accusations that hired former gang members told residents not to cooperate with law enforcement. This is a major problem driving crime, which I’ll get to shortly, though CeaseFire claims that annual funding at pie-in-the-sky $25–30 million levels would bring down homicides from nearly 800 to down to 160, the national average. Despite CeaseFire’s own assessments that shootings dropped 38% in two high-crime neighborhoods they operated, the program had a few issues, including the Illinois director being arrested and charged with domestic violence. State funding withered recently under Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Also, the City of Chicago opted not to renew their $1 million contract in 2013.
Yes, they should be monitored closely. I’m not an expert, but from every indicator, the man who used to lead CeaseFire, Tio Hardiman, has some self-delusion problems. He ran for governor of Illinois. He has that aforementioned domestic abuse arrest.
And he thought it was good to ride on others’ coattails for personal fame.
After the headline grabbing July interstate anti-violence protest — with Father Michael Pfleger joining with Police Superintendent on a Sunday walk up the Dan Ryan free way— two other pastors thought they’d make their own ruckus. Writing this I found out one of the organizers of a Lakeshore Drive protest was indeed Tio Hardiman, the same man from CeaseFire. The week after the rather small march he split with his co-organizers.
The split is an epic read, and shows how my dysfunction is behind some of these protest movements. I personally myself heard from a black male (who happens to have a criminal background, but a solid guy) who shook his head when the Lakeshore Drive protest came up and said to me, “These guys are just self-promoters. I don’t think much of it.” Here are some excerpts:
Hardiman, who has run for governor twice, said Livingston’s plan to shut down the Kennedy is “ludicrous” and would result in protester arrests. He refuses, he said, to allow marchers to participate in tactics that could prompt “aggressive force by law enforcement authorities.”
“He hijacked my movement,” Hardiman said of the Lake Shore Drive protest. “Everybody out there knew that was my idea — except for him.”
“You are dead wrong pastor,” Hardiman said. “I do not play with people like this.”
“God made something great happen last week however you’ve made it unmistakably clear to me that two generals cannot be on the field at the same time,” Livingston replied. “Godspeed.”
Excerpt from my 2014 Google Doc on my First Essay on Police Violence (Post-Ferguson Decision not to Indict the Police Officer)
My position: We need to better train and monitor those who are supposed to uphold the law. We need to change laws so there’s citizen oversight, and give resources for that to happen. We need to tax the rich at a higher rate, and find ways to rehabilitate criminals AND uphold the laws. We need better schools, and jobs bills, so youth can feel there is a rung-up that doesn’t involve gangs. We need to put away white collar criminals, and not arrest people for pot possession, which can start a downward spiral.
Before Chicago decriminalized marijuana possession, the numbers were atrocious (and still are) in their unequal level of enforcement: “ In 2009 and 2010, 4,255 people pleaded or were found guilty of low-level marijuana possession after being arrested in Chicago: 89 percent were black, 9 percent were Hispanic, and 2 percent were white. And for those arrested: 78 percent were black, 17 percent were Hispanic, and 5 percent were white.”
And we won’t even get into the War on Drugs, but here are the numbers on the U.S. Prison Population As Of Jan. 25, 2014. 50% of the population is there for drug-related crimes [update, really, this is closer to 20%, as I’ve written a few times in my research since this Nov 2014 post.]:
Funny, how even I got this “50% of the population” is in jail for drugs fact wrong. Continually, this is what people thinks, and I believe it plays a big part people feeling moral fervor to reform the criminal justice system. We can. But I really, truly believe it will only remove a handful from prison until PEOPLE and SOCIETY actually changes.
As for lethal force, it hasn’t gone down since Ferguson. This is despite numerous reports of police “pulling back” or “going fetal” and are “afraid to do their job.” Well, enough of them in this climate feel they needed to use lethal force, and the laws (as they stand) will give the benefit of the doubt to police. People can agree or disagree on that point — but I sense many who disagree don’t have much empathy for police officers or what they exactly have to face. But this is worth noting:
- The rate of police killings per million for African Americans has fallen by 70 percent over the last four decades but the rate remains as high or higher for whites, Latinos and Asians.
As for Criminal Justice & The Family…
As for that part about culture and the black community, it’s an old argument, and one that I think should be on the table. People within communities need to talk about more than those outside. Rahm Emanual, the white Jewish mayor of Chicago, got accused of “victim-shaming” for showing strong leadership and talking about the lack of mentors and moral values. Few voices would later acknowledge he was “preaching” the correct words, such as when African American Sun Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote the following:
Now that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has shaken the dust from his feet, scores of aspirants are lining up to grab the mantle of leadership.
For you non-Bible scholars, to “shake the dust from one’s feet” is a scriptural teaching advising disciples that after they had preached the gospel and it was rejected, they could walk away with a clear conscience.
When Emanuel pointed out that “moral values” play a role in reducing violence, black leaders rejected his message, but he did his part.
Unfortunately, fearing a similar backlash, other mayoral candidates aren’t likely to take up this cause. But families impacted by the violence are crying out for help.
Black “conservatives” themselves talk about this, and many receive a great deal of pushback, including regularly being called an “Uncle Tom” — even in Will Smith’s rap lyrics! There’s a clear problem with decision-making — both personally and within a cultural context — when 70–75% of black children are born into single-parent households, and I find the argument the “criminal justice system” took my dad away ridiculous because it’s not like they did it in the 9 months of pregnancy.
So I’ll leave it to Denzel Washington, who of course got blowback for saying what so many others know is self-evident and obvious. As told told The Grio.
“It starts in the home. If the father is not in the home, the boy will find a father in the streets. I saw it in my generation and every generation before me, and every one since. If the streets raise you, then the judge becomes your mother and prison becomes your home.
I’ll point this out that he said this on his movie promoting a social justice movie Roman J. Israel, Esq. critiquing the system of incarceration, so this quote is rather ironic. In it, he plays a revolutionary lawyer on the autism spectrum (more Gil Scott Heron than his old role which I saw and loved as a college freshman, Malcom X). I only saw half, and I need to finish it sometime. I had mixed feelings, obviously. But Washington was spot-on in his promotional interviews.