Sunday, June 7, 2009

The importance of a police civilian review board

While serving as a political appointee to the mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah - I was the victim of racial profiling. I will not go into details here, but suffice it to say, apologies were made and I was left with a strong dislike for police officers. That is unfortunate, because I had associates with whom I worked who were police officers. We would meet weekly and bi-weekly in a community action team setting where we had representatives from various agencies work in an interagency collaborative fashion.

As part of this outreach effort, we received training one day. I shall never forget the words of the police officer who led the training. He indicated that most officers think of everyone as being an a#$hole until they prove otherwise. No matter that person's race, they are conditioned to think of others as enemy or a#$holes. I was disturbed on many levels by what I heard, but based on my previous statement, did not feel the need to go again to the Chief of Police and apprise of what I had heard.

I just heard of the case of a Mr. Holloway, a mentally ill man with schizophrenia who was walking the streets of New Jersey recently - he was stopped by police because he was wearing no shirt - he immediately complied with the officers, covering up his torso, and one of the officers proceeded to beat him with fists, and followed up with a beating with his baton. That officer had no idea that he was being recorded. He is now sitting behind a desk.

There is no civilian review board in place and residents are rightfully outraged. Mr. Holloway happens to be black and so the local NAACP chapter is looking into his allegations. He has an attorney and will likely become rich as a result of a massive lawsuit - that is as it should be.

Mayor Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of the finest attorneys I have ever known - he is brilliant in his perception and views of the world - a former ACLU attorney, he was fully cognizant of the imbalance of power that too often occurs with police officers vis-a-vis civilians. There are, after all, a#$holes with guns and badges, let's be honest.

In his amazing foresight, Mayor Anderson insisted that all civilian boards, including the police civilian review board have representation from every council district in the city, including women and minorities in the demographic.

I am amazed, and frankly shocked, now that I live in the greater NYC area, that time and time again, police officers are either gunning down their own in White Plains or Harlem, simply because they are black and off duty, or brutalizing individuals. They have a strong union behind them and all too often, these rogue cops are allowed back on the streets - there is no civilian (independent) review board and this needs to change.

If you are reading this, contact your local elected official and demand that we institute this at all levels of the police department - on a city council, county council and even statewide level. The foxes have been guarding the henhouse for too long now. It is time for them to cease and desist.

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