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At President Task Force Hearing, Police Officials Say The Problem Isn’t Them, It’s Us

Johnson and Nutter

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, left, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter

During the eight-hour opening session of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing on Tuesday, it became clear why America will have a difficult time getting any reforms in the way police officers conduct themselves in Black communities across the country: Because police leaders don’t believe there’s anything wrong with the way they conduct themselves, believing it’s others who need to change.

The police leaders who spoke to the panel blamed the problems on budget cuts, political correctness and the unintended consequences of laws passed to make law enforcement more effective, according to an account on Buzzfeed. As for charges of racism in police forces, leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police and International Association of Chiefs of Police didn’t want to hear any of that.

Chuck Canterbury, FOP president, said police should face the same scrutiny as everyone else when it comes to fixing community relations.

“We all have the same responsibility towards society. I don’t think a police officer should be held to any kind of a higher standard,” he said in response to questions from task force members. “But we should take the lead and we should work with the communities to help build that trust.”

Canterbury said there’s a “subculture” in the country that “celebrates…resorting to violence and disrespect to police.” He implicated the media, saying it has given a “shoulder shrug” to violence like the riots in Ferguson. He said police are “wary” of some interactions in the wake of the Brooklyn shooting of two police officers, which is why he’s pushing for violence against police to be included in hate crimes statutes.

“One of the worst things in a police department is you don’t ever want to be accused of arresting somebody because of their race, which is an accusation that occurs a lot,” he said.

Richard Beary, president of the IACP, told the panel that “current smear campaigns aimed at law enforcement” had made policing dangerous in the current environment, comparing their treatment to that of “Vietnam vets coming home in the 1970s.”

Activists on the panel like Connie Rice, a task-force member and civil rights attorney from Los Angeles who helped lead LAPD community relations efforts in 2003, didn’t seem to appreciate the tone and aggressive stance of the officers.

“Three of you sounded extremely combative,” she said.

During the eight hours, the panel also heard from academics, civil liberties advocates, and protest leaders who took the police to task for their training, tactics and even the language they use when dealing with suspects. Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus from the University of Nebraska, said bad language leads to a culture of invincibility among cops and anger among citizens who view the police as disrespectful.

Andrew Peralta, a police lieutenant with the Las Vegas police department who also serves as president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association, differed from the other police officials and agreed with the academics and activists calling for new training regimens and community outreach programs to bring police and communities together.

Both police officials and activists agreed on the need for body cameras. Activists called for improvements in the collection of data, which led Roberto Villasenor, chief of police in Tucson, Arizona, and a task force member, to say he was “floored” by holes in police use of force data.

The White House policing panel, co-chaired by former Obama Department Of Justice Office Of Justice Programs director Laurie Robinson and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, has until March 2 to listen to the public in four more hearings and then present to Obama a series of viable, tangible recommendations for improving police-community relation. 

After his testimony, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told Buzzfeed that tensions among rank-and-file officers and activists are high, but he said there are some national solutions to be found.

“It’s clearly possible to recommend a change. Change is not going to happen in 90 days,” Nutter said. “I think the president was smart, given the situation in the country right now, to not have a six-month, a nine-month a year-long process. Because that’s just more frustration. Look, we know what a lot of these issues are all about. This is nowhere near rocket science. This is not even science. It’s just common sense. So we know what the [issues] are. Put it together, get it out there, let the public know that we’re really serious about it.”

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7 thoughts on “At President Task Force Hearing, Police Officials Say The Problem Isn’t Them, It’s Us

  1. I going to poke my head out of the safety of my anonymity and state an extremely unpopular testimony. In all of my six decades plus in America, I have had my share of run-ins with the police, as my life (as one of Langton Hughes poems says) was no crystal stair.

    When I was a young man, I was indeed choked or put in a so-called choke hold, by one cop and pushed into a holding cell. Later, after sobering up a bit, I complained about it. However every man in the holding cell told me that I was wrong and deserved the treatment. They said I was defiant and disrespectful after the cop gave me a lot of time and chances to obey his order to go on my own into the cell.

    If I had no been drunk it never would had happen. I had been arrested a half dozen other times without being roughed up. I have been stopped in traffic at least 40 times and never been roughed up or disrespected but still arrest when I had warrants or other violations.. Today is so different. No matter how bad and out of order the suspect is the cops are always wrong if a physical altercation occurs.

    From my experience in jails and prison, I seldom, if ever saw the police or correction officer initiate a confrontation. It only happened, in my presence, when an inmate was totally out of order. Of course, I have read and heard about rotten cops and know they exist but most of the time the suspects are the cause of the escalation of violence.

    Now I ready for the attacks. Bring it on!

  2. Shaneva Matthews says:

    You are ready for attacks because you know what you are saying isn't true for the most part all police aren't bad but they are plenty who are. Please don't think I'm on that"the man" thing but we as a whole aren't
    treated with the same courtesy as our non black and Hispanic counterparts. And being in your sixties you can't tell me every negative encounter you havehave had with police officers has been your fault you have to be either a complete fool or have completely blinded yourself. Let me also say that it's not just the police's fault it is ours in a way but the same behavior in one party of town will not get you beat senseless and on the other side off town it gets you a harsh talking to. So please don't forget who you are because this is part of the reason it's so bad for us it's those like yourself that says it was my fault not the way it was handled then our would be so bad,if I can't depend on you to be real about it who can I depend on"brother"?

  3. Shaneva Matthews I had been to jail a few times as a suspect when I was totally innocent. Usually there is a 72 hour hold on suspects. The cops have to book them by then or let them go. However, by today standards and todays thinking that was probably all because I was black. But the truths, I have done time with hundreds of white guys and Mexican guys in jail. We all were treated the same until we acted up. White guys were also there as suspects, some innocent, some guilty. I hope that goes against everything you heard and believe in but if you can't listen to a man who was there then I guess all you have is the newspapers and community activist.

    One of the problem with trying to talk to some people, not you particularly, but in general, is they many people are too quick to insult another's intelligence or character if they have different view point or experience. For instance: You suggest in your own words (you have to be either a complete fool or have completely blinded yourself).

    Then for me sharing my actual experience you say: ( So please don't forget who you are because this is part of the reason it's so bad for us it's those like yourself that says it was my fault not the way ). You close by saying: (if I can't depend on you to be real about it who can I depend on"brother"?). The problem that I was real but I know how to gain support and get AMEN from certain people. Therefore for your sake I will recant my true experience to keep it real.

    When I was a young man the white police would follow me and curse me every time I left the house. Sometimes they would drag me into a police car then whip me with their batons and call me nigger. Today I walk around with 3 bullet holes in me because the white police used me for target practice as I sat on my front porch. I hate the police. They hate me. They always pamper white boys and whip black boys. That my new revived story.

    Now can we be friends, sister?

  4. Shaneva Matthews I reread your reply and thought I would point out to you that when you reply to a post or have a rebuttal to a statement, please try to state on point. Don't address or defend issues that were not part of the original statement.

    All of your argument was not a responsible response to anything I said.

    For instance: You replied in your first line.

    (A) (what you are saying isn't true).
    (1) How can my personal experience not be true?

    (B) Then you said in your second sentence (for the most part all police aren't bad).
    (2) That's what I was implying; therefore, you should have said, I agree with you instead of say (what you are saying is not true.

    (C) Then you said in your next line: (we as a whole aren't.
    treated with the same courtesy as our non black and Hispanic counterparts.)

    (3) I never made reference to how others were or were not treated. Therefore you wasn't giving a response to my statement. You were merely ranting on your on.

    (D) Then you said in your next line: (And being in your sixties you can't tell me every negative encounter you have have had with police officers has been your fault).

    (4) At no time did I said that every negative encounter I had with the police was my fault. I only spoke of one negative encounter where I got choked. And that was my fault. Several other black images witnessed it and told me so. Of course that was back in the day when men were expected to take responsibility for the actions.

    (E) Then you got insulted based on your own imagination but nothing I actually said:
    (5) (you have to be either a complete fool or have completely blinded yourself.)

    (F) Then you stated addressing what goes on in another part of town, which did not address anything I said.
    (6) Let me also say that it's not just the police's fault it is ours in a way but the same behavior in one party of town will not get you beat senseless and on the other side off town it gets you a harsh talking to.)

    I didn't have anything about that. I was talking about me and my experience. However, you might take note that there are mature and intelligent crooks like me even as a teenager. But there are also foolish crooks who don't know how to maneuver their way around an arrest without getting beat down.

    (G) Then you have the nerve to say: it's so bad for us it's those like yourself that says it was my fault.
    (7) I only spoke of one incident that was my fault that I got choked. What's wrong with admitting when you're wrong? I didn't say the cops even hurt me but used necessary force to put my defiant ass in the cell.

    (H) Then you ended your rant with: if I can't depend on you to be real about it who can I depend on"brother"?
    (8) Please reread my post. You will realize that you didn't address a darn thing I said. If I told you and the world of my personal experience and of the years and decades I spent in and out on jails and in contact with law enforcement and the cops…how can you say I'm not real.

    YOU ARE TYPICAL OF THE AVERAGE BLACK PERSON IN SOCIETY TODAY. You're too quick to attack without even thinking. You didn't address my post at all. You just wanted to rant based on what you read and saw on TV and online. Listen mentally young, very mentally young person take a deep breath and count to 5,000 before you respond to anything else.

  5. Richard O Jones Respectfully, what does YOUR personal experience have to do with the standard police officers SHOULD be held to in THIS day and age? It's commendable that you would share this information, but it's kinda skewed when we actually SEE police tactics and behavior on a daily basis that DON'T fit the narrative you're laying out there. There are a good number of cops that go to work everyday and do their jobs the RIGHT way…There are ALSO a good number of cops that have absolutely no business wearing a badge, much less being asked to serve the public trust…I'm not attacking you, Mr. Jones; I just fail to see the logic behind using your personal experience as some sort of general equivalency as to how the general state of policing (and building community trust) is somehow above scrutiny.

    I'm sorry, but it's on law enforcement to build those lines of communication with the communities they serve, regardless of how officers might 'view' the people in those communities. It's kinda hard to do that when you HAVE stuff like 'stop & frisk', or you witness some person that's 145 pounds soaking wet being cuffed and slammed to the pavement so hard that her skull fractures.

    Those type of encounters have nothing to do with your personal experiences with law enforcement; They have EVERYTHING to do with the inability of law enforcement (or the legal system they support) to police their own when we actually SEE stuff like this occurring daily.

  6. Shaneva Matthews says:

    There was no attack but the fact that you felt there was shows you intent. The comments were not only in response to you but to the article. There are always those like you who want the negative, this is what your plann only to try anddemean someone, I know your kind and you yourself know who you are. You want to to teach English 101 get a tenure this is not the place. However if this was an English class paper you would have some valid points but it isn't and the only attack came from you. So this ends now enjoy being the voice of the police dept while your brothers and sisters are being murdered, I should not leave called us your brothers and sisters because you obviously don't yourself in the same light that these type of police see you in. I hope you don't fall victim an attack of this nature but if you do as your being chocked out you feel that he is justified in ending your life. Because I believe even your life matters.

  7. You don't sound like you're familiar with any statistics of the subject of blacks being killed by police. You seem to only know about the widely publicized cases that certain groups like to run with.

    Although you don't seem to let facts get in the way of your opinion, if you don't mind doing a little research, it might help your position before you rant off next time. Below is a list of all the reported [police killings in the United States for the last several years. Many of them are black, I guess, but it seems like many are also white and spanish. Although the races are not listed, you can tell the Spanish and Asians but have to guess on the white and black. But since the dates and name of the shooting victim and the city and state is there, it is easy to look up.

    Copy the link below and put it in your browser. Or type in "List of killings by law enforcement officers in the United States".

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