Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"A Gates Story: Part II"

By now, many of us are probably tired of this story; however, I would be remiss if I didn't use my legal mind to analyze the initial situation. First, there was a call made to 911. Now that the tape has been released, we know that the "two black guys" story was false. Secondly, we have to look at the charge itself, Public Disorderly Conduct. In order for someone to be arrested for Public Disorderly Conduct, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that their actions did the following: affected the public, that the defendant intended to cause a public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly created a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.

In order for a defendant to be found guilty under MA law of this offense, his actions must have been reasonably likely to affect the public, that is, the public meaning a place to which the public or a substantial group has access. Thirdly, A person must act recklessly when he consciously ignores, or is indifferent to, the probable outcome of his actions. In other words, the defendant was reckless if he knew, or must have known, that his actions would create a substantial and unjustifiable risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, but he chose, nevertheless, to run the risk and go ahead with his actions.

Based merely on the definition of "Public" as described in the law, Dr. Gates was not guilty of the alleged crime. Going further into the law, since all other elements hinge on actions being held in "public", he should have not been arrested at his Cambridge home.

Now do I think Officer Crowley is a bigot, No. But do I think he got pissed off that Dr. Gates, or anyone for that matter, had the audacity to question him while performing his duties, Yes! Because of that, he arrested a man that should not have been arrested. The system is set up so that charges, however false in many misdemeanor cases, can be brought by an officer and the defendant has to prove his innocence. Do I also think that Dr. Gates got pissed about being questioned in his home even after he proved who he was, Yes! I would have been pissed too; clearly as stated by the President, cool heads did not prevail.

Officers have to be held accountable; it's part of what keep the system the best in the world. What I don't understand are people who say Crowley can not be a bigot because he taught profiling class and diversity training. Well, that's just an ignorant statement. The history of policing in this country does not lend itself to that conclusion. Officers during the early part of the previous century were sworn to serve and protect their citizens, however, many minorities, specifically Blacks, lost their lives on their watch, and some, by their actual hands. Again, I say I don't think he's a bigot, but teaching diversity or profiling classes doesn't exclude him for the offense of bigotry.

People were also concerned about the black officer coming to the defense of his co-worker/co-union member peer against another black man. What was he suppose to do? Do you honestly think an officer was going to go against another officer regarding actions in the line of duty? If he did, he would have been isolated. Because of his natural obligation to the job, his account and endorsement, whenever given, is bias from inception.

Now that we've gone through the racial implications and everyone is ready to get over it with a can of beer at the White House, let me just say that I'm glad the President had the coconuts to jump into this conversation. That decision was monumental; this is not Washington "as usual". Many stated that he should have left this situation alone because it was a local issue. On the contrary, for the first African American President, a case that so divided the country along racial lines was, and is not a local issue. It's a national issue. This had the potential to rip his base in half, and malign, to use his word, the efforts made in such a historic election. We all have to remain sensitive to racial issues, but race does not have to dominant all discussions and differences of opinion between African Americans and Anglo Americans.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stepping on the "Souls of Black Folk": A Gates Story

I'm so overwhelmed when it comes to this incident that I don't know where to begin. Dr. Gates has lived only hours of the many years that so many African Americans, specifically African American men, have lived. I've been a Jurist for 5.5 years and I can tell you from experience that it's very upsetting to see what happens to the poor, disenfranchised litigant.

Honesty speaking, I was appalled but not shocked when I got the email, the phone call, and the text concerning Dr. Gates. I too have been profiled and mistreated by police. As a young professional representative for the former Daimler Chrysler in PA, I was pulled over and held for twenty minutes roadside by a PA highway patrol for no apparent reason. I had recently left the Philadelphia airport and was headed to my office in Malvern up 426 when I was stopped. After checking my credentials, the trooper said have a nice day. I then said "excuse me officer, but why was I stopped?" He then said very sternly this time, "I said have a nice day", and went back to his car without addressing my question. Thirty minutes passed and I received a phone call from my new office. They were concerned that I may get stopped because they had neglected to change the tag on my new corporate vehicle and the manufacturing tag currently displayed was expired!

It's a funny thing though, the trooper never mentioned my expired tag; he was too concerned with the young Black man driving the new "decked out" Chrysler 300M with manufacturer's plates to be bothered with me actually breaking the law. My crime was "Driving While Black"; for so many of us, our crime is simply living while "black".

My second incident happened in Chester, PA. I was finishing up a tutoring session with some inner-city kids and upon dropping them off home I was stopped by policemen. I had pulled in front of the young man's home for him to get off safely, and while waiting for him to reach his front door, the officers informed me to move it. I pulled off immediately, but noticed that the officers were following me. Three blocks down, they pulled beside me, two older black cops, and asked me who was the owner of my car. I replied with "who's driving it". That was the wrong thing to say. They ordered my to the shoulder of the road and pulled next to me downed their windows and started to ask me all types of questions. Finally, the officer driving got out of the vehicle to check my license and registration. Upon reviewing my credentials, he turned to his partner and stated "oh, we got us a college boy!" He went on to comment about my Brooks Brothers suit jacket hanging in the rear of my vehicle. When the ordeal was done, I was left with a standing/stopping in the road violation and a fine of $95.00. This did not sit well with me, so I went to court.

On the court date, I appeared before a very strict "Black" judge who treated me like I was a thug and the officers could have done no wrong. I informed the judge that the stop was not valid because my initial stop was were I was stopped/standing in the road; however, the charge didn't actually happen until I was stopped for the second time. How could I be charged for an infraction that wasn't charged during the first stop initiated by the officers? Short of telling me to shut up, the judge instructed me to be quiet. He then went on to say that I had admitted to being in the road and that I was guilty. Luckily for me, I had met the Chester Police Commissioner's daughter at a party and through her, I was able to speak with the commissioner about the incident. He apologized and informed me that I was in a bad area known for drug activity, and that I fit the description: young, black, and driving a fancy car (that damn 300M). He also informed me not to worry. I digress, the judge ripped me a new one and ended by saying that if I broke any more laws it didn't matter who I knew, I would be fine and assessed appropriately. Then he found me not guilty.

I knew, based on his last comment that the Commissioner must have called him to discuss my case. But what would have happened if I didn't know Nicole, and she didn't connect me with her father? People, officers lie, officers manipulate, and officers hold back information to get their desired outcome. Not all officers are power hungry. The majority of them do a wonderful job, but the few that have their own agenda, or egos to stroke, can bring hell on earth to citizens, as in the case of our beloved Dr. Gates.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Is Anybody Listening?

Lately, I've been feeling like I'm not doing enough in life. And I'm wondering if I'm alone. My mind has been bombarded with so many negative news events that I believe there has to be a natural tipping point that occurs which would balance the current world climate. Okay, I know that's a little broad, so let me bring it in closer.

I believe I, we, need to be doing more to help our community. The Black Community, and the community at large, needs the attention that it has gone without for so long. We all have an obligation to reach back and assist those who are struggling, and lagging behind the eight ball of progress. Most importantly, we all have an obligation to contribute to the cause. That contribution may be monetary, or it can be with our time. Historically, we were there. We were at a point where community mattered and we took responsibility for ourselves as well as our friends and neighbors.

One of my main goals is to put a new face on Minority Fatherhood; it is my hope that through my efforts, we can begin to change the picture of black fatherhood often associated with "dead beat dads" and replace it with one of dignity and honor. That's just one of the many issues I would like to tackle. As a think about all I want to do, I decided to ask myself whether or not I had usefully applied my passion when it came to my own family and extended family. I concluded that I had given it a go when it came to my family; however, my family was resistant to my efforts and I finally decided to move onto to others who wanted better in life, and who were more appreciative of my efforts to assist.

So if anybody is listening, understand, we must implore those around us to listen to sources of positive information that will assist them in reaching their personal goals. They must listen to different ways to reach their goals and possess an attitude that will conspire with the universe to pull them into their abundance. As messengers, we also have to be guarded and not allow ourselves to be pulled into the abyss of apathy and despair. As messengers, we must be mindful to make sure our message is going out into fertile minds; minds ready for tilling so that fruit from their new found knowledge can not just grow, but flourish. Hotep!!!