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“When The Police Are Called To A Governor’s Hotel Room…”: Your Audition For National Office Is Off To An Awkward Start

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) was already confronted with an unwelcome controversy. A month ago, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the FBI has spent “several months” talking to Republican officials in the state about Martinez’s campaign fundraising activities. Though the Republican governor has insisted the allegations are without merit, Martinez conceded she’d already spoken to the FBI about one of her top advisors.

And now, the governor has a new political headache to deal with. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Friday:

[Martinez] found herself attracting a different sort of national attention Friday after the release of a recording in which she told law enforcement dispatchers that police should not investigate disturbance complaints against her group at a Santa Fe hotel.

Martinez’s recorded dealings with police, dispatchers and hotel employees made her a wide target for criticism Friday. Her detractors and political enemies accused her of trying to bully other government employees to thwart an investigation.

As gubernatorial controversies go, this is an odd one. The governor recently held a holiday party for her staff at a hotel, but someone called the police about disturbances from Martinez’s room, where someone was allegedly throwing bottles from a balcony.

Audio recordings were released Friday that showed Martinez demanding hotel staff tell her who made the noise complaint and trying to discourage the police from following up.

By Friday night, the governor issued a statement expressing regret.  ”I want to apologize for the conduct of my staff the night of our holiday party,” Martinez wrote. “There was apparently a party in a hotel room earlier in the night that was disruptive. Someone was also throwing snowballs from a balcony. None of that should have happened and I was not aware of the extent of the behavior, until recently. And that behavior is not acceptable.

“I also want to admit that I made a mistake when I went to speak to the receptionist and asked her about the complaint. I should not have gotten involved in trying to resolve the situation, nor should I have spoken to the dispatcher on the phone. I was wrong to speak with them like that, and I apologize.”

In the larger context, it’s worth noting that Martinez is not just another GOP governor. The New Mexican recently became the chair of the Republican Governors Association, and as we discussed a month ago, she’s also frequently mentioned as a possible VP candidate for her party in 2016. When Marco Rubio was asked about possible running mates, he specifically mentioned Martinez by name six weeks ago.

But at this point, I think it’s safe to say her audition for national office is off to an awkward start.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 21, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Republican Governors Association, Susana Martinez | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Reality Of Implicit Race Bias Is Well-Documented”: Overcoming Implicit Prejudice And The Heightened Perception Of Threat It Brings

I once read a question that went as follows:

Two groups of young men are walking on opposite sides of the street. One group is black, the other, white. Both are loud and swaggering, both have baseball caps turned to the back, both are brandishing bats.

Which one is the baseball team and which one, the street gang?

The truth is, many of us — maybe most of us — would decide based on race, giving benefit of the doubt to the white group, leaping to the harshest conclusion with the black one. Some will resist that notion, but the reality of implicit bias has been exhaustively documented.

Dr. Angela Bahns, an assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College who describes herself as a “prejudice researcher,” wanted to push the question further. Earlier this year she published a study testing what she says is the prevailing theory: Prejudice arises from threat, i.e., you perceive those other people over there as dangerous and that’s what makes you biased against them.

“My research,” she said in a recent interview, “tests whether the opposite is true, whether prejudice can precede and cause threat perception.” In other words, is it actually pre-existing bias that causes us to feel threatened? It’s a question with profound implications in a nation grappling with what has come to seem an endless cycle of police brutality against unarmed African-American men, women and children.

Reliably as the tides, people tell us race played no role in the choking of the man, the arrest of the woman, the shooting of the boy. But Bahns’ research tells a different story. She conditioned test subjects to feel negatively toward countries about which they’d previously had neutral feelings, including Guyana, Mauritania, Surinam and Eritrea. “And I found,” she said, “that when groups were associated with negative emotion, they came to be perceived as more threatening in the absence of any information about what the people are like objectively.”

This column, by the way, is for a woman named Tracy from Austin who wrote earlier this year to ask “What can I do?” to fight police brutality against African-American people. I promised her I would seek answers. Well, Bahns’ research suggests that one answer might be to encourage police departments to incorporate bias training in their regimens.

According to Bahns, this training can help people overcome implicit prejudice and the heightened perception of threat it brings, but there is an important caveat: They have to be motivated and willing and have to leave their defensiveness at the door. “Before any change can happen, the first step … is that the perceivers — in this case, the white perceivers, or police officers — have to be open to admitting that they might be influenced by bias. I think we’re not getting anywhere when there’s this defensive reaction. … We’re all prejudiced and until we admit that, we’re not going to get anywhere in terms of reducing its effects.”

Not that people’s defensiveness is difficult to understand. “Everyone’s motivated to see themselves in a positive light,” said Bahns. “..People that genuinely hold egalitarian values and desperately do not want to be prejudiced are very motivated not to see bias in themselves.”

The thing is, we cannot wait passively for their conundrum to resolve itself. Some of us are dying because of this inability to tell the ball club from the street gang. And frankly, if people really do hold egalitarian values and desperately don’t want to be prejudiced, those deaths should push them past defensiveness and on to reflection.

As Bahns put it, the idea “that threat causes prejudice assumes that something about them — the out group — makes them threatening rather than assuming there’s something about us that makes us see them that way.”


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 4, 2015

November 6, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Police Brutality, Prejudice, Racial Profiling | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Killer Cops Walk Free”: It’s Time To Try To Rebuild The Trust Between Police And The Communities They’re Sworn To Protect

When I was a white, I viewed the police as a friend.  But now that I’m a minority, my view has changed.

I know that to many I still look like a white guy. However, since I’m of Arab heritage and Muslim, I morphed into a minority in the post-9/11 world. After all, white people aren’t racially profiled nor called to answer for the worst of their community. Only minorities are. Thus, I’m a minority, and I view the police through that prism.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t consider the police an enemy. I just no longer give them the benefit of the doubt. When I hear their version of the facts, I now require corroborating evidence. And I can just as easily believe the version of events proffered by a defendant or other witnesses.

Being a minority, I have also become much more sensitive to the fact that the police can kill you without good reason. And while exact numbers are hard to come by, recent estimates are that the police have killed about 400 people per year over the last decade.  Our police kill more people each year than those killed by gun violence in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.

I would predict that few have issues with the police shooting dangerous criminals who are truly threatening them or the public at large.  Regardless if we are white or a minority, we want the police to protect us. In fact, we pay them to do just that.

But the problem arises when we see the police kill a person in circumstances that shock our conscience. In these instances, our sense of right and wrong demands that the police officer be held criminally responsible for his actions.

However, this happens very infrequently. Why? In large part, this is due to a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held a police officer can legally use deadly force if the officer has an “objectively reasonable fear” that someone will be killed or suffer serious bodily injury. This ruling, by design, insulates police officers from criminal liability because of the unique, life-threatening challenges of being in law enforcement.

In fact, many legal experts believe that Darren Wilson, the police officer who reportedly shot Michael Brown, will not be convicted of a crime. Indeed, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon acknowledged that Wilson might not even be charged with one.

The Brown case would be far from the most outrageous incident involving a police officer not being criminally charged for killing an unarmed person. In 2012, for example, Brian Claunch, a wheelchair-bound double amputee living in a group home in Houston, became unruly. After the cops arrived, Claunch, who had a history of mental illness, verbally threatened them from his wheelchair and waved a shiny object—a ballpoint pen. After Claunch refused to drop the pen, one of the officers shot him in the head, killing him.

Is it shocking the officer wasn’t charged? Yes. Unexpected? No. As The Texas Observer noted, between 2007 and 2012, Houston police officers shot and killed 109 people and injured another 111. How many of these shootings were deemed unjustified? Zero.

Claunch was white. I mention his race only because white people should, too, be concerned with being shot by law enforcement. In fact, the police have killed more whites than black people in recent years. But those numbers don’t paint the full picture. On a percentage basis, blacks are being shot and killed by the police in much higher numbers.

For example, as Mother Jones noted, between 2004 and 2008, Oakland police officers shot 37 people. How many were black? All of them. And even though in 40 percent of the cases the suspect was unarmed, not one police officer was charged with a crime. And Oakland is not unique here—similar numbers can be found in other big cities.

Consequently, few will be surprised that a recent poll found blacks and whites view the police differently. While 56 percent of whites had a great deal of confidence in the police, only 37 percent of blacks felt the same way.

Still, Americans overall are apparently viewing the police in more negative terms. A 2009 Gallup poll found that 63 percent of Americans viewed the police as honest and ethical. (The peak being 68 percent in 2001 shortly after 9/11.)  But a Gallup poll conducted at the end of 2013 found that number has now fallen to 54 percent, the lowest number since the 1990s.

What may be legal might not always be right.  While the police may walk away scot-free, we still remember what they did. And I would predict that if we see more cases like Michael Brown or Eric Garner—the unarmed man killed in July after NYPD officers placed him in an illegal chokehold—the more negatively the police will be viewed by everyone going forward.

This poses a very real policing problem. Police officials will tell you that one of the most important components in combatting crime is building relationships within the community they are policing. How can the police do that if the community views them as dishonest, or even dangerous?

A good move toward rebuilding trust would be affixing cameras to police officers so that the public can see the events that lead to the use of deadly force. Police could also do more community relationship building by interacting with minority communities now—not after there is an incident. And if a police officer is clearly at fault, police chiefs should not blindly defend that person.

Ironically, while relations between the police and minority communities might be strained, we now share something in common: Neither of us wants to be defined by our worst examples.


By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, August 26, 2014

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Law Enforcement, Minorities, Race and Ethnicity | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Test For Conservatives On Ferguson”: We All Should Care About The Pathologies That Affect Policing In America

Just when we thought the news out of Ferguson, MO was getting more hopeful, the Ferguson PD, apparently trying to confirm their reputation as America’s worst police department, has now endeavored to make this situation even more rancid than it already was. As expected, they finally released the name of the officer who killed Michael Brown on Saturday. They did not, however, release any information on the shooting. No description of the officer’s story, no synopsis of accounts of the multiple witnesses, nothing about the shooting at all.

But there was something else they released: a report on a robbery that occurred at a convenience store some time before. They now claim that Michael Brown was a suspect in that robbery. That they are saying this for the first time is more than a little strange. But it threatens to pull this case back into a familiar pattern, just when it looked like liberals and conservatives could agree on some things.

If you watched the news last night, you would have seen something incredibly heartening in Ferguson. After nights of tear gas and rubber bullets, law enforcement officers stood amid protesters, talking to them, listening to them, even hugging them. There was no violence. And it happened because the Missouri governor told the inept Ferguson police to stand the hell down, and brought in the state highway patrol to bring a little sense to the situation.

Meanwhile, there were signs that a cross-ideological effort to address some of the problems the case highlighted might be a real possibility. Even some conservatives were talking not just about the militarization of law enforcement, but also about the unequal treatment of black people by the police. Rand Paul wrote an op-ed about it. Conservative pundit Erick Erickson, not ordinarily anybody’s idea of a conciliator, wrote a piece essentially pleading with his white audience to care about this (“just because Michael Brown may not look like you should not immediately serve as an excuse to ignore the issues involved”).

That isn’t to say that some conservatives out there weren’t taking a different tack. Fox News’ coverage offered clips of looting on the first night after the shooting running on an endless loop, along with plenty of talk about “riots” and “violent protesters.” However, there was a division among conservatives, with more than a few rejecting the storyline of violent, threatening black people out of control.

But today, after the geniuses at the Ferguson PD put out their new information, plenty of conservatives on Twitter are saying, essentially, “See? Michael Brown was no innocent kid!” (If you want to read some, Jamelle Bouie has been retweeting them.) The same message is no doubt going to show up on talk radio this afternoon. The implication is clear: he had it coming.

We don’t yet know whether the person who took the cigars from that convenience store was Michael Brown. The police officer didn’t know either — if indeed the reason he confronted Brown was because Brown matched a description he had been given of the suspect. But the point is, that’s utterly irrelevant. Being suspected of shoplifting isn’t grounds for a roadside execution.

We have to give credit to the conservatives who were able to step out of the usual divide we so often see in cases like this one, and say clearly that we all should care about the pathologies that affect policing in America. Now that some of their brethren are going to be trying to convince the country that Michael Brown was a thug who got what he deserved, they’ll face a test. Can they stand up for the principles they’ve already articulated, even as the debate gets uglier? Let’s hope so.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 15, 2014

August 17, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Ferguson Missouri | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Right To Police Indifference”: American Citizens, Especially The Marginalized, Have No Legal Right To Police Protection

When you call 911 in an emergency, the police don’t have to respond to your call.

If someone breaks into your house or your partner threatens to hurt you, the police don’t have to respond. If you report a neighbor’s continual slashing of your tires, the cops can ignore your calls. If a cross burns in your front yard, no one from the precinct must investigate. Despite all talk of “taxpayer dollars,” your crisis is completely optional to law enforcement, even in the worst of circumstances. The public can protest and bewail this seeming governmental indifference, but no citizen is legally entitled to police protection.

Police indifference is the under-examined tragedy of the Cleveland kidnappings, in which Ariel Castro allegedly confined and raped three women for a decade in a nondescript house in a poor neighborhood. Neighbors attest to calling the police on several occasions. They recalled seeing naked girls in Castro’s yard leashed like dogs. They also saw women beating on closed windows. As long as the neighbors are relaying things accurately — and they might not be — it seems the police either made cursory glances or failed to show up at all.

But here’s the thing: According to a Supreme Court case, Castle Rock v. Gonzales, police have no legal obligation to respond to anyone’s calls, even in matters of life and death.

On June 22, 1999 in Castle Rock, Colo., Jessica Gonzales’ three daughters were abducted from her yard at 5:15 p.m. by her estranged husband, Simon. The couple had begun divorce proceedings, and Simon violated a restraining order by taking the girls outside of his specified visitation hours. Unable to locate Simon and the girls, Jessica called the local police at 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 10:10 p.m., and 12:15 a.m., following up with a visit to the station at 12:40 a.m. At 3:20 a.m., Simon appeared at the police station brandishing a gun, resulting in a fatal shootout. When the police checked his truck, they found the bodies of the three daughters in the back.

The police ignored all of Jessica’s calls and her visit to the station. Because Simon was allowed to visit the children, the police saw no need for action, even though his “visit” violated the restraining order. The police, Jessica recalled, felt that “he’s their father. It’s okay for him to be with them.” After her third call, they forbid her from calling until midnight.

Jessica’s protection order featured a mandatory arrest clause in the event Simon violated his visitation scheme. Mandatory, to a reasonable person, entails an imperative not open for interpretation. Still, the police viewed the protection order as optional.

The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Jessica had no enforceable right to protection, despite the arrest clause. Justice Antonin Scalia saw no contradiction in the police inaction, arguing that “a well-established tradition of police discretion has long coexisted with apparently mandatory arrest statutes.” Castle Rock’s indifference to Jessica’s pleas and dead children falls under this constitutional veil of “discretion.”

Assessing the urgency of emergency is everyday police triage. Bank robberies get priority over cats in trees, and violent behavior takes precedence over noise complaints. Threats of harm are more important to police than residential minutiae, and discretion allows the department to deploy officers effectively and efficiently.

But there is a dark side to police discretion, and it disproportionately affects disadvantaged groups. Domestic violence calls are often dismissed as private matters between lovers, and women’s problems can be viewed as hysterical theatrics by male officers. Response time in wealthier neighborhoods far outstrips those of poor communities. And notoriously, “discretion” stands as the primary justification for racial profiling.

A 1996 study on police responses to crime found that the race of the victim and offender significantly affected police responsiveness. White victims received quicker responses and better follow-up. Black victims fared much worse. Differential racial outcomes stem from discretion, which plainly means the issues police find attention-worthy. Sadly, this turns objectively illegal crimes into subjectively important options.

It’s not entirely surprising that demographics influence access to public services. What is more surprising — and shocking — is the categorical protection of clear police ignorance, which puts police departments beyond reproach. Police are generally freed of responsibility for the citizens they are supposed to protect.

For over 10 years, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were hidden in plain sight, but outside the scope of police interest. When neighbors called for help, their pleas apparently fell on deaf ears. It’s clear that citizens — especially the marginalized — have no legal right to police protection. If you are a female resident of a poor, minority community in one of the poorest cities in America, you’re on your own.


By: Kevin Noble Maillard, The Week, May 17, 2013

May 19, 2013 Posted by | Public Safety | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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