Not Here Not Now

Posted by Baobob on July 28, 2009 

I have been getting more communication than usual about my Sunday column. Some folks didn't want to go public but I think it's alright to post my response to a couple:

Mr. L,
         Thank you for contacting me. I understand the hesitation to post publicly on the CDT comments page. But this gives us an opportunity to dialog a bit as well. If you don't mind I will post my answer in order to keep the dialogue going.
         I agree that the issues are greater than the racial profiling aspect of police conduct. As your experience as a 30 something white male professional illustrates, it has to do with a deterioration of civility, abuse, of not just power, but position and a denial of fundamental human relationship. These forces, if  left uncontrolled, could unravel the fabric of community.  My students, my white students, often share stories of disrespect and worse by the police. Their stories are repeated frequently enough to indicate that maybe they are based on underlying policy rather than random individual acts.      
          Interestingly enough, I had an interview with Chief King recently about issues of employment discrimination.  We casually discussed other matters including police policy regarding profiling and student arrests.  I found him to be an intelligent, thoughtful person who seemed open to ideas which might better open communication between his officers and others. I mention this because in your particular case it might be worthwhile to contact him directly?
        Be that as it may we still  have these incidents. Could it be that the police do not have a clear understanding of what we expect from them as public servants?  Or perhaps they do. Maybe they see their job as enforcing order even when it comes at the expense of individual liberty or common civility. Would that be a surprise considering our national attitude toward civil liberties under homeland security regs?
         I agree that accountability is the issue. But, who is holding who accountable? Remember in the Rodney King case the officers who brutally beat King were charged but found not guilty by a jury of their peers. I was living in LA at the time. There was a split in the city, mostly along racial lines, between those who thought the police were justified and those who believed that they had over-reached their authority and assaulted Mr. King because of his race.
        Finally one of the things I treasure about the new President, is his willingness to sit down and talk with anybody about any issue. The last thing I heard was that he had invited Prof. Gates and Sgt. Crowley to the White House for a beer. Somehow as simplistic as that seems I think it is appropriate. Even better, maybe a few apologies could be given in the midst of it. Next time you're in town for a game let's talk about it over a brew.

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