it takes an event (or two) to make plain a reality that nobody wants
to talk about. Pervasive police abuse and police misconduct are
usually activities nobody wants to acknowledge and nobody wants
to admit to. Police have a way of trying to convince you that everything
they do is legal, even when it clearly isn’t. Some confuse “collar
of authority” with “tyranny of the majority” as if being in the
majority of our society gives them license to abuse whomever they
Majority “cues” can be directed at anything and everything, but no more
frequently are they directed at black people and young people. Tyrants
in our society take on many forms. It is unfortunate that many times
they come in the form of our law enforcement agencies. Most people
know and understand - and if they don’t, I’m here to say - that
most police are law-abiding and try to uphold the law equally. Most
people don’t perceive the police as hostile and overwhelming want
(and expect) them to come to their aid in a time of distress. However,
and this is a big HOWEVER, at the same time our communities love
the police - they fear the police, and when the police violate the
community, that fear turns to enmity and subsequently, our communities
come to despise the police.
No more does this progression of antipathy occur than when a law-abiding
citizen, who is an advocate for the police, is violated by the police.
Now you have a cause for a movement. That’s what happened in Inglewood,
CA this week.
The Inglewood police arrested an upstanding citizen for observing a police
encounter with another citizen. The observing citizen is a businessmen
and pastor to boot. He’s promised to leave the city and take his
business saying he’s tired of the Gestapo tactics of the Inglewood.
The community is tired as well.
Now, Inglewood, known as “the wood” in hood and Hollywood circles, is
a community of rich tradition. It was literally the first majority
black suburb of Los Angeles (actually before Compton and Carson),
a city where the “American dream” of home ownership became real
a lot faster than anywhere else in the city (over 60% of Inglewood
residents own their home). So, we’re really not talking about a
war zone here, or some “hard side of tracks” community where para-military
police force tactics are really necessary. Yet,
Inglewood, in the past three years has had more questionable officer-involved
shootings than any city of its size (roughly 100,000 residents)
in the state of California.
In one stretch, the police shot four unarmed people in four months (three
died). Inglewood police have developed a reputation for being “trigger
happy.” Inglewood’s police abuse issues were pushing its neighboring
big brother, LAPD, off the front pages (and that takes some doing).
The mayor, the city council, the clergy and the community have all
sought to address this issue in various ways, from protests to prayer
vigils, from community hearing to police chief firings.
A little less than two years ago, Inglewood tried something different
to resolve their police issues. They hired the first African American
woman Chief of Police, Jacqueline Seabrooks. Just know that didn’t
go over real well in the ranks. She came in cracking the whip, and
she’s a whip herself. A few months ago, I keynoted an African American
police officers' association recognition banquet (which shows how
much we all grow - I NEVER would have done this 20 years ago - as
there are a few law officers I’ve come to highly respect).
my opening remarks, I joked about the LAPD’s misreadings of the
recent ACLU racial profiling report and how one might want to stay
out of Inglewood until it got safer. Who runs up to me after the
speech, nostrils flared - wig twisted (or maybe just her hair-doo
took a hit), but Chief Seabrooks, talking about my comments not
being appropriate for this crowd. I told her the abuse in her department
is no different than that happening in Los Angeles and if I can
call theirs out, I can (and will) call her department’s abuses out.
I thought I was going to have to “bob and weave” there for a minute,
but she straightened up and said “Feel welcome to come to Inglewood
anytime. You’ll be safe” and walked off. Yeah, right. How am I to
feel safe if the residents don’t? I think she needs to ride though
her community a little more often and see what the real deal is.
Or wake up to the reality that she has a soiled dept.
Well, it’s time to put Inglewood on the federal watch list for reform.
Get a constant decree and inspector general out there before someone
else gets beaten or killed. Ain’t nobody playin’ with Inglewood
police, while they play with the lives of its residents. LIKE I
SAID, Chief Seabrooks, Inglewood has problems and people need to
stay out of Inglewood until y’all figure it out - or have the feds
help you figure it out. Inglewood police need a watch dog. Ms. Seabrooks
can’t change the culture by herself (nor should she be expected
to). Somebody just needs to convince her of that.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national
columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum
and author of Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Click
to contact Dr. Samad.