"My recommendation to the FOP is to Google
'incidents of police abuse of power' and review
the nearly 33 million hits or the 5 million
'videos of police brutality.' See if any of these
incidents are worthy of a response from a group
which claims its mission is 'to increase the efficiency
of the law enforcement profession and thus more
firmly to establish the confidence of the public in the
service dedicated to the protection of life and property.'”
|When I was informed by the St. Louis American that the Fraternal Order of Police had a response to my column (FOP Fosters ‘Us Vs. Them’ Mentality),
I was prepared to read a rigorous defense to my criticisms of the FOP
and its divisive role in community-police relations. I was eager to
engage in a fact-based debate in the public arena that would either
sharpen or deflate the issues of police abuse of authority in the
African American community.
Instead it appears that we got a PR-washed and lawyer-screened
statement from Kevin Ahlbrand. Ahlbrand is an influential voice in
local police matters. He is president of the Missouri Fraternal
Order of Police and a sergeant in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police
In the days after Mike Brown’s murder by Ferguson cop Darren Wilson,
most people probably don’t remember Governor Jay Nixon stiffening up
his spine and demanding a “vigorous prosecution” of the incident. In an
uncharacteristic show of emotion, the governor forcefully made a call
for justice for Mike’s family.
Ahlbrand’s immediate response to this statement was “justice goes both
ways” which carried little meaning and offered no leadership to one of
the region’s most volatile police situations in modern times.
Behind the scenes, Gov. Nixon must have got his proverbial spanking
from the police group as he has been virtually MIA ever since then.
Nixon’s silence continued as he ignored serious pleas to appoint a
special prosecutor in the Darren Wilson case because there was no
community confidence in St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch’s
ability to be fair and impartial. It was no surprise when Ahlbrand
popped up on the Governor’s Ferguson Commission that will make
recommendations to fix the state’s broken criminal justice system.
In the FOP leader’s response to my concerns, Ahlbrand chose to make
corrections on my understanding of the Blue Alert law and chastised me
for not including all of the FOP’s mission statement when comparing its
priorities with that of the National Black Police Association. I had
not included all of the NBPA’s mission statement either.
Ahlbrand never addresses the main issues of my column and that is when
and how it holds its officers accountable for its criminal, unethical
and immoral assaults on the black community and its refusal to help rid
departments of rogue cops. Readers would’ve appreciated some examples
of how police unions and associations were working to uphold
professional standards when it comes to how police operate in black
neighborhoods - the source of ever growing tensions between police and
Ahlbrand never spoke to the exaggerated use of threat as justification
for split-second decisions that end in harm or death for many
citizens. Due to the prevalence of video-taped encounters of
citizens with police, we can see for ourselves that in many of the
cases, these human beings represented no threat. How could they be
dangerous when handcuffed, stunned, maced or running away?
Ahlbrand claims that my charge of the FOP condoning illegal or unprofessional behavior by cops is unsubstantiated.
“Nothing” Ahlbrand says “could be farther from the truth.” Here’s where
he could’ve have easily make his case stronger with examples of how
these law enforcement groups fought for due process for anyone other
than police officers. He did not.
Neither did Ahlbrand give examples of condemning police behaviors in
the two incidents I lifted up in my column - or any other incident. He
would’ve got my attention had he cited a police group’s response to the
Abner Louima case in New York or the why 137 bullets had to be fired
into a car with two black bodies. The last unnecessary rounds were
delivered by Cleveland Officer Michael Brelo who can be seen in the
video firing his Glock 17 pistol 49 times, including at least 15 shots
after he reloaded and jumped onto the hood the vehicle like he was in
Fallujah fighting the Taliban.
In most cases, police departments have gone the way of the Catholic
Church. The Archdiocese intentionally chose to protect priests involved
in the sexual abuse of children by covering up their egregious deeds at
the expense of the thousands of children damaged by a trusted
authority. And like the Catholic Church who moved accused priests
to other parishes to avoid detection and prosecution, so do police
departments. In a region with 91 municipalities, St. Louis rogue cops
have a bunch of dark corners to hide in as they bounce from department
Police can over-react in situations, and they are capable of lying,
stealing and killing. They are susceptible to the same racial, class
and homophobic biases as the general population. However, these
behaviors are more ominous and potentially deadly when the person has a
gun on their hip and the state authority to use it without much
impunity. This is the crux of the bourgeoning movement for police
St. Louis is a city where police officers have been accused, charged or
sometimes convicted of crimes like stealing World Series baseball
tickets, unlawfully seizing citizens’ cars for re-sale or gifts (this
resulting in the unflattering resignation of the police chief when his
daughter was caught riding in one of these police-stolen vehicles),
planting drugs on suspects, assaulting citizens, destroying police
reports by rape victims, being in possession of child pornography and
the list goes on.
I’m still waiting for the local police group to speak to the kiddie
porn charges of long-time St. Louis cop and former president of the
local police association. I’ve had my own unpleasant encounters
with retired police lieutenant Ronald Oldani over the years regarding
police brutality. Oldani’s recent admission to downloading more than
100 files to his computer has led to multiple state and federal
charges. Given the profile of child sexual deviants, I doubt that this
behavior started after he retired from the police force.
Since Ahlbrand’s response was published, the world has seen a McKinney,
TX cop sitting on a black, female child crying out for her mama. This
is the kind of policing that goes on daily in black neighborhoods. I’m
still waiting for a police group to expose this incident as an example
of inappropriate policing and excessive use of force.
My recommendation to the FOP is to Google “incidents of police abuse of
power” and review the nearly 33 million hits or the 5 million “videos
of police brutality.” See if any of these incidents are worthy of a
response from a group which claims its mission is “to increase the
efficiency of the law enforcement profession and thus more firmly to
establish the confidence of the public in the service dedicated to the
protection of life and property.”
FOP leaders like Kevin Ahlbrand should stop issuing or making
meaningless statements that don’t get to the roots of police abuse and
the subsequent distrust/disrespect of police. I urge him and other
heads of police groups to get their own house in order if they want
street cred(ibility) and respect in black and brown communities.
Meanwhile, communities across the nation under police siege need to
keep the organized pressure on. Demands for reforms such as effective
civilian review boards and other methods of accountability are
important. Ultimately our communities must decide what safety and
security looks like for us. Such a vision will dictate the behaviors of
those both inside and outside those parameters.
| is published every Thursday
David A. Love, JD
Nancy Littlefield, MBA