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Est. April 5, 2002
June 18, 2015 - Issue 611

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Missouri FOP Response
Empty and Weak


"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 Department.
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 citizens.
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 to 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 accountability.
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. Editorial Board member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and speaker. She is the author of The Best of the Way I See It – A Chronicle of Struggle.  Other writings by Ms. Rogers can be found on her blog jamalarogers.comContact Ms. Rogers and BC.
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