Thursday, October 4, 2007

The sophistical association between the recent RICO arrests and WPD Racial Profiling

In today's newspaper there was an article that described the community's reaction to recent indictments handed down against 39 members of the Crip street gang. In the article, local Pastors were interviewed and each was asked about the 'allegations' that the charges were the result of Racial Profiling. Not surprisingly, each stated that they didn't believe that the charges were related to Racial Profiling and while not a quote, a sentiment was ascribed to a Pastor with the following statement on Profiling: "although that is a serious concern, people should be more concerned right now about violence in their community than racial profiling."


When I read that, I was gravely troubled, because it made it clear to me how easily positions can be created and ascribed to others and how we in the community, if we're not careful, can be pitted against one another.

For the benefit of those of you who are not a part of our local community, let me give you a bit of background and context.

Racial Profiling has been a hot topic in our community as of late. We've had numerous complaints from a cross section of the community (everyone from Professors to Black Police Officers) yet the Professional Standards Office of the Wichita Police Department has exonerated the Officers in every investigation they've conducted. They have a 'perfect' record of having never substantiated a case of profiling.

In 2005 the Kansas Legislature passed a bill the prohibits the practice of Racial Profiling in the State of Kansas. The bill specifically defines Racial Profiling as:

"the practice of a law enforcement officer or agency relying, as the sole factor, on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender or religious dress in selecting which individuals to subject to routine investigatory activities, or in deciding upon the scope and substance of law enforcement activity following the initial routine investigatory activity. Racial profiling does not include reliance on such criteria in combination with other identifying factors when the law enforcement officer or agency is seeking to apprehend a specific suspect whose race, ethnicity, national origin, gender or religious dress is part of the description of the suspect."

In early September, several newspapers around the State reported that many police departments had not complied with the statute and had not reported their number of complaints. Senator Donald Betts who introduced the bill in 2005 remarked in the articles that the Racial Profiling Task force appointed by the Governor should act immediately to bring about Statewide compliance.

On September 20th, Wichita hosted a town-hall meeting with the Kansas Statewide racial Profiling Task Force. In this 2-hour meeting attended by approximately 200 community residents, 19 individuals stood and offered accounts of Racial Profiling by the WPD. The accounts were each specific and detailed. Additionally, we (the Wichita NAACP) were given the names and contact numbers for 23 individuals from the Hispanic community who have complaints they'd like to file.

~~

On September 28th the Wichita Eagle released a completely unrelated story about Federal indictments handed down against 28 members of the Crips street gang. The story detailed the charges levied against each of the 28 men, and the strategy of the WPD to charge these individuals under the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) Act.

That article was followed by others on October 1st and 2nd, which talked about 11 additional indictments that have been handed down under the same act, bringing the number of defendants to 39.

Now let's be frank - there is NO relationship between Racial Profiling, which is a police tactic used in affecting traffic stops (clearly defined by Kansas statute), and the arrest of these 39 Gang members for crimes ranging from Agg Battery, possession of Cocaine with intent to distribute, transporting a minor across State lines for illicit purposes, to attempted murder. They are completely unrelated... The investigation into the alleged crimes of the Crip gang members was not comprised of data gathered from routine traffic stops. Nor were the hundreds of meaningless stops for "wide turns" & "failure to signal 100 feet from the corner" and the subsequent requests for vehicle searches, a Police strategy to search for the Crips.

YET

On Monday, October 1st, (the day the second RICO story went to print) I received a call from a reporter at the Wichita Eagle. The Reporter said, "I understand you may have heard some concerns from the community that this may be racial profiling; do you have any comment on that?".

Stop Sign: The mention of Racial Profiling as somehow being connected to the RICO arrests immediately raised a red flag. Primarily because I immediately understood that they were wholly unrelated. Secondly, and most significantly, because while I had already received 8 calls and 3 emails from concerned family members and had had numerous conversations with folks who are active in the community, NO ONE had raised the issue of profiling. As President of the NAACP and as a member of the Kansas State Racial Profiling Task Force, the two most prominent organizations which receive and process racial profiling complaints, that we hadn't heard this issue raised is significant. (since that time the total is now 17 calls and 6 emails and still no one has made that claim)

I told the reporter that I had not heard from anyone who related the arrests to Racial Profiling and that I had no comment that I was willing to make on the arrests at that time. The following day, 10/2, we had an Executive Committee meeting of the NAACP. We discussed the call and my concern that the Eagle might 'construct' a community opinion if they could find someone to validate it by answering that loaded question. We also discussed the fact that since they didn't get the answer from me, they'd probably continue to call people in the community until someone gave it to them. We agreed that no member of the branch would answer any question that attempted to link these two unrelated issues and that any requests for interviews would be redirected to me.

Then this morning I pick up the paper and see the statement: "although that is a serious concern, people should be more concerned right now about violence in their community than racial profiling."

So now you have a prominent figure in the Black community seemingly discrediting the efforts to stop Racial Profiling. Now let me say for the record, I am not upset with the Pastor... He is a good friend of mine and a genuinely good man who is deeply concerned about the community. I know that this was a comment in search of an author. And I know how easy it is to answer a loaded question, then to have an 'editorial idea' represented as your opinion (been there, done that). My outrage is reserved for the paper.

Are we to believe that our community lacks the resources and/or the capacity to deal with more than one issue at a time? The community has called upon the Police Department to deal effectively with the Gang issue for quite sometime now. Now that they've acted, are we now somehow strangely obliged to turn a blind eye towards police misconduct?

We want to live in safe communities. We want the Police to arrest the bad guys. If I have a problem and I pick up the phone, I want the Police to respond. Is it to much to ask that we also be treated fairly and with respect? Must we choose one or the other?

I reject that notion. In fact I find the very postulate offensive. As someone who spends several hours each month hearing complaints and talking to community members on all sides of these issues, I am happy to see that the Police department has moved proactively on the issue of gangs.

However, the fact that they've made these arrests in no way absolves or excuses the officer who Punched 49 year-old Rowana Riggs in the face and blacked her eye after stopping her in her driveway for a burned-out tail light. These arrests do not absolve or excuse the officer who tasered Luis Delarosa 3 times outside of 'America's Pub' and then joked about it in the Police Car. These arrests do not absolve or excuse the officer who kicked Sena Peden's 15 year-old son in the face and then argued in court that as he entered his car he thinks his foot accidentally made contact with the young man's face. They don't absolve or excuse the other officers who were present when Ms. Peden was pepper-sprayed in the face as she tried to come out of her front door to see what was happening to her son. These arrests do not absolve or excuse the officer who tasered Tiara Carolina three times in the parking lot of Harry and Ollies while calling her a fat bitch in front of multiple witnesses.

Curtis Webber was stopped for having expired tags on his car, he ended up dead with a pool of blood on the curb... Aaron Patterson was stopped for making a wide turn, he was accused of being a drug dealer and forced to sit on the curb for more than an hour while the police conducted a search of his vehicle that he did NOT consent to... the late Jihad Muqtaasid was stopped for making a wide turn and patted down on his own street when he was 76 years old!.. Adriana Molina was leaving America's Pub, an Officer approached her from behind and when she spun around to see who grabbed her, she was arrested and charged with battery on a Law Enforcement Officer... And then there were the 19 other folks who made their complaints at the town hall meeting.

And in exchange for the officers arresting criminals in the community, are we supposed to ignore these types of excesses?

No. We want the Police to deal effectively with Gang violence in the community AND we want to see an end to Police misconduct, excessive force, and racial profiling. And we absolutely will not substitute one goal for the other. And shame on anyone who suggests we should...








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Anonymous,  October 5, 2007 at 11:40 AM  

I'm incredibly offended that any member of our community thinks that its excusable to, "fail to signal a turn at least 100 feet from the intersection" as State traffic law dictates. Officers stopping cars for routine traffic violations is far from racial profiling. Unfortunately, officers congregate where there's an increased chance of violation and if members of the African American community think that it's ok to commit crimes and not be cited for them, then we might as well just let them the criminals out there go also since it'd be horrible to think that you're being racially profiled for commiting a violation of a state statute.

Harboring a felon, it's a crime. So should we, when we find felons in a home where others reside, arrest all in the household who were protecting that felon? What I see here is an outcry for only part of the problem to be fixed. If you want the police to stop "profiling" those who commit crimes, then maybe the African American community should preach to their children and as a community deal with criminal offenders instead of when a shooting in the street happens, turn and look the other way.

I see hypocricy in the African American residents of Wichita and I'm ashamed that some can stand on their pedestals and preach equality but can't practice common sense when they get down.

Ronald T October 9, 2007 at 10:07 PM  

In response to the misguided conclusions, out of context arguments and derogatory implications of the writer hiding behind the anonymous option I have the following to offer: The rest of the story…

Anonymous says: “I’m incredibly offended that any member of our community thinks that its excusable to, "fail to signal a turn at least 100 feet from the intersection" as State traffic law dictates. Officers stopping cars for routine traffic violations is far from racial profiling.”

Perhaps Anonymous should re-read the pertinent part of the article with an open mind. It reads:
“The investigation into the alleged crimes of the Crip gang members was not comprised of data gathered from routine traffic stops. Nor were the hundreds of meaningless stops for "wide turns" & "failure to signal 100 feet from the corner" and the subsequent requests for vehicle searches, a Police strategy to search for the Crips”.

Are any vehicles other than those driven by African Americans stopped for minor traffic violations and searched “for the Crips?” Get real Anonymous… Stopping a vehicle for a violation is one thing, but stopping and searching a conspicuously high percentage of vehicles driven by African Americans under the pretext of enforcing traffic laws while in fact searching for evidence of gang membership is racial profiling, plain and simple.

Anonymous continues: “… if members of the African American community think that it's ok to commit crimes and not be cited for them, then we might as well just let them (sic) the criminals out there go…”

It is no wonder the writer wishes to hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Everyday, good, hardworking, decent African Americans—whom I can assure Anonymous are among us in large number— are, themselves, victimized by crimes from inside and out, and most certainly do not think it’s “OK.”

Then, Anonymous rants on: “If you want the police to stop "profiling" those who commit crimes, then maybe the African American community should preach to their children… etc. etc.”

These types of nonsensical insinuations are unworthy of a rational mind. First of all racial “profiling” is a crime in itself; not aimed at only “those who commit crimes,” but all members of a particular racial or cultural grouping, whether they are guilty of crimes or not.

Finally, Anonymous ends on this note: “…I’m ashamed that some… can’t practice common sense…”

To quote W. Somerset Maugham, “ Common-sense appears to be only another name for the thoughtlessness of the unthinking. It is made of the prejudices of childhood, the idiosyncrasies of individual character and the opinion of the newspapers.”

I say what we need now is rational thinking and “uncommon sense,” the kind that sees racial profiling, ethnic profiling, religious or cultural profiling as serious matters that must concern all free people, especially those who are aware of the horrific consequences brought about in the past by such “Guilt by Association” thinking.

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