PRESIDENT OF POLICE CHIEFS GROUP ISSUES APOLOGY TO MINORITY COMMUNITIES FOR DISCRIMINATORY POLICING
On Monday, Terrence Cunningham, the president of International Association of Chiefs of Police formally apologized to communities of color for law enforcement’s part in “society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”
Cunningham, who is the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., gave his speech at an IACP convention in San Diego.
The IACP president acknowledged that in the past, police officers served as the “face of oppression,” enforcing discriminatory laws that have cultivated a “multigenerational—almost inherited—mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.”
Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director of the ACLU, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and others have praised Cunningham’s apology, calling the high-ranking law enforcement official’s speech an important step toward healing police-community relations.
Critics of the apology point out that Cunningham’s apology treats of the issue of racism in policing as a problem of the past—the aftereffects of which continue to act as a barrier to peace between citizens and cops. Cunningham never addresses the issue of continued racial bias in policing occurring today. “There are bigoted cops today as there were when it was legal to be a bigoted cop,” Delores Jones-Brown, a professor at John Jay College said to the LA Times’ Jaweed Kaleem.
You can watch the speech in its entirety above.
The Washington Post’s Tom Jackman broke the story. Here’s a clip:
Terrence M. Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Mass., delivered his remarks at the convention in San Diego of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, whose membership includes 23,000 police officials in the United States. The statement was issued on behalf of the IACP, and comes as police executives continue to grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups in the wake of high-profile civilian deaths in New York, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent citizen protests which have ensued as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Police chiefs have long recognized the need to maintain good relations with their communities, of all races, and not allow an us-versus-them mentality to take root, either in their rank-and-file officer corps or in the neighborhoods where their citizens live. Cunningham’s comments are an acknowledgement of police departments’ past role in exacerbating tensions and a way to move forward and improve community relations nationwide. Two top civil rights groups on Monday commended Cunningham for taking an important first step in acknowledging the problem.
“Events over the past several years,” Cunningham said, “have caused many to question the actions of our officers and has tragically undermined the trust that the public must and should have in their police departments…The history of the law enforcement profession is replete with examples of bravery, self-sacrifice, and service to the community. At its core, policing is a noble profession.”
But Cunningham added, “At the same time, it is also clear that the history of policing has also had darker periods.” He cited laws enacted by state and federal governments which “have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks…While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational — almost inherited — mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.”
SECRECY SURROUNDING INGLEWOOD POLICE SHOOTING HIGHLIGHTS WEAK CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT
Back in February, five Inglewood police officers fatally shot Kisha Michael, 31, and Marquintan Sandlin, 32, after officers found them unconscious in a car idling in the middle of the street. Michael, a mother of three, was shot in the head, neck, and back 13 times. Seven more bullets proved fatal for Sandlin, a father of four.
In a police radio clip, one of the responding officers said that Michael had a gun in her lap. Both Michael and Sandlin’s families said the two were loving parents. Their families said they didn’t know why Michael and Sandlin were found with a gun.
A warrant had been issued for Michael’s arrest earlier in February after she violated the terms of her probation by failing to appear in court. (Michael was on probation because of a misdemeanor theft.)
Following the shooting, Inglewood police remained particularly quiet, giving hardly any information about the circumstances of the shooting. The department hasn’t even said whether either of the deceased had reached for the gun before the responding officers let loose a hail of bullets.
Michael and Sandlin’s loved ones find it hard to believe that the cops were unable to de-escalate a situation involving two people who were unconscious when law enforcement arrived.
Michael’s twin, Trisha, tried for several months to get answers from the civilian body tasked with overseeing the Inglewood Police Department, but every month, the commission’s meetings were canceled.
When the Inglewood Citizen Police Oversight Commission was established back in 2002, it had teeth. The commission had the power to conduct hearings on instances of police misconduct. The group had subpoena power and a say in officer discipline. But before the first meeting, the police union intervened, and the commission was stripped of its authority.
The commission rarely meets, and mainly acts as a porter for complaints against police. Meanwhile the Inglewood PD continues to face scrutiny over questionable uses-of-force.
The LA Times’ Angel Jennings has the story. Here’s a clip:
Jan Williams, a local resident who follows city government, said she often goes to the commission meetings only to find they have been canceled due to a lack of a quorum. On May 11 — the first meeting in seven months — she criticized the commissioners for not convening more often.
This is “suppose to be our voice. I encourage you guys to meet more regularly,” she said.
The commission’s fading role in police oversight is all the more troubling to critics because the department continues to come under scrutiny.
For example, the commission had no role in reviewing the shooting of motorist Juan Jose Palma, whom the city recently paid $4.6 million to settle an excessive force lawsuit. Palma, now 46, was shot in the head by an officer during a 2012 traffic stop. The officer said he shot Palma because he refused commands to show his hands and appeared to be reaching behind his car seat for a weapon. No firearm was found in Palma’s SUV, but a baseball bat was found in the vehicle. Palma survived but suffered lasting brain damage.[SNIP]
Michael Falkow, the assistant city manager who has served as the advisor for the panel since 2007, said the city’s elected leaders and commissioners have not had “a desire to change anything” with regard to how the police oversight panel functions.
At the May meeting, Falkow described the group’s limited purview.
The commission does not investigate allegations of police misconduct, he said. It can only make recommendations for discipline, but the final call belongs to the chief of police.
“To be very clear, the commission has no authority, the commission has no mechanism, the commission has no ability to discuss or oversee or even hear any cases of [or] related to officer involved shootings,” he told the two people in the audience.
By comparison, the five-member Los Angeles Police Commission overseeing the operation of the 10,000-officer force has broad authority and meets weekly. The panel sets LAPD policies and has an inspector general who investigates and audits the department on its behalf. In one of its most important roles, the board decides whether police shootings and other serious uses of force were appropriate.
LA’S POET LAUREATE WRAPS UP A BUSY TWO YEARS OF CRAFTING VERSES, CONDUCTING WORKSHOPS, AND EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE
In an interview with Alex Cohen, of KPCC’s Take Two, Luis J. Rodriguez discusses his work and legacy as he finishes the last weeks of his two years as LA’s second poet laureate (ever).
Once a gang-involved, drug-addicted teen, Rodriguez is now a celebrated poet, author, activist, and mentor to young men and women seeking healthy alternatives to gang life.
When Rodriguez was appointed two years ago, he was told to do a minimum of 6 events. Last year alone, Rodriguez, who is paid a small monthly stipend, held 110 workshops, readings, and other events.
Rodriguez also completed an anthology featuring 160 LA poets called “The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles,” and a chapbook of poetry called “Borrowed Bones.”