Richard's Comments on Jenny's document J-Greeman_PoliceInteraction.docx Please go to Dropbox, Violence Topic folder, to read excerpt of her “Police Interaction with Communities of Color in the Context of American Racism” by Jenny Greeman for PAF 9100 Introduction to Public Affairs, Baruch College, which I have tried to transform from a Source to a Story by “plagiarising” her paper, putting her verbs in the past, and imagining a “historical” context. The bulk (80%) of what you will read below is copy/pasted directly from Jenny with minor alterations. It didn't take long. Try it on your own papers.
Thanks Jen for this stimulating and hopeful analysis. Let’s use it as a teaching moment about how we transform Sources into Stories. By Stories we should think about newspapers stories, remembering that “today's newspaper is tomorrow’s history.” In my day as a high school editor, stories were supposed to have normally in their lead answers to the four W questions: Who? When? Why? Where? Plus: How? The Wiki category under which we want to present the story: HOW? Also, what’s the takeaway point of the story for historians? Let’s say: “Brutal racist cops can be humanized through exposure to the arts and psychological training.” Or rather, in the past tense, “How brutal racist cops were humanized through exposure to the arts….” So how did this happen? Let’s start here ….
After one too many police killings of unarmed blacks in the big coastal city of Baltadelphia piled on top of a police corruption scandal, in which it was revealed that “these guys were both the cops and the robbers,” something drastic had to be done to control the situation and reassure the public’s faith in “law and order.” This was on the eve of an election which brought to power a citizen based popup party of Black Lives Matter folks and civil libertarians, teachers, some professionals and other liberal elements. At the same time, a long pending federal court order enjoined the city and its district to turn over the management of public safety to a federally appointed police Czar with full power to impose reforms for three years.
The man for the job was retired Marine General Smedley Butler Grant II, a gritty, battle-worn field commander – used to being obeyed. Not everybody was aware that SB Grant had quietly resigned his field command in Afghanistan in sharp disagreement with the Pentagon’s failed strategy of “pacification” – breaking down doors in the night looking for terrorist suspects and terrorizing the population while demoralizing our own troops. General Grant, now plenipotentiary Police Commander, immediately took charge. His first battle was to break through the “blue wall of silence” that was preventing honest cops from revealing the criminal acts of the “rotten apples,” whose brutal, racist, and larcenous behavior and outlook set the standard for the Department, thus “spoiling the whole barrel.”
He set up a truly impartial Civilian Police Review Board with the mandate to hear and judge in public all civilian complaints, past and present, against policemen and sent him their conclusions. The General had the power to turn an indicted policeman over to the Feds for prosecution on civil rights or racketeering charges or to allow him to resign in return for naming a few names. “Unwilling accomplices” were encouraged to come forward anonymously. With the unavoidable consequences of criminal activity made clear, the “blue wall of silence” was breached and the Department was purged of the bad element that had long dominated.
As soon as he had established his undivided command over the Department, the General moved on to phase two of his campaign: reeducating the employees of the Public Safety Department to be responsible public servants. For help he turned to the Education Department, particularly to the teachers’ organizations. Here is the answer that he got:
“Policemen are not the only civil servants who work under complex, difficult, conflictual, and sometimes dangerous circumstances. Like Baltadelphia streets, Baltadelphia classrooms can be chaotic places. Teachers and teaching artists can work with up to thirty children at a time. In a given cohort, it is likely that 90% of these children qualify for free lunch, meaning their families live at or below the poverty line. Of course, each child has his or her own personality, experiences with puberty and sexuality, family life, and subject preferences. It is within this context that teachers are expected to lead a 45-minute Common Core aligned lesson that is differentiated to meet the various abilities of the students in front of her.
Added to these regular pressures, are students who “act out.” We have seen students throw a pregnant principal against a wall. Students curse at adults and threaten to attack them in the parking lot. Students bite and kick. However, in spite of the enormous hurdles and provocations teachers encounter, is it absolutely unacceptable for an adult educator to react to a child out of fear or anger. Cursing or calling students names is unacceptable. Touching a child – even in self-defense – can lead to removal or a lawsuit. How do we do it? How is it that they are so few removals or lawsuits of teachers who lose their cool under trying circumstances?” In the education field we do not allow professionals to react from a place of fear or anger so why should we hold police officers, who have the legal right to take life and liberty, to lesser standards?
Baltadelphia’s teachers, it turned out, had been trained to act professionally in situations of stress through a practical method called SOAR: Stop, Observe, Analyze, Respond. It is a philosophy for regulating the self in moments of conflict that is grounded in social work and neuroscience. General Grant adopted SOAR for police re-training. Cops were trained to always check-in with themselves: am I angry? Has this citizen pushed my buttons? Am I afraid this citizen will hurt me? Through honest self-assessment, the officers learned to better differentiate between the reality of the relationship that is currently existing, and the host of past relationships and experiences that can create biases. Once the police officer has recognized and regulated his/her emotions, s/he can assess the stakes of the interaction: Is this an issue that must be addressed now or can it wait? Is there a threat of physical danger or only potential loss of face? They can respond to the situation from a place of objectivity and calm as opposed to reacting from fear and anger.
What if Officer Timothy Loehmann had gone through the SOAR process before interacting with Tamir Rice? We can imagine the following alternative scenario:
Officer Loehmann Stops: He pulls his car up across the street from the park and reviews the information he was given by dispatch. He will not physically enter the arena of conflict without understanding all of the actors.
Officer Loehmann Observes himself: He notices that his heart is racing. He takes a few deep breaths and reminds himself that he has the equipment, training, and personal commitment to enter into dangerous situations in order to protect the people he loves. He observes that suspect is a child, not fully-grown.
Officer Loehmann Analyzes: Are other people in the park running away from the person with the gun or interacting with him? Is the person with the gun aiming it at anyone in particular? Is he speaking or moving? (Reports say he was throwing snowballs.)
Officer Loehmann Responds: Based on his observation of the suspect and the by-standers, Officer Loehmann chooses his response. He may use the car’s bullhorn to tell the suspect to drop his weapon. He may determine that it is safe enough to approach the suspect on foot. Whatever his choice is, it is a choice.
This process may seem like it takes too long to be useful in situations that are often deadly. However, great teachers do this several times a day and the process gets easier with practice. It would certainly take more than the two seconds Officer Loehmann took before he shot a 12-year boy, but it would be time well spent.
General Grant also became convinced that the Arts, particularly literature and drama have the capacity to increase empathy in human beings, including cops. Books, films, and plays take us on journeys of the imagination, allowing us to explore worlds with which we are not familiar. The emotional investment that an audience member makes in a character and her environment facilitates understanding on a deeply personal level. The Police Department began sponsoring book clubs for cops and local residents – run by trained facilitators whose focus is to encourage honest response and discussion. There were no tests or book reports required and all experiences wereequally validated. Books were chosen to counteract the racist narrative that fosters fear in the department. Options included: slave narratives; works from the Harlem Renaissance; historical fiction such as Kevin Baker’s New York City trilogy Dreamland, Striver’s Row, and Paradise Alley which situates the experiences of black Americans and white immigrants against the turbulent early 20th Century in NYC. In addition, Baltadelphia invited its police to the theatre.
Community policing and human relations between police precincts and their surrounding communities became a priority. Policemen, many of whom were white and lived in the suburbs, were offered free housing and other inducements to reside in their precincts. Regular foot patrols were restored.
Although the first year of General Grant’s term as Commissioner was turbulent, by the second progress was visibly being made. Incidents of police brutality against unarmed black citizens had declined sharply. The crime rate went down as did street violence. In the absence of constant fear and conflict, community members were beginning to develop mutual trust, engage in cooperative enterprises, organize politically against rent-gauging slum-lords and high-living corrupt politicians tied to the financial elites.
Indeed, police-community relations had solidified to such a point that at the beginning of the Commissioner’s third year, when rent strikes and anti-eviction protests broke out in the Baladelphia inner city neighborhoods, the local police merely looked on, but refused to intervene with force to restore the landlord’s rights of property. This was most upsetting to the bankers and real-estate moguls. And then the rest of the business community blew a gasket when the police again looked on – but failed to intervene and break up employee picket-lines demanding the minimum wage plus tips for waitresses at local restaurants or those of steelworkers striking at the local plant, Just as earlier generations of Baltidelphia police had looked on, and ignored (or joined with) local racists busy beating up Civil Rights workers and calling for lynchings.
Worse still, from the point of view of the financial oligarchs, was the impression that the example of Baltadelphia’s apparently successful police reform would soon spread to other cities and deprive big capital of the shock troops on which it had always depended to “keep order” by using violence against any popular threats to its domination. So suddenly, the issue went national as the billionaire Coke Brothers, the Tea Party and the alt/right trolls launched a huge fake news offensive. The “failure of the Baltadelphia experiment” became a common theme for mainstream media pundits.
Thus public opinion was already prepared for the worst when three Baltadelphia policemen were killed, under mysterious circumstances, and their tragic death immediately blamed on “pacifist training” and “over-restrictive regulations” that prevented them from defending themselves when “attacked.” All over the country, conservatives, police unions, chambers of commerce, jumped on the band wagon, criticising General Grant’s reforms, accusing him of “McCarthyite tactics” in purging the Police Department, denouncing his soft-headed philosophy, ridiculing in homophobic terms the use of the Arts in police training. Finally, it was revealed that as a Marine field commander, General Grant had criticised the conduct of the Afganistan war (now in its third decade) and was forced to resign.
Thus, at the end of his third year as Baltadelphia’s once-powerful Police Commissioner, General Smedley Butler Grant II, retired to obscurity – like his namesake Major General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in history, who in 1935, after retiring, told the truth about his career in “War As a Racket” where he wrote:
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”
The positive side of the Baltadelphia experiment was driven underground, but not forgotten, however. And when political circumstances changed it was revived.
Let's translate Dave's visions into the past tense. Make them into a STORY. Let's elaborate the details. Invent obstacles and overcome them (or not). Can this become a “game”? With moves and counter-moves in the prolonged struggles between the capitalism/MIC world state system and the billions of toilers. A way of collectively writing?
Between 2015 and 2020, large-scale implementation of high-efficiency thin film photovoltaics, low-cost capture of ocean currents, and high-elevation tapping of wind energy begins to rapidly decarbonize global energy supplies, radically undermining the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) because of the growing availability of very low-cost clean energy, which requires virtually no rare strategic metals. Corporate-instigated attempts to block this rapid process of solarization are undermined by decentralized grassroots initiatives around the globe. Massive civil disobedience and resistance within the armed forces and police prevent any effective repression of a now global peace and justice movement fighting for survival in the continuing Global Slump. As a result, public support for the MIC plunges, governments are elected around the world, including in the United States, with anticapitalist agendas, promising a 21st century ecosocialist transition to Solar Communism. The dreams of Marx and W. Warren Wagar4 are realized.
(Am I an optimist or a just wishful thinker, given this has one-half the probability of scenario 4?) In the year 2016, what now is thought impossible happens: The explosive growth of a transnational peace and climate security movement begins as a response to the Great Slump, continuing resource wars,5 and the escalating impact of global warming. The proximate trigger of this popular upsurge is a brutal police attack on demonstrating youth in Baltimore, Maryland. The attack sparks a national student strike and then a U.S. general strike, which rapidly spreads around the globe. An ecologically oriented Conversion Economy emerges linking most of Africa, China, India, South America and Russia. By 2018, the military budgets of the United States, Russia, and China are reduced by 75 percent, and these resources are transferred to a global program of climate, food, and health security, fulfilling the call Bolivian President Evo Morales made for such a global program in December 2009. The annual genocide of 10 million children dying of preventable causes6 under the global rule of capital is finally terminated by the UN investment of $80 billion, which is extracted by a Tobin tax on financial speculation. Agroecologies inspired by the vision and practice of permaculture blossom in and around cities across the globe. High-efficiency solar power begins to rapidly replace fossil fuels and nuclear power, as well as serving to sequester carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to reach levels below 350 ppm, the minimum level sufficient for reaching irreversible tipping points leading to catastrophic climate change. Per capita energy consumption in the global South increases to the point where the state-of-the-science life expectancy, health, and education are possible for all citizens. The unsustainable consumption in the global North plunges to levels that insure clean air and clean water, organic food, meaningful employment, and more free creative time for all on this planet, realizing global equity and the highest quality of life for all.
In response to the work of James Gilligan and others showing Violence as a logical response to fear, isolation, and the undermining of the self, society embraces restorative practices at every level of social relationship. An ancient practice Restorative Justice became a buzzword in education in the second decade of the 2000s. Luckily, unlike other education fads, this one stuck and became an authentic practice.
The fundamental difference - seemingly simple, but representing a sea change in American culture - is the focus away from punishing the perpetrating to repairing the harm experienced by the victim. Along the way, the “criminal” is invited to rejoin the community after reparations have been made.
The 7 Core Assumptions of Restorative Justice as defined by Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Kay Prants: 1) The true self in everyone is good, wise, and powerful; 2) The world is profoundly interconnected; 3) All human beings have a deep desire to be in a good relationship; 4) All human beings have gifts, and everyone is needed for what they bring; 5) Everything we need to make positive change is already here; 6) Human beings are holistic; and 7) We need practices to build habits of living from the core self.