Tuesday, August 26, 2014

And Another Problem

In eastern Ukraine, the death toll probably has exceeded 2250 people. The "Gaza death toll," the Guardian estimates, is now 2,133.  More than 191,000 lives have been claimed in the Syrian civil war which, in an upset, has not been blamed on Israel.

So Michelle Bernard of the Bernard Center for Women declares (video below) "There is a war on black boys in this country, in my opinion. There is a war on African-American men." Moreover, "it`s going to turn into genocide if it doesn`t stop."  Not likely.

On the positive side, she included in her foolish remark with "in my opinion." A conservative Republican before Barack Obama ran for President, Bernard is still saying silly things, only not usually from a conservative perspective.  But she really should get out more, perhaps gain a bit more perspective.

There is, though, a problem. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, in his occasional guise as a libertarian rather than a conservative Repub, has accurately written

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

No doubt prisons are "full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences." In Kentucky, at least, and doubtless in many other states, most of them of a Republican bent.  Whether Paul meant prisons are full of minority adults ("men and women") serving excessive sentences because of what they did in their youth or, instead, is referring to juveniles serving excessive sentences is unclear.

Nonetheless, there is a problem, though is not "big government" which he claims "has been at the heart of the problem" of "militarization of local police precincts. Rather, it is the allure of profit combined with the Pentagon's desire to alleviate the sunk costs of military weapons and apparel it no longer needs.

By the time the stop-and-frisk policy in New York City was sharply curtailed as a result of a ruling by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, the practice had problems going beyond race. Nonetheless, race was the focus of the lawsuit and an analysis by the Public Advocate's office of statistics compiled by the city's Police Department had revealed

the likelihood that a stop of an African American New Yorker would yield contraband was one-third less than that of white New Yorkers stopped.

The NYPD uncovered contraband in one out every 43 stops of white New Yorkers. By contrast, it took the Department 57 stops of Latinos and 61 stops of African Americans to uncover contraband.

Recent testimony by several New York police officers in connection to a lawsuit allege that the department regularly targets young black men and other minorities, which are judged by an arbitrary notion of “reasonable suspicion.”

But the RT report continued "the stop-and-frisk practice is allegedly tied to quotas by which superiors measure success rates over the city’s police precincts."   Additionally, only 729 guns were found out of 532,911 searches- an apparent success rate of .14%.

Except that's not how success was being measured.   Judge Shira (not Judy) A. Scheindlin critically noted "You reasonably suspect something wrong and you're wrong 90 percent of the time."  (According to the article, the actual figure would be 88%).

You're wrong 90% of the time begs the question: what about the other 9.86% of the time?Evidently, searching and frisking an individual largely at random, intrusive and troubling even if constitutional in the absence of racial bias, was considered successful when drugs, and not illegal firearms, were discovered.

There is something askew here, and it's not just race.  It's militarization of law enforcement,  as Senator Paul emphasized. and it's targeting people for possession of illegal drugs, in large measure because it's low-hanging fruit in  which police are likely to confront individuals less dangerous than those with firearms.  It's good for the numbers, good for the both law enforcement and civilian leadership, and more dangerous for the rest of us

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