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BLACK MEN, LAW ENFORCEMENT BOTH NEED TO ADDRESS THEIR DISRESPECTFUL BEHAVIOR

len anthonyBy Len Anthony  || There are four actions each of us can take that will make this a wonderful world.  I have written about two to of them: have integrity and respect everyone else’s religious beliefs.  The third is so simple it needs no explanation: Treat everyone as you wish to be treated.

The final action is this: When there is a disagreement, talk about the core issues causing the disagreement, not the symptoms.

Stop beating around the bush.

The phrase “beating around the bush” appears to have originated in medieval times when hunters would pay young men to go into the bushes to flush out animals.  There were often dangerous animals in the bushes so sometimes the young men beat around the bushes rather than going into the bushes.

We see the oral equivalent of this every day.  Spouses do it.  Friends do it.  Israelis and Palestinians do it.  Republicans and Democrats do it.  White people and black people do it.  Each side avoids the “dangerous animals,” so the real issues causing the disagreement are not addressed and therefore nothing is ever resolved.  With the protests in Ferguson, Missouri receiving 24-hour news coverage, let’s go “into the bushes” and confront the “dangerous animals” at the heart of the relationship problem between young black men and law enforcement.

The following passage is taken from an editorial by Michael Martinez, Stephanie Elam and Erica Henry of CNN posted on CNN’s website on August 15, 2014. According to the authors it is “the hard truth” told by black parents to their sons:

“Think twice about wearing a hoodie. Pull up your pants. Shut your mouth around police. Swallow your pride. Don’t drive with more than three friends. And keep your hands where they can be seen.”

The implication is that non-black young men can do all of these things and have no issues with the police.  I hate to break it to the CNN folks, but these “truths” apply to all young men who want a good relationship with the police.

Think about what is being said and admitted.  If a young man is walking around with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up over his head (particularly if it is not cold or he is inside a building), with his hands concealed, or is in a packed car (normally with the music blaring), at a minimum the police are going to notice and most probably be suspicious.

If a young man is walking around with his pants down to his knees and smarts off to a policeman he is saying to the policeman: “I do not respect you.”

The moral for all young men is be respectful towards law enforcement and don’t wander around looking like you just did something wrong.  For some reason, many young black men believe it is their right to be disrespectful.  They are disrespectful to the public in general (as evidenced by their underwear displays) but in particular to law enforcement (yes, I have seen some “saggy” white young men but their numbers pale in comparison to the number of “saggy” black men I have seen).  Many years ago I was present when a “saggy” young man came over to talk to my daughter.  I told him to pull up his pants.  It was a sign of no respect for me and my daughter.  This lack of respect harms the relationship between whites and blacks, and blacks and law enforcement.

Here in Myrtle Beach, S.C. the truth of this assertion is annually confirmed during the “Black Bikers’ Week.”  The behavior of many of the Black Bikers indicates they have little or no respect for the law, non-bikers and or anything or anyone else.  They speed up and down our streets on their poorly muffled motorcycles until 4:00 a.m. or later, they take over parking lots preventing – or interfering with – customers’ access to the businesses served by the parking lots, and many of the women prominently display their naked buttocks (allegedly there are thongs in there somewhere) on the back of the motorcycles.

Every parent wants his five-year-old child to see that as he drives down the road.

All young men should act as if they have some home training, and show respect for women, law enforcement and others in general. If you don’t want the police or others to think you are up to no good, don’t act like you are and show some curtesy when interacting with the police.

Turning to law enforcement, do many police officers take advantage of their authority?  Are some of them disrespectful to members of the public?  Do some of them violate people’s civil rights?  The answer is “yes” to all three questions.

I have personal experience in all areas. When I was eighteen years old I went into a Pizza Hut in Spartanburg with my date.  When I walked in I discovered two policemen talking with a friend of mine who had had too much to drink.  I was completely sober.  I walked over and very politely said “Excuse me officer, I know this guy, if it will help, I will gladly take him home.”  The officer moved within several inches of my face and told me to buzz off I was “obstructing justice.”

The police need to be better trained.  They need to be taught that their badge is not a license to bully.  They need to be fired when they intentionally violate a person’s rights.  Solicitors need to refuse to prosecute persons wrongfully arrested.  I once represented a college student whose Fourth Amendment rights had clearly been violated.  One of her parents was a lawyer.  I contacted the assistant district attorney and asked him to review the file.  The policeman’s behavior was so outrageous I was confident the charges would be dismissed once the district attorney reviewed the facts.  I was wrong.  He said “it is always the students’ who have a lawyer for a parent who give us trouble.”

When I went to court, the case heard immediately before mine involved the same policeman and same assistant district attorney who were involved in my case.  The policeman had done the same thing to the young man in that case that he had done to my client.  The judge threw out both cases and chastised the policeman for violating the students’ rights.

For the record, all defendants in both cases were white.

Solicitors and policemen respect citizens’ rights, if you want respect, play by the rules.  Bottom line, young black men and law enforcement both need to admit blame and stop their bad behaviors.

Len Anthony spent thirty years as in-house counsel for a public utility. He’s now semi-retired living in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. Wanna sound off on FITS? Submit your letter to the editor or opinion column HERE.