SENTINEL 2-17-2011
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The King of Pop & the Police

Law enforcement and public dis-trust?

February 17, 2011

Michael Joseph Jackson greatly admired police officers, proudly posing with men and women of law enforcement wearing dark shades as wave after wave of camera flashes captured frozen moments in time. The stash of photos with cops from Detroit, Michigan, to Bucharest, Romania, attests to the King of Pop's lively curiosity of the police.

Of course, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses he was taught to respect duly constituted authority as did Christians in the first century. (Ro 13:1-5) Centuries prior, God's faithful servant Nehemiah acted as a law enforcer. To persons breaking God's Sabbath law he warned:

"If you do this again, I will arrest you!" (Ne 13:21, New Living Translation) With others, more acute measures were taken in order to save lives that were notably endangered spiritually: "And I took up the cause against them, cursing them and giving blows to some of them and pulling out their hair."--Ne 13:21, Bible in Basic English.

Police Brutality?: It's doubtful that former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge had the spirituality of Black men in mind when he brutalized and tortured them. For decades African American males arrested by Burge charged him and his "Midnight Crew" of detectives with abuse.

All the while, "Burge denied that officers ever abused suspects in custody," says Courthouse News Service, "but evidence at a 2003 trial showed that he suffocated suspects with plastic bags, shocked them with electrical devices and put loaded guns to their heads."  

"I'm a white boy from the suburbs who has no idea what living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1970s felt like," writes Matt Kelley, the Online Communications Manager at the Innocence Project. But he acknowledges that Burge played a "role in torturing more than a hundred suspects, almost all of them black, and many of them completely innocent."

In fact, Burge tortured "dozens of people into false confessions that sent them to prison for life." Anthony Holmes, 64, served 10 years after Burge electric-shocked and smothered him before he confessed to murder, and Mark Clements did 28 years after similarly being tortured. Both feel Burge, now serving 4.5 years in federal prison, got off light.  

Smoke Screen?: Locally, a Black officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) killed Reggie Doucet Jr., also Black.

"Whenever officers use deadly force," explains LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck, "the LAPD's Force Investigation Division (FID) conducts an extensive and thorough investigation. Next, a Use of Force Review (UOFR) Board is convened ... The Board submits its findings and recommendations to me, the Chief of Police, and I review the case. I have to decide whether the force was within Department policy and the law, and present my findings and recommendations to the Board of Police Commissioners. The L.A. County District Attorney's Office independently investigates the use of force, as does the Inspector General (IG), which monitors the ongoing investigation and conducts its own independent review. Both are totally separate from the LAPD."

But, regrettably, the LAPD has taken steps to hamper past IG investigations.

"While both Mr. Doucet and the officer involved in this incident are African-American," notes Beck, "some have alleged race played a role." The Chief says this is unlikely. However, I caution him to eschew fallacious reasoning.

You don't have to be White to promote racist causes on a national scale no more so than you have to be American to champion America's agenda on a global scale. The deeply entrenched grip of systemic, institutionalized racism can easily be the force behind the Black finger that squeezes the trigger of the gun that kills a Black suspect.

And more often than not, city, county, state, and federal investigations are a matter of the fox guarding the hen house. Los Angeles, like Chicago and most other cities, largely defends officers' actions in court, especially during the current fiscal downturn. For example, though Burge, a 23-year veteran, was fired in 1993 because of abuse allegations, the City of Chicago backed him for years, consistently denying liability. This reality does not inspire public trust and confidence.

Michael also charged police with misconduct. But he took courage in knowing that Jehovah warned wayward authority figures claiming to serve him: "Learn to do good; search for justice; set right the oppressor; render judgment." (Isa 1:17, New World Translation) Ultimately, good will prevail over evil. Peace and blessings to good cops, innocent Black men, and everyone ‘searching for justice.' Amen.