Blacks in Ferguson accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests over a two-year period studied by investigators. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of those charged. A black motorist in Ferguson was twice as likely to be searched, according to the report, even though searches of whites turned up drugs and other contraband more often.The Star didn't tell that part of the story.
The Justice Department’s analysis found that these disparities could not be explained even when correcting for crime rates and demographics. “These disparities occur, at least in part, because Ferguson law enforcement practices are directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias,” the Justice Department concluded.
[Note: I wrote this awhile before New Years and it got lost in the end-of-the-year shuffle, so it may sound a bit dated. But I've been reading a whole lot about the problems with mass incarceration, mandatory sentencing and the school-to-prison pipeline and plan to write more about the topics this year. So consider this an introduction, with more posts to follow.]
I missed this when it happened a few weeks back. In the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. Ed Sec Arne Duncan went to St. Louis to talk with students about problems related to race, police relations and educational inequality. His takeaway:
“The division between young people and the police is huge,” Duncan said. “The division along race in this community is huge. The division along educational opportunity being based on where you live, your zip code, is huge. The inequities are huge.”
According to Duncan, the students want more interaction with police — positive interaction.
“I just can't overstate how large the appetite is among young people to be part of the solution, to build bridges to the police,” Duncan said. “To have the police see them for who they are, and for the police to see them for who they are. And look beyond skin color, look beyond uniforms, look beyond badges, look beyond stereotypes and get to know each other as humans.”
Nice words. It's good to see Duncan diving into these issues, especially the problems between the youth and police which isn't strictly an education issue. But how would he go about improving the situation? Is the conservative "education reform" movement, much of which he and Obama have embraced, his answer? If so, if supporting charters over school districts, sidling toward an acceptance of vouchers and blaming "bad teachers" and teachers unions for our "failing schools" are the ways he wants to lower educational inequity and improve educational opportunity, he's siding with educational privatizers and profiteers who are more interested in a bigger slice of the education pie than in what's best for our children.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault.
"I am very pleased to bring to close one of our longest-running sexual violence investigations, and I congratulate Harvard Law School for now committing to comply with Title IX and immediately implement steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "This agreement is a credit to the strong leadership of Harvard President Drew Faust and Law School Dean Martha Minow, for which I am deeply grateful and from which I know their students will benefit significantly."
Following its investigation, OCR determined that the Law School's current and prior sexual harassment policies and procedures failed to comply with Title IX's requirements for prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Law School also did not appropriately respond to two student complaints of sexual assault. In one instance, the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant's complaint.
During the course of OCR's investigation, the Law School adopted revised procedures that use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard for its sexual harassment investigations and afford appeal rights to both parties, in compliance with Title IX. The Law School also complied with the Title IX requirements relating to the designation of a Title IX Coordinator and publication of its non-discrimination notice.
The Law School has committed to take further specific steps to ensure that it responds to student complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence promptly and equitably. As part of its monitoring of the agreement, OCR will review and approve all of the policies and procedures to be used by the Law School, including the Law School's use of the new University-wide sexual harassment policies and procedures adopted for this academic year. The changes relating to the University-wide policies and procedures will be published in supplemental guidance and will affect all of the University's schools as they, like the Law School, decide how to implement the new University-wide policies and procedures.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Law School must:
The agreement announced today relating to the Law School does not resolve a still-pending Title IX investigation of Harvard College and its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of undergraduate students.
- Revise all applicable sexual harassment policies and procedures to comply with Title IX and provide clear notice of which policy and procedure applies to Law School complaints;
- Through its Title IX Coordinator, coordinate provision of appropriate interim steps to provide for the safety of the complainant and campus community during an investigation;
- Share information between the Harvard University Police Department and the University and notify complainants of their right to file a Title IX complaint with the Law School as well as to pursue the criminal process in cases of sexual assault or other sexual violence;
- Notify students and employees about the Law School's Title IX coordinators and their contact information;
- Train staff and provide information sessions for students on the policies and procedures applicable to Law School complaints;
- Conduct annual climate assessments to assess whether the steps and measures being taken by the Law School are effective and to inform future proactive steps to be taken by Law School;
- Review any complaints of sexual harassment filed during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years to carefully scrutinize whether the Law School investigated the complaints consistent with Title IX and provide any additional remedies necessary for the complainants; and
- Track and submit for OCR's review information on all sexual harassment/violence complaints and reports of sexual harassment/violence filed during the course of the monitoring and responsive action taken by the Law School.
At the same time high profile killings of unarmed black men by police officers are making national news and bringing thousands of people into the streets to protest, TUSD is introducing police officers into some of its schools. When you combine people's justifiable concerns that too many police are arrest- and trigger-happy with the introduction of officers into Tucson schools with a high minority population, it's inevitable there will be concerns. And it's the job of TUSD and the Tucson Police Department to address and deal with the concerns directly.
Ideally, officers in the school should be community policing at its finest, bringing police into the halls and the classrooms to increase dialogue and understanding between young people and police at the same time the schools become safer places for students and staff. But officers in the schools can also result in more juveniles being brought into the criminal justice system, which can lead to all kinds of negative, life-altering consequences for the young people involved, and can give students and other community members another reason to fear and distrust police.
There are two positive aspects of the way police officers are being introduced. First, TUSD wisely refused to station police officers in its schools if they were allowed to ask students about their immigration status. Only after the agreement with the city read, “School Resource Officers shall refrain from asking about immigration status,” was the officers' presence OK'd.
Second, the legal agreement between TUSD and the City of Tucson on the use of police officers in the schools looks like a good document to my untrained eye. Attached to the agreement is the Arizona Department of Education's School Safety Program Guidance Manual which begins by saying the purpose of the program is "to contribute to safe school environments that are conducive to teaching and learning." It discusses the training officers go through and their educational duties in the schools. The emphasis of the manual is on safety and education, not arrest and incarceration.
But with a police officer easily at hand, it becomes easier to turn situations which should be handled in house into trips down to the police station. When there's a law enforcement hammer in the school, every infraction of the rules can look like a nail. The officers as well as the school administration need to be aware of the temptation to criminalize bad behavior by students which should be dealt with by in-school reprimands and, if necessary, disciplinary action. The only time the criminal justice system should be involved is when a situation is serious enough that a school without an on-campus officer would call in the police to deal with the problem.
You can attend a panel discussion, Prison Policy: A Crime Against Our Community, Wednesday, Dec. 10, 6 to 8 p.m., YWCA Frances McClelland Center, 525 N. Bonita Ave.
Join us for a panel discussion on the history of incarceration policies in the US and Arizona. Learn how current policies impact and oppress our community and what might be done to bring positive change.
Caroline Isaacs, MSW. Program Director of Arizona American Friends Service Committee.
Tom Litwicki, M.Ed. CEO Old Pueblo Community Services. Retired, Regional Administrator, Arizona Department of Corrections.
A few facts to carry with you to the discussion, from a recent Capitol Times article:
Arizona’s sentencing laws became tougher in 1978, and prisoner population grew from about 3,000 then to more than 42,000 today. The state adopted a “presumptive” sentencing system that requires a judge to sentence someone to a set term and add or subtract time based on findings.
The Arizona Department of Corrections, which has a nearly $1 billion budget, recently notified the Governor’s Office it will need $26 million more in fiscal year 2016 for increased expenses, including health care, to cover the current and anticipated growth.
The photo above isn't from the recent demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, following the killing of an unarmed African American teen. It's over a decade old, a photo I took at a 2003 march in Portland, Oregon, protesting Bush and the Iraq war. I'd attended a number of marches and rallies in Portland before this and had never seen this kind of militaristic response by the police. Were they expecting trouble? Maybe, but not the kind that would demand military-style gear more appropriate for an occupying force in a hostile country than a police department in an urban U.S. setting.
Welcome to our post-9/11 WMDs: Weapons of Mass Deterrence. Counter-terrorism money from the Feds given to local jurisdictions was spent so overgrown children could play dangerous games of dress-up and shoot-em-up on our city streets.
There were no violent incidents during the Portland march. The police didn't fire any tear gas or rubber bullets. But you have to wonder if some of them were disappointed they weren't able to play with their new toys. How many of them were channeling Dirty Harry, thinking, "C'mon, protester, make my day"? After all, when you have all those cool, macho hammers, it's natural to look around for nails you can pound into the ground.
I get it that it's a standard liberal trope to oppose the death penalty and then for conservatives to say that's soft on crime, and by all means, Joseph Rudolph Wood III did some awful, awful things for which he should be punished, but regardless of any of that, if we can't actually manage to execute people properly or with drugs that can be disclosed, it's hard for me to understand how this sort of thing is ok:
The Wednesday afternoon execution of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III took nearly two hours, confirming concerns that had been raised by his attorneys about a controversial drug used by the state of Arizona.
Wood remained alive at Arizona's state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. The motion noted that Wood "has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour" after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.
According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood's arms. After Wood said his last words, he was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.
"I counted about 660 times he gasped," Kiefer said. "That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49."
"I just know it was not efficient. It took a long time," Kiefer said.
Another reporter who witnessed the execution, Troy Hayden, said it was "very disturbing to watch ... like a fish on shore gulping for air."
An Arizona Republic interview with Michael Kiefer is below the cut.
Carnival of Illusion: An Evening of Old-World Magic is an evening of old-world entertainment in the style… More