FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
American could be on a disastrous path towards a growing racial war, since killings on both side of the aisle in the last few weeks – shootings by the police at several car stops, ambushes of the police by angry black men – have spread fear and hate and sparked protests. Now author Paul Brakke, who has written American Justice? about problems in the criminal justice system and how to fix them, has some suggestions for how to reconcile this racial divide and develop a healing process.
As he discusses in his book, which was inspired by his wife’s devastating experience with the criminal justice system, when some neighborhood kids falsely accused her of trying to run one of them over, these tensions between black Americans and the police have been brewing for some time. A key factor is the belief that the police have been using racial profiling to guide them in deciding who to stop, whether walking or driving, and then this unfairness continues as African-Americans go through the criminal justice process, since juries are more likely to convict and judges more likely to give them harsher sentences, as shown by criminal justice stats, so these are not just beliefs.
This divide has been further increased by various incidents reported in the media, from the shooting in Ferguson and death of Freddie Gray in a police van in Baltimore to the more recent shootings of Mario Woods in San Francisco, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and Philandro Castile in a St. Paul, Minneapolis, which have been triggering a growing protest movement throughout the country.
When the story of an officer shooting a black man because of a broken tail light was combined with the Baton Rouge story of Sterling being shot, outside a convenience store while selling DVDs, when a police officer claimed he was reaching for a gun while resisting arrest, that helped to make for an even more volatile mix. The stories of these unjustified cops killing blacks sparked protests all over the country, led by various black organizations, including Black Lives Matter. Then in Dallas came the backlash, when one mentally disturbed person turned the anger that fueled these protests into an ambush of the police who were providing protection at a protest march there that day.
These horrific incidents may have actually had some positive results that can lead to ultimately healing the racial divide. For example, one positive result has been to spur a dialogue in cities all over the United States on what to do to reduce the black-American-police conflict and better train the police in alternate means of diffusing a situation. One possibility might be waiting it out or instructing a citizen being questioned or arrested to throw his gun away from him, so it no longer poses a threat.
While the Black Lives Matter movement and other organized black groups have distanced themselves from the Dallas shooting, Brakke agrees with many social commentators that this targeted killing of cops may have set back the work of the black groups by months or years, since they have now become associated with violence in the public mind. Still another fallout from these shootings is that cops may be more reluctant to get involved when they get calls to help in inner city areas, which can make cop-black American relationships even worse. Then, too, contributing to the growing divide is that the escalating violence between the two groups has triggered a “blue lives matter” movement that has already gotten nearly 1 million likes on its Facebook page.
So what is the answer to this growing divide? Brakke offers a series of suggestions in his blog on “Reconciling the Racial Divide,” inspired by his American Justice? book. As he writes: “It seems to me that we need to take some steps to have a dialogue with the members of the different organizations. Then they can pass on the message to their followers through both the social media and traditional media.”
Some of the actions he recommends are the following:
1) Get out the most up-to-date accurate information about what really happened in a shooting, so people aren’t responding to the first images and video postings about an event, which often are misleading and express the emotions of the moment.
2) Bring together groups with different perspectives and afterwards issue a combined statement about the event, along with a call for everyone to remain peaceful.
3) Develop a training program so the police are better able to respond to threatening situations by pulling back or using less than lethal methods to restrain and arrest a suspect.
4) Train the police to be more transparent and diplomatic in dealing with suspects and individuals who might be subject to arrest, whether in their car or on the street. In these trainings, use role playing, videos, and other methods to get the police to better know what to do under different situations.
5) Set aside certain areas in each city that can be used for mass protests and rallies to discourage protesters from spilling out into the city streets and bridges and disrupting traffic.
6) Using a reasonable police officer standard to judge their conduct, be ready to quickly prosecute any police officers who kill African-Americans, when it appears they were unjustified in shooting, since they were not threatened by the suspect.
7) Make the prosecution of any police officers involved in shootings as open as possible, rather than relying on claims of secrecy based on rules for dealing with personnel. Once a police officer is charged as committing a crime, such personnel secrecy laws should no longer apply.
8) If a suspect who is not affiliated with or acting on behalf of any organized group is arrested for killing a police officer, make an official announcement to emphasize that this is a lone individual who is being charged with a hate crime for targeting the officer as a member of a particular group. Use the same approach for police killers as you might in dealing with lone terrorists who are out to kill as many people as they can.
9) Create an official group at the state or federal level to research this subject of shootings involving the police and African-Americans further and come up with additional recommendations. Then, promote these recommendations through the traditional and social media, so the public becomes aware of these recommendations and they are actually acted upon.
Copies of the book are also available in PDF format to members of the press.
For more information, please contact:
- TouchPoint Press at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Paul Brakke directly at email@example.com
for questions about his experiences with the system.
- Contact Paul Brakke at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Gini Graham Scott at email@example.com
for questions about the system or the book’s relation to current events