Commentary: The real numbers behind the Grand Jury

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Old-England

How did we get here today? The grand jury originated in medieval England. It was used in the reign of Henry III (1216–72) and it set the precedent for today’s common law. It is now an Anglo-American law, and a group of citizens that examines accusations against persons charged with a crime. They decide if the evidence warrants formal charges, on which the accused persons are later tried. The jurors, generally numbering between 12 and 23,are chosen from a panel. Only a majority is needed to charge or not. This process is the examination of witnesses, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.  According to scholarly research, the grand jury was abolished partly in England in 1933 and completely in 1948. In the United States, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution safeguards the right to a grand-jury indictment for serious crimes in federal courts.Although the prosecutor leads the charges, the grand jury has tremendous advantage at their discretion.Baristers U.K.Where the problem lies today is that many believe these jurors are nota representation of the community where these incidents occurred and the prosecutor can limit the amount of evidence he or she brings to the hearing, which has tremendous influence on the outcome. Consciously, or subconsciously, our biases can  be the decider, and subjective lenses can easily become more important than the real evidence.oldenglandpictor02kniguoft_0375Let us face it, the problem today is not the 12 to 23 individuals’ decisions. It is the lack of a much needed upgrade in many social justice applications and governance about how to fix it. This is not in the US alone, but stretched throughout the Caribbean, and other poor and developing countries where several outdated and barbaric ideologies have been a cancer that prohibits their economy from moving forward and bringing people together as it remains an up-hill battle. Today the world has tuned in and, this can be extremely hard to fathom by some who have seen several similar cases in their own local communities where hearts have been broken, and most evidence has little suspicion along racial lines but between haves vs. have-nots. In the end, the justice system is diminished.

oldenglandpictor02kniguoft_0378Sure, it is still easy to blame colonization and slavery in these poor regions. However, this argument is losing its footing because, centuries later, many are more educated, and hold major offices to make a difference. Therefore, leaders should be able at least to try to adapt, amend laws and move forward.

New Reality: The recent non-indictment of the police officer in the killing of New York native Eric

Gardner, and earlier Michael Brown who were both unarmed black men, has forced another chapter that the society must tackle head on, despite how uncomfortable this issue can be. Many are now wondering if the discretion of a grand jury has a legitimate (and useful) role to play in criminal justice.

Shortly after the decision, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio said he shares this story on the same level as other African Americans. He stated that he literally has to train his bi-racial son on how to survive when he encounters a police officer. This story is not about them vs. us, nor poor against rich, it is an old application of laws that has run its course and one community sees as a platform that diminishes their existence and it must change for a better union.

Protest1Today, we must us change course and the image that has emerged from the demonstration signs of frustration being held. One read: Black Crime = Gang Violence, Arabs = Terrorist, Hispanic Crime = Illegal Immigrants, and White Crime = Self Defense. All crimes are wrong, and one should be held accountable. However, seeing this mindset for a democracy and a great nation on most socio-economic fronts, this has to change.

Hope

Gives me hope! Police Sgt. Bret Barnum hugs 12-year-old boy. Johnny Nguyen-photo

We need more images such as Devonte Hart, 12, who was seen at a demonstration holding a sign that said “free hugs” when Portland Police Sgt. Bret Barnum noticed him, motioned the boy over and the two began talking and later hugged. The picture reduced several to tears of joy. Despite these new volcanoes, officers can make a difference in our community. A majority are excellent servants, with their own families, while keeping the public safe. Our community needs police officers, and few bad ones on the job do not speak for all. These frustrations should not become a push to arm people with weapons to protect themselves, or to decrease the role of public servants. However, society has to discuss these problems in their totality, and not through the prism of a narrow focus, and overlook the rough edges in its path.

oldenglandpictor02kniguoft_0430Far too often, some opinion writers outside looking-in tend to see these issues as only black people’s fault, while linking high crime rates in their communities as a contributing factor. Even when statistics support such claim, this is not a Black History Month issue or just a problem in this community. One has to step back and ask, does that give the right to use the rule of law to create more polarization, hate, and intolerance? In today’s society, a 12-year-old boy should not have been shot, even if he may or may not have threatened when an officer approached. An officer is trained to step back and de-escalate.

Sometimes we should put our ideology on hold and the perception of one zip code. As famous basketball player Charles Barkley said, some profiling is fine, and I agree, but after the whistle has been blown, and the penalty has been given, should everyone continue to dribble using the same old play? The decision has crossed many political and ideological lines.

 

This sums it up! (AP) photo

The Conversation: This morning I met up with one of my Caucasian friends. As we sat on the train ride into work, he gave me that look. It was like what I felt when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. He turned to me and said, “This (expletive stinks) and sometimes I feel sorry for my race.”  I replied, “You do not need to feel sorry. It is the law, and the rules that had been there for decades. Only sometimes, the application is problematic. In addition, I do not see you any less – and you should not feel guilty for being a white man looking in, as we all watched the same video: nor should I feel any less for being black man.”

Furthermore, my black friends and I do not walk down the street and every Caucasian we run into gives us a revisionary history. “There goes our slave master?” In fact, “How’s life?” is more common, followed by a conversation. However, the systematic problems from history are not lost on our minds. What many seek today is not different from the Grand Jury’s first foundation, created to prevent oppressive prosecution by the English crown, where the citizens’ have a hearing before real prosecution. Today, it seems a deviation has occurred, and it is now the opposite.

n-ERIC-GARNER-NEW-YORK-large300As a society that is still molded in a racial and economic divide, it makes these events collide with perception and reality. This does not change overnight. An officer will continue use force as needed to apprehend a person who resists. Furthermore, they have to make decisions based on the situation they face. However, the debate today is not simply about these deaths, but a community trying change what is perceived as a culture and an environment stuck in the past, and not willing to move forward for a better union. The reality is that decades of an ideology are hard to reverse with a few television pundits’ opinion.

Going Forward: In the next 50 years, many will look back and, despite the frustrations today, it seems the glass is half-full, hopefully, even if not filled in my lifetime, I believe that soon it will over flow and bring plenty for many who are hurting some balance.

Despite our frustrations,  and  the questions being asked, please let us not forget that police officers put their lives on the line everyday to keep us safe, and we need them.

 

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Commentary: To serve and protect with a virus

Commentary: To serve and protect with a virus
Published on August 28, 2014
By Derrick Miller:Serve and PThe Outbreak: Since the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on August 9, 2014,  Ferguson, Missouri, and despite a few editorials that describe the scope of the problem as if was an isolated incident, it has recalibrated several nerve cells.Why are we here again? August 9, was not a rare occurrence. It was the fourth killing of an unarmed black person by a white officer in five weeks. Many believed this was just another virus outbreak in another region. This is an ongoing question surrounding many police departments’ treatment of poor people, especially in black communities. Like the Ebola virus, many have sought to reverse a DNA code to cure an over 200-year affliction since slavery. Michael Brown’s death has revisited a hazardous dark chapter that consistently tests our invariability.

These toxic cells are racism, prejudice, economic deprivation, education inequality, polarization, among many other things that often unexpectedly surface. I hope, when the streets are cleared, these issues do not become dormant and life goes on as normal while many continue to struggle with: (1) protection vs. freedom; (2) correctional system; (3) police brutality; (4) tactics; (5) race; (6) culture; (7) abuse of authority; (8) demographics vs. representation; and (9) priority and government role.The lack of uniformity in several uneven communities only shows us the struggle between pluralism and elitism. One, police should help the people, and the people should help themselves and, two, the perception that they protect the rich, and suppress the poor create doubts.

The demonstrations that followed were not all infected by thugs or gangsters and only black people.Other races voiced their concerns of what appearedto be a public department with a closed system. Few people arrived with infected tissues in trying to disrupt good organs.However, the focus was to decide which lives are more valuable between blacks and whites, and stopping undiagnosed quarantine that has killed healthy cells.As the world watched, Ferguson law enforcement struggled to keep up order, handling of the protesters made front pages globally on tactics used — rubber bullets, tear gas and multiple arrests, including journalists.Sadly, the US is not alone facing scrutiny of police brutality and excessive use force that have devastated many lives.

In the Caribbean, across from the  white sand and blue waters, many of us visitors are struggling. However, racism tend to be muted as it is often between the haves vs. have-nots and concerns of limited accountability by government officials for the have-nots.Russia and Iran appeared concerned despite their poor records on dissenting views by its citizens. However, I am not implying one should use one’s own issues to call out others.Police Ebola: For decades, several poor communities are injected with a frustration virus.

Although few people might have been exposed and already processed, navigation such as a simple drive, or walk to one’s favourite candy store can be a reason to be quarantined. Even when an individual has not been exposed or engaged in any toxicity, consistently restrictive masks are issued. Furthermore, sometimes an meet in an unmarked quarantined space with law enforcement and any negative gesture out of frustration can dictate if one lives or dies simply refusing to accept a surgical mask.

police5One writer argued just do what you are told.  It is extremely important to comply with an officer’s order. However, for many young black men and other minorities in their reality, accepting a command often only reduces the amount of bullies from perhaps from ten to six, as a decision had already been made.

Even when authority has solid evidence, gaining compliance requires good tactics. For example, despite much-needed treatment to halt the spread of the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, the recent government approach after the world has taken notice only created more problems as reported.

Several predominantly black poor communities have been plagued with crime, cultural and socioeconomic issues and in need of an antibiotic. According to Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post, only 50 percent graduation rate in 2013 compared to 86 percent of the state and at least 60 percent had at least one suspension in Michael Brown’s high school. If these symptoms were found in predominately white schools, a vaccine would have been developed and or an operation with new blood transfusions. This issue requires investments and interactions.

Most of these officers do not live in the communities they serve, unable to relate and recognize a single black healthy cell. It seems only when an epidemic erupts doctors who sit in isolated gated communities tasked with decisions only took notice while the problem has been known for decades. These labs are only treating symptoms, and not the cause of the problems.

The lack of medicine or limited interjected ones often creates more delusions and long-term side effects. Although traces of cells need to be isolated and incapacitated, an entire community should not be treated as if all are infected.

S and PIt is problematic being viewed as the only affected people while knowing that more affluent towns have also been exposed but overlooked. These communities need an economic medication to prevent outbreaks, but priority seems to be invested equipment in anticipation of divide and turmoil.

The broken window theory that is based on zero tolerance and swift action solutions seems to have switched to everyone in the community and not the criminal elements. Not all medicine work for the Ebola virus and these community labs must seek new medicines.

Traces: Modern policing is not a new concept in our society. It has been around since the early 1800s, created in Great Britain. As a few scholars noted that it was used to keep slaves in check from running away from their masters. Maybe that mindset still exists in some departments today.

George Kelling and Mark More analysed the US evolution for a Department of Justice studies. The Political Era (1840s – 1930s). This was period where close ties between the police and politicians, and emphasis was on making politician happy. The Reform Era (1930s – 1970s) focused on arrest, and professional fighting crimes. Community Policing Era (1970 to present). This is where partnerships with the community and police agencies work together.

According to several studies, community policing has been successful when it is implemented correctly. However, in some areas this theory seems only to be on paper. Furthermore, it seems most of today’s operations are stuck in the two eras, like an apartheid system where one is free to move, but mentally trapped.

In a recent CNN panel, a Florida police chief stated that not all officers believe in community policing. This is not to say these officers do not uphold the law and should not be part of the institution. However, forcing officers inside communities to work with different racial and socio-economic background could be a call for more hands-up-don’t-shoot cases, as one easily defaulted back to training like muscle memory as to where he carries his or her weapon.

Police StandoffPerception vs. Reality: It is not an easy task being a police officer. Law enforcement wears multiple hats; they need as much support as we can afford them. Sometimes it seems they have more issues than policies to meet society’s demands in fighting crimes while balancing human rights. Even in cases where an officer is being out-gunned, the expectation society places on the officer often, puts law enforcement in a tight spot, balancing perceptions and reality.

Many of today’s police officers are extremely educated and become a social worker dealing with a domestic violence, child abuse issue, plotting a crime scene on computer models, to predicting trouble spots, while some cannot diffuse an incident without pulling a weapon.

Bureaucratization can create a set of norms that often lead to social problems. A system can be well organized, but hard to adjust to current and changing reality. How can several decades of them vs. us change in a few hours?

Ferguson prosecutor, Robert McCulloch came under fire for how he handled earlier criminal cases and perceived favouritism of law enforcement that led to mistrust in the community. He was elected several times and has a close ties to the police unit. Often when community policing fails, there are repeated called for tolerance, inclusion, resignation or be fired.

The department seems to have an operation stuck in the two previous political and reform eras. Many officers were making arrests, restricting media traffic during the protest were part of a few systematic issues.

However, not all white officers involved in killing of a black man are racist. Nevertheless, we cannot use disciplinary records as the only guide because behind closed-door people often grouped by their ideology. One can be anti-gay, blacks, white, Jews, women, immigrants, and still function on the job. Institutional racism is just as dangerous. Moreover, we cannot ignore few bad apples in disguise. For example, two officers tied to the Klux Klux Klan recently in Florida.

It seems our society have become immune to these shootings. What is more troubling if an individual confirmed as mentally disturbed is not able to comprehend the danger of approaching an officer with a deadly weapon, it can easily be justified. Society must make sure when it eliminates a virus it must be only when it threatens the life of an entire community and not because of its label.

During a CNN interview, a young man wrote two poems, one for the good police officers, and one for the bad ones. This is a sign of hope despite some bad viruses, there are still good cells  that still believes in public service, and just want to make it home to their families after each shift just like any average person.

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AP Photo/Johnny Huu Nguyen In this Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 photo provided by Johnny Nguyen, Portland police Sgt. Bret Barnum, left, and Devonte Hart, 12, hug at a rally in Portland, Ore., where people had gathered in support of the protests…

peace Updated 11-29-2014:   Despite  decades of frustrations; destroying your  own community is never a solution to any social problems, because often the fundamental  core issues  often  burned in the created flames.

Commentary: No Snitch! The new number one selling tee-shirt

snitchOver the past few months, I have followed Vybz Kartel’s murder trial. He was recently convicted for the 2011 murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams. What I really wanted to know was how the victim and families became lost in the debates. I am not sure if they feared retaliation so they laid low. I would have liked hear how they felt with support.

Previously, as I have noted here, the trial was all about the prosecutor, and the Jamaican government celebrity, money and a distrusted system under one roof. Now that he has been sentenced, it seems this trial will have a lasting effect on the communities. Again, the region still struggles to fight off skepticism when it comes to the criminal justice environment.

Recently, it was reported that Mr Kytel has spoken to the authorities, and they received more information, which led to over 17 guns confiscated from the community. I do not have any proof of that, and may be somewhat skeptical, but any guns off any street always save lives, and the department should be commended for its continued efforts.

I am not under any illusions that the department is not under pressure in recent years to change the criminal atmosphere; however, they alone cannot be blamed for every criminal element that is taking over the region. It takes stakeholders, from the local pastor to community organizations, and leadership in government, to make a difference and this is not just guns fighting guns.

If Mr Kytel has provided information to the authorities now, perhaps there should have been a plea deal if one had not been offered. This maybe would have resulted in more arrests of members of the gangs  as reported that were afflicted with the killing. Moreover, why would the police department update the public on this information without any arrests as this point? Does this information make a different or change opinions already formed about the system, not only in Jamaica, but also throughout the region?

Here is the point of the article: The other issue where does the word snitch fits into the ongoing criminal elements where everyone knows everybody. Today, there is still no sign of the victim’s body from the recent murder trial.

Nevertheless, on a recent visit to the islands, between my walk from the airport to the parking lot, I met two young men wearing tee-shirts with the infamous “No Snitch” printed in bold.

Snitching came to Main Street about ten years ago as I can recall. It has been part of the American criminal environment that was more known to be associated with the Mafia enterprise for decades. It gained mainstream attention in the black and minority communities when a video surfaced of drug dealers threatening violence against members of a crew not to talk to police. I do not have any other historical documents on this concept, other than the tactics used to drive fear, intimidation, and violence.

Ronald Moten and his anti-violence group in late 2007  Washington, DC, area tried to break the ice. He mentioned that, sometimes, prosecutors blamed witness intimidation for their failures to win conviction in homicide cases. One famous rapper Cam’ron, as Moten noted, was interviewed on “60 Minutes” about why he refused to coöperate with police after shots were fired in Washington during a botched car-jacking in 2005.

victimIn other cases especially, young school boys and girls were killed because people thought that they had cooperated with the police. In addition, several cases were not brought to the courts out of the witnesses’ fear of being killed. He asked the question, if someone shot your mother during a drive-by, would you have a problem with it. Since that time and as troubling as it seemed, I never saw another “Snitched” tee-shirt and then only when I looked at a YouTube Video, when most of the subjects’ faces were blocked out.

Looking back at the recent crimes in the region including close friends, where their crimes still have not been solved, I began to wonder how this dirty little secret reached the seashore. One of the proud arguments in the Caribbean is that one does not need a GPS to find a lost family. Everyone knows someone. The concept is that it takes an entire community to raise a child. No one knows this more than the Caribbean community, but it seems unusual in these occurrences that silence has become the new normal. Then again, maybe I am not one to talk about these issues because in my home state there are still battles between who is a rat or responsible citizen when trust and history collide.

Recently, we learned that famous civil rights leader, Al Sharpton, who has a popular television show on MSNBC, was once a snitch for the FBI. He later stated that he was not a snitch, but a responsible citizen. Some members of a previous Mafia, and the fear of ongoing criminal elements in the community and his own safety threatened him, he spoke up.

We cannot equate the level of protection he received that a rich country such as the US can afford to some in the Caribbean where crime is still a major problem and the community knows the perpetrators. However, what we can learn, he stood against violence, and spoke up against the “Stop the Snitch” underground campaigns.

During the political era in the 1800s local politicians had a heavy influence in the criminal justice system. As society modernized through the 1960s, which is today community policing, citizens now have a voice, but there are still significant disconnects between police and the communities they serve. It seems as it was the segregation period or when colonialism ruled.

One side claimed that the historical mistrust of law enforcement by citizens when they brought information, especially in the black and other minorities, makes it difficult to trust the authorities for fear of retaliation. Many have also argued that when an incident is reported, far too often they never received any follow-up — another argument blamed on slavery.

Updated: 10-2-2014 Mother of 13-year-old Aliesha Brown found dead.  Observer.

Updated: 10-2-2014 Mother of 13-year-old Aliesha Brown found dead. Observer.

This is not one of those emancipate yourself from mental slavery issues when someone is gunned down. The region already gained independence, in my humble opinion, still searching for a perfect union. Having information and not coming forward, in spite of the threat of becoming a victim without proper protection. However, it does not amount to an historical document, but simple aiding and abetting, which carries the same penalty as the perpetration of the violence:

Therefore, now let’s get back to why a few of these tee-shirts now look like a badge of honour. I am not sure if it is a fashion statement, or lack of remorse for victims. However, as noted, sometimes law enforcement treatment of citizens often makes it difficult to come forward. On the other side, the community cannot blame law enforcement for countless crimes where rape, abuse, robberies, schoolchildren and business people killed and still missing, and no one has come forward. This was a circumstantial case, and it could have gone the other way without a body.

The island is always proud, and wears colourful gear in solidarity, and it can be a fashion statement of liberation, but when had the “No Snitch” tee-shirts become so vocal. What happened to let’s promote non-violence against women, education, child abuse, and tolerance, or fight AIDS and cancer? I am hoping to buy a few on my next trip. Sure, other countries have their problems, and before this topic is completed, someone will be killed from gun related violence, and one in four women had already been a victim of rape or some sexual violence, but where are they heading, as a society with this mind-set has to be reversed.

Although his body might not be found, someone lost an uncle, a father, a son. I hope you ask yourself the same question, what if people who may be buried in your backyard, at sea, fed to alligators or burned and buried, were your family members.

If society does not change this new-found fashion statement, how much have they evolved from the early century, where vigilante justice ruled the day, such as the Wild West, and where politicians, the well-connected, rich and, yes, law enforcement decide the value of one’s life. Is that where we want to go in preparation as the next generation grapples with economic stagnation?