You see them roll in — three, four, and five deep — usually around 5:30-6PM. Every year, for seven years now, they always come around the same time… and usually from the same direction, from the west, up Dickens Avenue. They’re in their late teens to early 20’s, and when you’ve been in the streets as long as I have you know they’re not just looking for trouble — they are trouble.
I recognize one of them… he’s my nephew’s grandson Ray-Ray… fresh out the joint. Just came home from doing a deuce on an assault and battery beef. Looks like he pumped some iron while he was down, he’s bigger, stronger, tougher… but doesn’t look in any way wiser.
The crowd of adults has swelled by this point to a couple of thousand… all of them having a good time listening to whichever ‘ol school group is up on stage performing. It’s the same crowd each year. Except this year it’ll be a bit bigger because the headliner is George Clinton and he’s bringing along Parliament/Funkadelic.
I never get to watch the acts since my job is to manage Luke Easter Park for the day. I work with the police and a bunch of other people to try to make sure everyone has a good time. But our job has been getting harder and harder each year.
But the thugs don’t show up to hear no ‘ol school. They show up because there’s a large crowd, and potentially some other thugs from another neighborhood will be there. Maybe they have a squabble going; maybe they’ll exchange dirty looks… and then exchange fightin’ words. That’s what they did last year… two girls. And then the fight broke out.
Like a bunch of moths attracted to a flame, other young people ran to see what was going on — and then a shot rang out. One of the goddamn young fools had a gun and he fired it blindly into the crowd. But, instead of running away from the gunfire, more young people rushed towards it. Pandemonium.
This year I’d like for the police to be able to approach the known thugs as soon as they roll up and take them into custody until the event is over. Give them a time out. Then simply release them with no charge.
Yeah, I know the legal mumbo-jumbo about “prior restraint”… I know the police have to wait until one of the thugs shoots someone else before they can do anything or the ACLU will be all over their asses. I just hope it isn’t Ray-Ray that gets shot this year — after all, he’s family.
Come on, give the cops a break
The recent video of a Canton police officer going off on a motorist is scary for more than one reason. When the highly agitated cop confronted the very calm citizen and said that he should have shot him (for not saying that he was legally carrying a concealed weapon, in spite of the fact the motorist attempted to do so but was told to shut up by the cop), the cop then said that his partner would have backed up his made-up story of why he shot an innocent citizen. Now that’s the really scary part. Scary, but true.
However, in spite of the growing number of cases involving police misconduct hereabouts, we really need to cut police officers some slack, and for one main reason: They’re only doing what they were trained to do… not in the Police Academy, but in the streets by other officers. If pit bulls are trained to be vicious… why is anyone surprised when they viciously attack?
In Canada police are called “peace officers” but here in America they’re known as “law enforcement officers” with the emphasis being placed on the “force” part.
The way police do their job in this country goes directly to who we are as a people, and the Wild West culture we’ve developed and continue to worship. We absolutely love Dirty Harry, and the memory of that bigot John Wayne. Is it any wonder young officers soon get to thinking they’re some sort of street gods, with the unchecked power of life and death residing in the Glock 40s in their holsters?
We don’t just tolerate bad behavior in this country — we seemingly encourage it, and then attempt to bring them up on charges when they’re only doing what a select group of other officers have been doing over and over for years, knowing their illegal antics will be backed to the hilt by their partners, pig-headed police unions, and senior officers.
It’s almost impossible to retrain an attack dog once it’s been molded into a vicious animal, and there is little senior officers can do to bring the cowboys on the police force to heel (not that any evidence exists they even care to). The only solution is to make officers accountable to a citizens’ review board — one with real teeth.
Of course the police command structure will loudly rail against any such effort at oversight, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that if we are to protect citizens (and the public coffers from needless lawsuits), there really is no other solution.
I’m willing to make a bet that when the U.S. Department of Justice finally does get around to putting our city under the microscope — trust me on this, as sure as God made little green apples an investigation is coming — one of the suggestions will be to establish just such a public body. The question is, will the citizenry be strong enough to establish and maintain it in spite of police protesting that it’s not needed?
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: In France the government is afraid of the people; in America the people are afraid of the government. And cowards always get the type of treatment they so richly deserve.
Was Will Rogers right?
Civil rights lawyer Subodh Chandra recently posted the following on Facebook:
“All I did was make one call to Pat Robertson’s prayer line after the quake in Haiti to pray that God smite him for blaming the earthquake on gays, and ever since then I’ve wound up on every right-wing telephone and direct-mail-solicitation list. Automated calls from Newt Gingrich, direct mail from Jon Huntsman, the NRCC, the NRSC. Karma is a bitch.”
This is interesting because it shows that conservatives are highly organized to bring anyone into their fold they remotely think might be supportive of their positions — which is completely contrary to what I experienced progressives doing.
The issue of voter suppression has been on the radar of those of us who work in the field of prisoner reentry for quite a few years now. While some states, like Florida, put roadblocks in the path to the ballot box for formerly incarcerated individuals, some states don’t. So, almost equally important is the need to develop effective methods of registering former felons and getting them out to the polls in the states where they actually can vote.
Indeed, a recent study carried out by the Florida Parole Commission (which, I doubt is comprised of progressives) found that allowing individuals the right to vote after their release from incarceration reduces recidivism by two-thirds. The study stated that Florida has an overall 33 percent rate of recidivism three years out, but that drops to 11 percent among those who were able to register and vote.
With Reentry Advocate, a magazine I’ve published for four years now, I’ve attempted to raise the alarm about the rights and duties of the 600,000 men and women who return from a period of incarceration each year… not to mention the millions more who receive felonies but don’t go off to prison. This is a huge potential voting block.
As a professional journalist, I’ve reached out over the years to the myriad of progressive organizations that supposedly are interested in moving the liberal agenda forward, in an attempt to network. I’ve sent emails, called, wrote, sent copies of the magazine, and done virtually everything but use carrier pigeons… all to no avail. I only get canned responses, if that. I really have to question if progressives are not really all that interested in this demographic, or are they simply this disorganized?
On the other hand, as a test, last year I reached out to conservatives just to see what their response would be. I concocted a story about trying to bring this population into their ranks. The response was amazing; it was similar to what Subodh Chandra experienced. They got back to me quickly, personally, and repeatedly. They certainly made me feel that this demographic was important to them, and one they want to court if possible. They still contact me on occasion.
The foregoing brings into sharp relief the old Will Rogers quote: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://www.neighborhoodsolutionsinc.com.