Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is This A Silent Sign that Congress is Actually Listening to the First Major Police Protest Movement In American History?

Amazingly, Congress passes a bill requiring all citizen officer involved shootings data be collected and data banked.  I'm totally amazed Congress, with a conservative House, passed this bill, even now
this early into the movement.

This bills passage is a great first initial step, that is necessary to even begin to talk about the issue of police shootings and use of deadly force.  It had been passed before but quietly allowed to die off and never renewed.  The FOP powers influence kept it down after W...let it die.

But, now, suddenly Congress gets it and this is passed without ANY fanfare or even major media attention.  Its almost eerie, but if its true, it signals this movement has already turned serious heads in the power structure of this nation, including among those who without any such public anger and protests would have never considered such a move or even thought it possible.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Misconduct isn't confined to Major Metro Cities: A Look Back at CNN's '99 Report on Steubenville, Ohio

   Police Misconduct isn't anything new.  Its not simply confined to the coastal big cities, LA, New York, Miami, New Orleans, Cleveland, Portland and then those internal major metros like Philly and Chicago and Cincinnati...

    It is found inside many smaller venues and has flourished for decade inside of many small towns of America.

   In fact, the nation's first pattern and practice civil rights investigation ever undertaken by the Department of Justice wasn't in New York or LA or Chicago or even a Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

    It happened right here in the upper Ohio Valley tri state former blue collar steel mill center called, Steubenville.

    It went deep here and it lasted for decades if not dating back to the prohibition era.

    The City's police were notoriously corrupt and notoriously brutal, and it involved both black and white officers on this hometown of both Dean Martin, the Wu Tang Klan and very close to the origins of "Play that Funky Music White Boy", Wild Cherry's Mingo Jct Ohio
     and its named Jefferson County Ohio for a reason....Tommy boy and George had both been here before and George helped defeat the French and Indians about a half hour away from here, before he revolted from his British masters and became the father of the American Revolution.

   Yes, Revolutions begin to happen in small towns oftentimes, first.  Ferguson is just a recent event on the road to many prior smaller town "events" that have occurred, involving America's finest

   We began this journey here in Steubenville just about 20 years ago now. 

   I lived to tell the story but ...barely and with not a little baggage and sacrifice.

   I also took this journey to another smaller, not very small, but definitely not a Chicago or New York or another place in northeastern Ohio, ...another mill town, in 2003-7, when I became the lawyer for a young African American male, who was seen being brutally beat on a videotaped incident, on a sunny June say in front of his neighbors, about ten days after W declared victory for democracy in Iraq.

    Lyndal Kimble was the young man's name.  His family and young daughters and neighbors, and about thirty others from a decidedly mixed black and white neighborhood stood by and watched in horror, until a young white female, a single mom and a nurse, who lived with her white mother and family directly across the street...cried out for the police to stop and urged others to call 911 and an ambulance appeared thereafter on the scene.   ( This was the ONLY reason these three white police stopped beating Lyndal.)

   GMA and Diane Sawyer played the video taped brutal beating and nothing was ever the same again inside of Warren-Youngstown Ohio

    Nothing was ever the same again for Lyndal Kimble

    And nothing would ever be the same again...for me, a forty something white lawyer who again..brought the US Justice Dept Civil Rights Department into the hard and rough and tumble eastern Ohio cities and former mill towns, the rust belt of America

    but we did this, even under W...and with John Ashcroft at the helm

    And with this, we began a revolution of sorts.   Its still going on and its still being fought; hard

    And it can be fairly said, we're not exactly wining this intense civil war....being fought just under the radar of most Americans and their Big Bang Theory TV lives

   Much has been lost, terms of lives lost and legal challenges to the structural issues contained within modern day American policing.   But progress is being made and our struggles began inside of the out of the way, Midwestern smaller cities and towns of America
  are where much of this present day fight was begun.  

    The present day DOJ and Holder's civil rights division did not invent pattern and practice police misconduct investigations.

    In fact, they took a great deal of time, even getting into the fight, AFTER Holder was sworn into office at the nation's first black AG.

   {Holder in fact, was openly and strongly backed in fact by no less than, 17 top law enforcement agencies and organizations for this top AG position, as entered into the Congressional record by Senator Leahy of Vermont, his strongest and most ardent sponsor during his the Senate confirmation hearings.  I and my elder father, a veteran highly respected judicial officer in Ohio, both knew then, our nation was in deep trouble, despite this promising start of the nation's first democratic president in 8 yrs.}

    But, Holder's Civil Rights Division has leaped up into the forefront today, of doing these pattern and practice investigations across America and they are enforcing such investigations inside many of our nation's largest cities and towns.   But, first, they learned how to create such an enforcement schema and model, ...

    Right here, right along these ancient Indian lands, where the nation's earliest pioneers and pioneering abolitionists rose up to challenge slavery and its minions and society evils.

    It was here from Steubenville and the surrounding Midwest, the original DOJ civil rights pattern and practice investigation began.

   This is the truth.  it did not begin in New York even though that City had Serpico, the 70's huge corruption heroin scandal and Philly has its brutal cops and Chicago has its brutal Police Commander and LA had its Daryl Gates and Ramparts Division.

   It happened here in southeastern Ohio first.
   And it wasn't convenient nor simple to do, then.  It was an isolated region.  There were no major tv stations, newspapers,

    No video taped beatings, nor any marches, no anchors doing cutaways from Steubenville.  

   There were no marchers or public signs advocating against the police
    .... There were no legal experts debating the finer aspects of what is going on in Steubenville back twenty years ago as bad as it were.

   And there were no civil rights leaders who cared much for an Appalachian regional ethnic union and democratic voting oriented region.

   As for the local NAACP, it actually came out and publically denounced the one (white) lawyer who was actually trying to get the issue up and into the public light.    (In fact, they openly backed the local brutal police chief and the Police Dept against the early allegations of police misconduct and calls for assistance for the officers who engaged in this conduct.)

   It wasn't an easy time.  No one who lived through it was not deeply affected by this effort.
Lives were changed and impacted and some were forever made to pay.

  For some their careers, reputations and even their lives, their relationships were never the same.

  Post Trauma came to those who fought these battles inside of this out of way small cities and towns along side the DOJ.  Our only security except for our faith, was the invisible FBI cover we were told to us we were being granted but never once met in person nor ever spoke with except for the first calls they made to me.

  Many were scarred for life as a result.

   and yet...slowly, excruciatingly so...the investigation came to be and it resulted in the nation's first
   such fully DOJ investigated special litigation unit's 'findings' of a city that had "violated its citizens civil rights in a pattern manner for at least five years...or more"

   It was a huge vindication and victory for those of us, very very few in number who had labored in this effort in almost total isolation and enforced peer pressure and public disdain and anonymity
for years.   It also was something that caused waves across the entire spectrum of international human rights organizations and publications.   The US itself, gave witness to what had happened inside of Steubenville Ohio in 1999-2000 before the UN Committee on Torture and Human Rights as well.

    What had been going on inside of our city and region's police department for decades and had become "tacitly approved" and part of the local "policy" of how police engaged our white and red and yellow alike, had been decidedly suppressed and denied by nearly all local pd and city officials in public for years.

    This denial made it extremely difficult and even dangerous for and among those of us who took the brunt and bore this cross,

   So, this DOJ Civil Rights landmark event, represented to us, us few, a significant, huge and powerful vindication for all those years of advocacy and litigation the hope of making "the invisible visible."   It happened in part, by courage, by dedication and not a little by some type of miracle.

    In the end, it was Robert Kennedy and Ghandi and MLK's idealism as well as

   It was a personal faith, the could say, that made this occur given the geography and size and the critical severity of the issue that did arise on the banks of the ancient river that cuts eastern America's Midwest in half.

   It was God forsaken region for many decades.... at least up until the US Dept of Justice took a hard look at this seriously ethnically mixed, rough former labor union stronghold region and town.

  the River that Washington has crossed over and knew was formed in Pittsburgh at the Point, where the French Indian War was fought...
  That great river the Indian's named and once roamed and fished freely upon.

   It was on this river and in this 200 yr old mill town, that the Civil Rights Division came into and performed this powerful landmark civil rights effort.

  After these DOJ original efforts and findings, were announced in September of 1997,

 Many things were never again quite the same
 this was true for both those who fought the good fight....and for the city itself;

 This effort produced a milestone in both our personal lives and in many ways, inside of Steubenville, certainly its police department, in some ways.

 Problems remains and the public officials kept on denying the DOJ's efforts and findings yet they over time, came to a place of at least accommodation and realized they needed to come into the 20th century in some terms and applications inside of its police department.  Many today would say...not much has actually changed given the same city fathers who brought in the consent decree are still voted every election into office today.

 But one thing did happen for sure.  After eight years of federal oversight, and not quite completed consent decree compliance still to this day, young minorities and many whites, female and male, who were either subjects of and/or witnesses to police misconduct, who before dared to speak out against police brutality occurring in this rough and tumble racially divided mill town, not unlike todays' Ferguson in its police and political structure inside the city limits,

    were eventually protected, from the at least, the most serious use of force, false arrests, and patterned retaliatory and brutal and false police actions that were being done "routinely" for "years" as per the official DOJ findings

   ...inside of Steubenville, Ohio

This did change and it happened here first, as a result of the enforcement of Public Law 94 or what is commonly referred to today as an 14141 action.

   Its the story of a city's population that lived in fear of its police.   Its the story of a citizenry that were coerced into silence, even its white citizens who wanted to try to speak out against the same.

   and its a story about how the US justice Department came to this forgotten, out of the way, small city known as "little Chicago" in its heyday for its strong ties to madams and mob bosses in Atlantic City to Chicago and Las Vegas...

   but up thru the mid 90' was very hard on its citizens who dared to act up and those who spoke up on behalf its brutalized victims.   
   This did change in significant ways, ...given what a small number of people and two brave lawyers did inside this city, one the son of a prominent veteran local senior trial judge

   and this is the story...of how America and Eric Holder came to the place, where...

   we can today at least, in our most earnest but narrow of ways, ...begin the task of policing
   American landscape ...called modern day law enforcement at all...