A Tale of Too (Many) Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” at no other time in history have we been more connected to others, yet hate still flourishes. “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” we have the knowledge to cure many of man’s ailments, but price them out of the reach. “It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,” with the election of Obama as President we hoped that racism was a thing of the past, but the scene of black men being shot, beaten and choked to death belies this. The news is replete with overreach and callous use of authority as embodied in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York, Cleveland, Newark and many more cities we do not know.
An April 30th report from the Police Executive Research Forum, reported on St. Louis County, MO; where Ferguson is located. The PERF report found that an "inappropriate and misguided mission has been thrust upon the police in many communities: the need to generate large sums of revenue for their city governments." We see police departments in Baltimore, New York and Newark, NJ accused of imposing clandestine arrest quotas on their officers. This drives a corrosive atmosphere where police essentially harass minorities on real and imagined minor offenses; such appears to be the fate of Freddie Gray.
This problem of police brutality or misconduct is not only across the country but also in our own backyard. In a recent rally in Newark, attended by Rosemary Lontka, Deb Huber, and Vicky Stapleton from our chapter, there were three mothers and a daughter who lost loved ones from police actions. Larry Hamm, director of POP, spoke about at least five people who have died in police custody in Newark. He also stated that a civilian complaint review Board is being set up in Newark and that the ACLU has so many cases of this police misconduct that they have referred this problem to the federal Department of Justice. The DOJ issued a scathing report on Newark. They are soliciting applications for individuals and organizations to act as a Federal Monitor.
Morris County members, Rosemary and Vicky in partnership with the NAACP have participated in a program about criminal justice and policing policies. The NAACP is advocating more community involvement, body cameras, civilian complaint review boards of police activities, and legislative reform. These are just a few of the policies but these are good first steps in helping to end the suffering of wives, mothers, brothers and sisters. If we all continue to be vigilant and hold police and elected officials to the highest of standards then “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done.”1