We did not create the current justice system nor was it seeking justice for Blacks, women, or the poor in this country at the time it became the law of the land. It was built on biases and stereotypes that are culturally tied to those in charge with discretion that many of us do not understand until we are caught up in it.
Many were surprised by the actions of the county prosecutor and how he used the Grand Jury to present the case for police officer Darren Wilson instead of the victim Michael Brown the young Black teenager. However many in the Black community knew the outcome before the jury rendered its verdict.
The local NAACP is taking a long march from the place of the killing to the state capitol in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of police officers killing unarmed Black citizens in America. They are also hoping to get a law enacted for police to wear body cameras when interacting with the public.
While this would be nice, I remember Mayor Tom Bradley saying, “I know what I saw” when talking about the police beating of Rodney King on video after a jury acquitted the officers using the video. People see what they want to see and ignore facts because they know the majority of the public will not be impacted by their decisions. We are going to have to remove this automatic legal protection of police officers that we have established in America. More cases must be brought to public trial in order to establish any kind of trust in our community and police must prove themselves trustworthy of our respect.
Now Ferguson’s city government is attempting to correct some of the obvious things that have come out into the national spotlight. How does a city where 70% of the population is African American have only one serving on the city council and three Black police officers?
They have accepted the resignation of Officer Wilson while implementing a plan to increase the diversity of the police force by offering financial incentives for officers to live in the city and organizing a police cadet program in schools.
There are many cities like Ferguson all over America and some right here in the Inland Empire. For example, San Bernardino has only 22 Blacks and 62 Hispanics on the force and 18 who live in the city out of a staff of over 200 officers.
On the fire department, there are only four firefighters living in the city with six Blacks and 19 Hispanics on a staff of 120, where Whites make up less than 25% of the population.
Currently there are two Latinos and one African American on the San Bernardino City Council. I say currently because there was a time there were no Blacks or Latinos represented on the city council and a time when only two Blacks served at the same time. Voters must keep this in mind and seek good people to run for office while having a city charter that gives those elected the authority to manage once elected.
To all elected officials, the time to act is before a crisis or like I say in the newspaper business “make friends before you need them.” You never know when a Ferguson issue might happen in your community.
And remember many Black and Latino citizens do not view the justice system as their friend or being there for them. We have a lot of work to do to change that perception.