Who Needs College? You Can Learn Everything on YouTube

In a solution to reducing the cost of a good education and the burden of student loans hanging like an albatross around the neck, I have found a more expedient and cost-effective method of learning.

YouTube.

There is nothing one cannot learn to do on YouTube Video.  Need actual proof, say a picture or two? Well, here you go.

First, a little background. While I consider myself a fairly intelligent person with adequate writing skills, I have never been handy with tools. We’re talking about a guy who once melted the vinyl siding off the house while installing an outside water faucet.

For most of my adult life—at least the married part—I have been banned from using power tools. Not so much out of fear of lopping off a limb or bleeding to death, but out of concern I would do irreparable damage to our property.

But no more.

Through the wonders of YouTube and a leap of faith (or faded memory) allowing me once again to acquire and play with power tools. I am proud to announce two things. 

I still have all my limbs and suffered no injuries requiring stitches, ambulances, or Med flights to emergency rooms.

And I built this—the world’s most amazing chicken coop.

My next YouTube exploration will involve Brain Surgery.  I figure I will start with people of a certain political persuasion. Lots of room to work with and what’s the worst that could happen?  I’ll take pictures if I find any brains still functioning.

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Defund (Elements) of the Police but Let Cops BE Cops

The movement toward defunding or, in the extreme, eliminating the police has a fundamental logic to it. Although I’m certain many proponents miss the point because they are caught in the fog of emotion. There are public funds allocated to police departments that could be better directed to other programs. Some of my suggestions will be met with outrage, but the simple fact is the most effective departments are those who let cops BE cops. They catch bad guys (in the universal, non-gender specific way.)

Changing police departments without keeping this fundamental truth in mind is Utopian idiocy. These foolish experiments with “autonomous” zones excluding the police are living examples of the Lord of the Flies phenomenon. They will fail, and innocent people will suffer and die amid the anarchy.

Let me state a universal truth.

As long as there are humans, there will be bad guys and the need for those brave enough to stand between them and society.

If one is rational enough to understand this point, then certain corollaries follow. We can no more eliminate the police than we can stop burning fossil fuel without a realistic alternative. But we can get back to basics with police departments. Refocus them on their core functions, and reallocate resources to other services more suited to social welfare agencies.

Over the last few decades, there have been several divergent trends within law enforcement. One toward militarization and one toward a “touchy-feely” gentleness. Neither added to the elemental function nor improved the effectiveness of police departments

Starting back in the days of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, the federal government offered surplus military equipment to police departments.

I recall the glee among many of my fellow officers, including me, over this bonanza of toys. M-16 rifles, night-vision equipment, armored personnel carriers, and more. We thought this was the coolest thing in the world. I mean, come on. Is there anything better than firing automatic weapons and seeing in the dark?

To make it even more palatable, President Reagan reinvigorated the War on Drugs. We had the stuff, we had the war, all we needed was an enemy. Like all wars, most casualties were civilians. We tried to arrest our way out of a health crisis. If you think someone who would steal from their grandmother to buy heroin gave any thought to being caught by the police, you are remarkably naive.

Then, we came up with mandatory sentences, three-strike laws, and asset forfeiture statutes. All well-intentioned, like the proverbial road to hell. The net result? We turned whole swaths of society into convicts and filled our prisons with society’s most disadvantaged.

No one embraced the concept of the war on drugs more than me, and the many officers I worked with. But most cops are an intuitive bunch. We came to see the fallacy and contradiction in what we were doing. Like the war in Vietnam, we had to destroy the village to save it. We lost the enthusiasm for a failed policy.

Back then, no one made the connection that turning police departments, at least in appearance, into what were essentially armies of occupation was a dangerous thing. They held entire training conferences teaching agencies what language to use in the applications.

No one questioned the wisdom or consequences.

These programs were followed by the COPS Grant program, designed to put more officers on the street through technology. And there were others. Each had, what seemed, a logical and beneficial purpose.

They became a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

In parallel with these programs, a kinder and gentler approach took hold. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program rose to prominence in Los Angeles and spread across the country. Community Policing quickly followed on the heels of DARE.

The problem was, in many agencies, these programs became specialized units rather than philosophical changes.

DARE put cops in schools as teachers when most lacked a fundamental understanding of educational theory. No matter how well-intentioned, DARE would prove marginally effective, if at all. Studies show contradictory results from DARE training. One five-year study showed no significant results between schools implementing DARE programs and those that did not. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dope/dare/effectiveness.html

Community policing, one of the most promising of all the “New Age” programs, had the most potential. Police Departments formed “Community Policing Units” as a way of embracing this new paradigm. This presented a contradiction to the purpose of the philosophy. Community policing is not a thing, not a specialization like CSI or Homicide investigations. To treat it as such is to hobble the beneficial effect.

Community Policing is a philosophy, a paradigm, and a practice to be ingrained within an agency’s approach to police work. But many issues addressed by community policing are better handled by other agencies. In some agencies, Community Policing became little more than a central collection point of information about quality of life issues—loud congregations of youths, trash on the streets, burned-out streetlights, noisy business establishments, road maintenance. The officers then referred this information to the responsible agency. It drew personnel away from the core function of the police. That is not what cops—by training or design— are best suited to do.

Once again, a well-intentioned program clouding the fundamental responsibilities of cops. As a matter of normal course of operations, cops should pay attention to such issues. Small annoyances can escalate into major problems. While the “broken window” theory of law enforcement is largely discounted, an element of its validity persists. Focusing on the small things before they become major issues works.

But cops need to focus on what they do best.

Community Policing drew personnel away from the core function of the police with limited beneficial improvement to the community. The reality is, all policing is intended toward protecting the community. Crime prevention through police presence, apprehending criminals, suppressing disturbances, responding to accidents, all take place within the community.

Attitudes and expectations, both by the police and by the community, need to change. The cops are not the enemy, and the community is not the problem. Community Policing should comprise merging the responsibility of both the community and the police into a partnership to catch bad guys. https://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/What_Works_in_Community_Policing.pdf

There was once an effort to combine the functions of public safety, i.e., police, fire, ems, into a single agency. In theory, it seemed to make sense. Have those first on the scene cross-trained in all aspects of public safety.

In reality, it was a dismal failure.

When an EMT responds to a shooting, their focus needs to be on treating the victim. When the Fire Department responds to a fire, its focus needs to be on putting out the fire, rescuing individuals, and saving property.

When cops respond to these same incidents, an element of each comes into play—preserving life being the most important. But the officer must also focus on determining if a crime occurred, preserving evidence, and apprehending those who committed the crime.

Differentiation and separation of responsibilities make all public safety operations more effective.

The problem is, in many cities and towns, the police are the agency of last resort. If the trash in the street is infested with rats, if the neighborhood bar blares music to all hours, if the kids on the corner block the way, cops are the simplest solution. If a homeless person, suffering from mental illness, is blocking the entrance to a business, call the police.

Even if they can only deal with the issue temporarily.

There is another, more sinister aspect to things police departments are tasked with performing. The enforcement of traffic laws—intended to save lives and prevent accidents—has become a source of revenue critical to state and municipal budgets. Every department in the country will say they do not mandate a quota for officers. Yet, most agencies use the number of tickets written as a measure of officer performance.

Like the contradiction in government warnings about the dangers of smoking and their dependency on the tax revenue from the sale of tobacco, police department generate revenue from tickets. It is a tax disguised as a public safety function.

If one wants to understand the danger of such dependency on traffic ticket revenue by a municipal government, all one has to do is look at the level of traffic enforcement in Ferguson, MO. The shooting of Michael Brown wasn’t the reason for the unrest and riots in that city, it was the spark that lit the fuse.

The recent revolts across the country are not just because of unjustified police shootings of people of color. They are a reaction to a complex range of issues. Police departments are being forced to contend with many of these, mostly outside their control, and doing it poorly.

We wouldn’t send a carpenter to fix a plumbing problem, why do we expect cops to solve societal issues beyond their control or expertise?

Redirecting funds from police departments to social service agencies make sense. But this is a long-term strategy. We still need to deal with the practical realities of crime. Cops prevent, investigate, and solve crimes. They apprehend bad guys. They should do so with professionalism within the confines of the law. Sometimes, this will involve the use of deadly force. We can set our sights on eliminating that necessity someday. However, we still need to have cops being cops for the foreseeable future.

Before we rush headlong into such irrational actions of disbanding the police. Before we just slash and cut police budgets to satisfy an incensed, but uninformed public. Before we commit ourselves in a rush to judgment to do something, anything, we need to step back and analyze what purpose police departments serve.

The cops are not the adversaries of the public. This is not an us versus them situation. Cops are humans, subject to the same frailties and foibles as everyone else.

We need to let police departments get back to the fundamentals. We need to stop relying on the police as the agency of last resort in dealing with issues outside their skill set. We need to recognize the problems we face are all our responsibility, not just the police departments because they are a convenient 911 call away.

Let cops be cops. Not social workers, not teachers, not mental health providers, not counselors. Let cops do what they signed up to do, stand on the thin blue line, and catch bad guys.

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Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

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Ennui will Destroy America

I checked the calendar today, twice, to make sure it really was the year 2020. Turns out, it is. No matter how hard that is to believe.

This is the most modern age in America so far. But despite all our technology, all our vast capabilities, all these attempts at either recovering or finding American greatness, we still cannot run an election. We fail at the most fundamental aspect of self-government; wherein the people determine the course of government.

This should happen without lengthy delays in counting votes, serious doubts over integrity, or an embarrassing level of non-participation.

We have little faith in our fellow Americans—seeing them all (or at least the ones who hold different beliefs or political philosophies) as willing to commit voter fraud—and we have no faith in our government. A government installed by VOTERS. We don’t trust the system and we see little benefit in making the effort to vote.

We are trapped between an irresistible force and an immovable object. Our own intransigence and inertia will be our demise.

A country that once challenged the greatest military power in the world on the sheer courage of our citizen-soldiers runs elections like a kindergarten class in North Korea.

A country that once put a man on the moon cannot guarantee every citizen the opportunity to vote and instill in them the obligation to exercise that right as a sacred duty.

We should be a country certain that the outcome of elections represents the will of the people. All the people.

But, alas, as the latest debacle out of Kentucky demonstrates, we may be a world leader in some things, yet we are barely competent in the most critical—supporting and fostering our Democracy.

Kentucky, in a preview of the coming national elections, reduced polling locations. One location covered almost 800,000 voters. This was ostensibly to manage exposure to COVID-19. It defies logic.  Wouldn’t MORE sites reduce numbers and the risk of exposure?  They also either failed to anticipate or exhibited just plain ‘ole stupidity in their plan for dealing with mail-in ballots.

I know the pressures on poll workers is enormous. They have to spend an entire DAY at the polls. Would it be too much to ask if we made them work, for the sake of argument, an entire week to increase opportunities for voting?  These elections only happen every two years. I would think one week of work and two years off, even if they have to add two extra days to prepare, isn’t an unreasonable request.

Perhaps working at polling sites should be akin to jury duty. Everybody required to participate. Now I know some of you are rolling your eyes. Jury duty! How awful a comparison. But jury duty, no matter how inconvenient, is the foundation of the justice system. As is staffing election operations to allow all to vote.

Perhaps we should demand that the position of Secretary of State be more than just a launch pad for the politically ambitious. As Draconian as this may sound, we should insist they actually deal with making voting accessible for all.

Of all the ills facing this country, sometimes we need to triage the most critical and put aside the others.  And I can think of nothing more important than making sure every eligible American votes. It is something we should instill as part of our education system. Not only do you have the Right to Vote, but you have a civic obligation to do so.

A truly representative government, populated with responsible individuals elected by open voter participation, is the best way to address all the other issues facing America.

Here’s another incentive for those of you who distrust government, incumbents fear large voter turnout. They understand if circumstances can drive the normally oblivious to the polls, change is in the air.

If you are serious about Making America Great Again, then vote. And demand those who manage our elections work to support that goal.

If you don’t think it matters, you have only to look at what happened in 2016. The time for Americans to reclaim our destiny, self-respect, and standing as a beacon of Democracy is upon us.

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Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

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And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

Recalculating: Life, the Universe, and Everything. 46 not 42

42, the famous answer offered by the brilliant writer, Douglas Adams, in his book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, to the question what is the meaning of Life, the Universe, and Everything, may be slightly incorrect.

What’s this, you might ask? Isn’t this presumptive of you? Bear with me, there is some rationale behind my idea, or delusion if you prefer.

Looking up in a night sky, especially away from cities and light pollution, the simple vastness of the Universe is overwhelming. What we see with the naked eye is an infinitesimally tiny portion of the stars and galaxies in the observable Universe, The most distant light from objects we can observe with radio telescopes is from 13.5 billion years ago, the time of the big bang. (Although there are now objects scientists believe are even further away—a scientific paradox if the speed of light is an actual limit, but I digress.)

When one looks at those stars, you are looking into the past. The closest star, not counting the sun, is actually two stars orbiting each other, Alpha and Proxima Centauri. They lie 4.5 light-years away. If one were to look at the stars today, June 22, 2020, you would see light that left the stars sometime in 2015-6.

You are actually looking back in time, and perhaps someone on an exoplanet is doing the same thing with our sun.

When I was growing up, there were nine planets. Since then, we have demoted Pluto to a sub-planet, leaving only eight in our solar system. We may have a finite number here, although there is a suspected planet X far beyond Pluto, but there are plenty of planets elsewhere.

Almost everywhere we look, we have found extraterrestrial planets orbiting stars, including an earth-sized planet, perhaps in the Goldilocks zone, which could support life, orbiting Proxima Centauri.

We have neighbors!

At last count, there were over 4000 confirmed exoplanets with thousands of more “candidate” objects yet to be confirmed.

It turns out planets are fairly common.

So, what does this have to do with my premise of changing 42 to 46 for the answer to the question? Bear with me a bit more.

A recent revision of the Drake Equation (I won’t bore you with an explanation, you can read about it here (https://www.britannica.com/science/Drake-equation) speculates there are thirty-six extraterrestrial intelligent communicating civilizations in our galaxy. (https://www.advancedsciencenews.com/astronomers-estimate-there-are-36-communicating-civilizations-in-our-galaxy/)

This estimate is on the low end of the process, there could be many more. Or none. But let us assume there are at least thirty-six.The chance of our finding them—or conversely their finding us—is, well, astronomical.

But what if?

In the Star Trek series, one of the biggest objections from a biological-scientific perspective (aside from faster than light travel) is Mr. Spock, a blended creature with a Vulcan father and a human mother. The likelihood of the chromosomes from an extraterrestrial species being compatible enough to permit reproduction with us is low.

But suppose, like our once certain science there were only nine planets, we are wrong? Suppose planets are a common object in the Universe and that intelligent life will develop given the proper conditions. What if the “right conditions” for developing intelligent life is 46 chromosomes?

What if, given this requirement for developing intelligent life, we could crossbreed with ET?

Perhaps not this particular species

If we can find them, that is.

I am an optimist. But I’ve long ago abandoned my childhood dream of flying to the stars. Yet, it may happen for my grandchildren (whenever they arrive… hint, hint.) But I still hope to live long enough to see the day when we actually communicate with another intelligent civilization.

Or at least know they exist.

Perhaps, generations from now, a blend of the 46 chromosomes from the Broadmeadow lineage will fly to those very stars, taking me existentially along into the Universe.

Here’s to 46 and all the possibilities of imagination.

Erasing History

The recent decision of the United States Marine Corps to ban displays of the Confederate flag is a necessary and welcome policy. I am proud to say, my cousin, Lieutenant General John Broadmeadow, was the senior Marine officer signing and issuing the official command.

Banning symbols associated with those who once fought to preserve slavery is a worthwhile goal. The flag represents two fundamental and undeniable legacies, slavery and a once lethal enemy of the United States of America.

Some have tried to spin the past into a less sinister reality. But the states that seceded from the Union did so to preserve and protect slavery. Every other rationale was ancillary and tangential to the cause.

These are the words three states publicized in justifying their secession.

Georgia

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic…”

Mississippi

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

South Carolina

“But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.”

Let there be no doubt about it, the argument for secession by the confederate states was based on slavery. They considered slaves to be nothing more than property. They saw the rising tide of abolition as an unlawful deprivation of their rights to this property by the government. There was no consideration of the black race as anything near as valuable as the white race. The south saw slaves as little more than two-legged pack animals.

 No alteration of facts, or creative interpretation of history, can change that reality.

Yet, the clamor to remove monuments to those who supported the south as a way of cleansing the stain of slavery is an exercise in contradictions and a fool’s mission.

These statues and artifacts represent a period in history important for us to remember. Removing them will not alter the past anymore than denying the reality behind it.

To remove the name of General Braxton Bragg from Fort Bragg, North Carolina cannot stand scrutiny without removing all those who may have held slaves.

One cannot erase history, no matter how unpleasant, unless one will wipe out all of it. And that is impossible.

If we tear down the statues to Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis because they fought in the cause of slavery, should we also remove statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or the sixteen other Presidents who owned slaves?

Jefferson himself, while troubled by the institution of slavery, vacillated in his position. While he lamented the practice, he still held onto his slaves.

“I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach [slavery], in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other”

If we are to remove the name Bragg from the fort, should we rename Washington, DC?

Do we erase from the history books the actions of William Tecumseh Sherman because of his total war in Georgia? Sherman was not an abolitionist. He didn’t care if the south held slaves, he fought to preserve the Union. Are those motivations admirable absent a revulsion to slavery?

Sherman’s own words expressed the nature of his conduct of the Southern Campaign.

“I confess, without shame, I am sick and tired of fighting—its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands and fathers … tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated … that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

Sherman may have detested the realities of “hard war” but he did not shy away from visiting it in all its terror upon his enemies. Is his memorial something to preserve while we demolish those of Robert E. Lee?

Where do we stop trying to whitewash history? Do we remove all the names of soldiers memorialized in Forts and military posts who took part in the genocide of Native Americans?

Much of our history is written in blood. We shouldn’t try to obliterate these histories but learn from them. These statues and portraits represent Americans who lived during a much different time. They stood by their convictions, no matter how we view them now, and their fellow countrymen saw fit to memorialize them.

They are a part of history that is undeniable, unchangeable, and unerasable. Trying to understand the motivations of those who supported the southern cause is important, so such misguided endeavors never happen again.

They also remind us that slavery was the precursor to something many Americans still endure. They carry scars not from the whip but from the crippling pain of racism and discrimination.

The Confederate Flag should be on display in museums and history books. The legacy of slavery should be an important element of every American’s education.

For someone to display the Confederate Flag today is equal to displaying a Nazi flag. We do not celebrate the causes of our enemies. Despite efforts to recharacterize the motivations of secession, the fact remains that the Confederate States took up arms against the United States of America to preserve slavery. One of the most hateful legacies of human history.

Yet it is important, when those enemies were fellow Americans, that we don’t bury history because it is painful to recall it. Remembering something, in its proper perspective, is different than celebrating or endorsing it.

History is a valued teacher if we learn to appreciate and put the lessons into context.

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Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

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And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

Freedom of Speech: The FIRST Amendment

I do not write this piece without trepidation. I hope to convey the point without feeding into the adversarial generalizations some believe this requires. I seek to cause no harm to the many sincere people who support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the worthwhile goals of changing the impact of implicit bias within society.

Yet, the reason the founding fathers made Freedom of Speech the First Amendment was to ensure the government silences no one for holding or expressing an opinion. Even if that opinion criticizes an important movement for change in America.

More so, because that is the very basis for any progress; change tempered by a rational discussion of all aspects.

The founding fathers believed in the ability of Americans to discern the valid and righteous from the vain and vicious. It would seem we have forgotten the goal of the First Amendment in our pursuit of finding solutions to the issues raised by organizations such as BLM.

I was troubled by a news story out of Vermont reporting the suspension of a school principal for a post done on her personal time expressing her opinion about the BLM.

Tiffany Riley wrote:

“I firmly believe that Black Lives Matter, but I DO NOT agree with the coercive measures taken to get to this point across; some of which are falsified in an attempt to prove a point. While I want to get behind BLM, I do not think people should be made to feel they have to choose black race over human race. While I understand the urgency to feel compelled to advocate for black lives, what about our fellow law enforcement? What about all others who advocate for and demand equity for all? Just because I don’t walk around with a BLM sign should not mean I am a racist.”

The School board in Mount Ascutney held an emergency meeting, suspended Riley and now seek to terminate her. The board’s statement characterized Riley’s post thusly,

the ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgment in these statements are utterly contrary to the values we espouse as a school board and district.”

This trend to suppressing those who would dare criticize the BLM movement, for it is happening all over the country, is as dangerous as the very issues BLM seeks to address.

It was once the majority of the country that tried to suppress voices such as BLM and other aspects of the equality movement, using all the tools of censorship and oppression to oppose racial justice.

Now, it would seem, the standard for Free Speech is “as long as it is in keeping with the most politically correct movements.”

Instead of taking the opportunity for a public discussion of Ms. Riley’s opinion—perhaps exposing implicit bias and teaching a valuable lesson to the students in the school and across the county—the school took the politically expedient way out.

This is not about BLM and the many valid changes they seek to bring about. But I find it troubling that an organization using the power of Free Speech to bring about change would demand to be exempt from criticism, or that political entities would seize on the moment to restrict Freedom of Speech.

Failing to unequivocally support Freedom of Speech is a danger to all. Groups like BLM are often the catalyst for progress. As Margaret Mead said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

But this should not make them immune from criticism.

I also find it troubling that an organization such as BLM, which rightfully argues blacks as a group are targeted solely on the color of their skin, would apply the same generalizations to all Police Officers.

Those who seek the protection of the First Amendment as a means to redress their grievances cannot deny it to others. Nor should they stand idly by when it is.

Ensuring justice and equality for all is a righteous cause. But seeking ways to bring it about does not immunize you from criticism. Fair treatment need be applied without reservation or conditions. Leaving aside the valid institutional changes necessary within society and law enforcement, justice without equality, no matter how worthy the goal, is contradictory to change.

Whether you are a black man or woman, or a police officer wearing a badge, one need by judged by the content of your soul, your character, and your conduct, not by the actions of others who happen to belong to the same group.

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Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

Follow this blog for upcoming information on all new book releases. And please share this with readers everywhere. All comments are welcome. Or if you would like write a piece to be posted on my blog please send me a message.

Signup here for my email list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

And for all my books to add to your memories of great reads…https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU

America in the 60s & 70s and America in 2020: For Better or Worse?

(This is a bit of a long one, but it is an interesting topic and, hopefully, worth the read)

The good ‘ole days may not have been as good as we’d like to believe, or were they better? An intriguing question. As I often do, I like to use the words of others with my own to illustrate the commonality of our experiences.

Here’s a quote one of my most influential teachers,

“The past is delusion; the present, elusion; the future, illusion.” Dan Walsh

With the past, we often twist Shakespeare’s words about the evil men do.  Instead of “The evil men do lives on, the good is oft interred with their bones.” We change it to, “Our fondness for the wonderful memories of the past live on, the evil is oft interred in the deepest recesses of our brain.”

In a reaction to a recent piece, https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2020/06/13/a-eulogy-for-the-police/, Paul Edward Cary, who enjoys debating many of my positions (respectful of our differences and, on the rare occasion, our agreement) argued the United States has declined in moral character over the past 50 or 60 years.

It sparked an idea.

Was America a better place in the 60s and 70s? Are we a nation in decline? I decided to see what I could discover.

While measuring morality is subjective, there are other benchmarks we can use to test the hypothesis. I looked at various historical events and national attributes—health, infant mortality, education, civil rights, Supreme Court cases, and crime.

Supreme Court

Time magazine did a project several years ago seeking opinions from a variety of law professors and legal experts on the most influential—for good or bad—Supreme Court cases.

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2036448,00.html

Often the court serves as a catalyst for change in society, righting wrongs embedded within the fabric of American lives. Some would argue these decisions were not always for the better. But here are the most beneficial and the most troubling in the 1960s-70s contrasted with those the court decided in the 2010s.

In the 1960s, several cases sparked major changes and controversies. Fifty or sixty years sounds like a long time ago. But to those of us alive in those years, thinking back, it’s hard to accept such cases were necessary.

Loving v. Virginia (1967), which found restrictions on interracial marriage unconstitutional. 

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964), which protected freedom of the press in the realm of political reporting and libel. 

Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), which established the one-person, one-vote concept in legislative apportionment.

2015 saw the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 same-sex-marriage ruling.

Perhaps the cases necessary in the 60s and 70s set us on a better, more moral path. The law professors saw them as positive cases. Yet, that they were necessary paints a troubling picture of a segregated and less open society.

On the negative side, many professors were critical of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). The case removed campaign-spending limits on corporations and unions, and Bush v. Gore (2000), which resulted in George W. Bush’s winning the presidential election.

Of all the cases I looked at, this one from 1973 troubled me. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez (1973).

“This decision held that inequities in school funding do not violate the Constitution. The court thus said that discrimination against the poor does not violate the Constitution and that education is not a fundamental right. It played a major role in creating the separate and unequal schools that exist today.” (From the Times article)

The controversial decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) appeared on the lists of both the best and worst decisions. Without once again venturing down this rabbit hole, I’ll leave it to you to decide if this contributed to our “moral decay.”

I know my lawyer friends will all pipe in with their own favorites. Still, the very need for the cases decided in the 60s and 70s casts a shadow on the perception of a more fair or moral American society.

As further proof of the importance of court-imposed mandates, one need look no further than our own backyard and the 1970s desegregation of the Boston School system.

The case—Morgan v. Hennigan, 379 F. Supp. 410 (D.C. Mass., June 21, 1974)—decided by U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Garrity, required Boston to bus students to various schools to achieve a racial balance.

That a court, in 1974, had to force a city the size of Boston—a city which prides itself on its contribution to the very founding of this nation—to comply with the findings of Brown V Board of Education, a twenty-year-old refutation of the concept of separate but equal school systems, is astounding. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/boston-bussing-case/

But before we take too much comfort in this decade being better than the past, there is this. In Cleveland, Mississippi, the school district finally stopped contesting a ruling from 1965 regarding the desegregation of its high schools.

The city agreed to desegregate the schools in 2017, having fought against it by various legal maneuverings for fifty-two years. http://www.mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/articles/305/the-last-stand-of-massive-resistance-1970

1960s News Stories

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., May 3, 1963 (UPI) – Five firemen stood less than 50 feet away today sweeping methodically with a high-pressure hose and sending hundreds of racial demonstrators tumbling in the street.

The force downs a man as fast as a charging tackle on a football field and is no less damaging.

I was in a corner telephone booth dictating a story as a crowd of chanting, singing, gyrating Negroes surged time and again into the face of a police blockade. Spray hung across the intersection like fog.

When the first powerful blast hit the front line of anti-segregation marchers, they toppled and rolled in the streets, clinging to the curb and to each other.

As the hose swung away, they jeered the firemen, taunting with catcalls. But the ones who didn’t flee at first soon were routed by the full force of spray.

Then the firemen turned their attention to a small group of Negroes on the corner where I was standing.

“Let’s get those people out of there,” an officer shouted.

The firemen swung the hose quickly and the gush of water splattered the seven Negroes on the corner. They fled into a restaurant and the firemen followed, playing their hose in the restaurant for two or three minutes.

“They’re turning the hose on us,” I shouted to another newsman.

Elvin Stanton, of radio station WSGN, jumped into the phone booth with me. We braced for the blast of water which hit the glass wall with a roar.

The water was brown, then a boiling white froth which roared through the cracks in the booth, sloshed under the booth and soaked our feet. Then they turned the hose on an upper ventilating slot and our shoulders were soaked.

I kept yelling that we were reporters, but the torrent kept pounding on the glass booth. Somehow, the glass held until they turned the hose around.

We walked out. As we strode soggily by the firemen, one turned and asked: “Did you get wet?”

SELMA, Ala., March 7, 1965 (UPI) – State troopers and mounted deputies bombarded 600 Negroes with tear gas Sunday when they knelt to pray on a bridge, then attacked them with clubs. Troopers and posse men, under orders from Gov. George C. Wallace to stop the Negro “walk for freedom” to Montgomery, chased the marchers nearly a mile through town, clubbing them as they ran.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law on May 6. The purpose of the law was to close loopholes from the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and dealt primarily with voter disenfranchisement. The act created penalties for anyone who tried to obstruct voter registration and extended the life of the Civil Rights Commission which had been set to expire. It also established federal inspection of local voter registration polls in an effort to counter-act discriminatory laws in the South that worked to disenfranchise voters on a racial basis.

Vietnam

And then we had Vietnam, or more correctly Viet Nam.

While our involvement in Viet Nam began long before the 60s, most Americans wouldn’t have a clue where the country was until 1965.

Here’s one interesting tidbit of history.

June 8, 1956: The first official American fatality in Viet Nam is Air Force Technical Sergeant Richard B. Fitzgibbon, Jr. He was murdered by another American airman as he was talking with local children. His wife lobbied for years, finally succeeding in 1999, to have his name added to the Viet Nam Wall Memorial.

Think about that for a second. The first official American casualty in Viet Nam was murdered by a fellow American.  It gets no stranger than that. Perhaps had we taken that as an omen, we might have decided the avoid the whole thing.

But we didn’t. And when I said it could get no stranger, I was wrong. Fitzgibbon’s son joined the Marine Corps…and was killed in Viet Nam.

Here’s a brief historical timeline of the 60s and 70s and the routes of involvement.

1960 The United States announces 3,500 American soldiers will be sent to Vietnam.

July 1964. Gulf of Tonkin incident. U.S. warships come under fire by North Vietnamese gunboats in two related incidents. There is little doubt the first incident happened. The NV Gunboats were responding to an earlier bombing attack on two North Vietnamese held islands by U.S. and South Vietnamese Naval forces. 

The second incident, which Lyndon Johnson would use to escalate American involvement, is in doubt. Johnson secretly confided to his advisors, “for all I know, the goddamn Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

On March 6, 1965, two battalions of U.S. Marines waded ashore near Danang,

March 16, 1968 The My Lai massacre—known as Son My in Viet Nam—where American soldiers killed nearly all the people—old men, women, and children, including infants—in the village of My Lai. The months-long military campaign known as the Tet Offensive (January 30–September 23) topped Vietnam news.

Amid the carnage of Viet Nam, on July 20, 1969, Americans put a man on the moon.

1973 The Paris Peace Accords, negotiated by the Nixon administration, reached agreement after five years. Nixon secretly orchestrated a delay in the talks during the 1968 Presidential Campaign through back-channel communications with the North Vietnamese government promising better terms. He then took 5 years, at the cost of almost twenty thousand more dead Americans, to settle the war.

1973 All U.S. Combat troops leave Viet Nam. 500 American POWs return from North Viet Nam.

Military advisors remain until 1975

April 1975

The U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government surrendered to the Communists on April 30, ending three decades of war in Vietnam. Hours later, the first Communist tanks rumbled into the capital.

During Viet Nam, anti-war protesters and racial strife tore apart the country.

May 4, 1970, National Guard troops fire on war protesters, killing four, at Kent State University.  Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20, and William Knox Schroeder, 19.

Several National Guardsmen were charged in the killings, but they dismissed the cases.

1971

Attica prison riot

Native Americans forced from Alcatraz after citing an 1868 Treaty allowing them to live on the island

1972

Supreme Court rules against the death penalty

The last man to walk on the moon, Eugene Cernan, aboard Apollo 17 in December 1972, brought an end to the Apollo program.

AIM seizes Wounded Knee, SD
The American Indian Movement (AIM) seized the hamlet for 90 days before surrendering. It was a protest of violations to American Indian treaties over the past centuries.

The 60s and 70s were the decades of hard rock ‘n roll.

Crime and Punishment: Police, Violent Crime, & Prisons

Police

The debate over racial bias in Law Enforcement is the latest controversy to roil the nation. In 2014, the Obama administration passed a law— the Death in Custody Reporting Act—requiring Law Enforcement agencies to track all in-custody deaths and report them to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department has never created the database or received any information from the nation’s law enforcement agencies. We cannot identify a problem if we operate in the dark.

But we can compare the nature of a policing, and the relative dangers associated with being a cop, by tracking the numbers of officers killed in the line of duty.  These numbers take into consideration all manners of death, not just violent encounters.

Officer Killed in the line of duty

19702402010181
19712532011188
19732402012144
19732792013135
19742852014161
19752572015167
19762062016181
19772022017184
19782182018185
19792242019147

One officer killed is too many, but the trend has been declining. In the 1960s and 70s, during the height of racial tensions and anti-war protests, they targeted police officers with snipers and bombs. Yet, over time these incidents have grown less and less frequent. The media hype of today amplifies and distorts the level of violence beyond reality.

Killed by Law Enforcement

1970-1979      No accurate statistics exist

2015-2019     5400 and the average per year is consistent (1000). Still, unarmed Black men are more likely to be killed by the police than white men based on a preliminary analysis of the limited data. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/)

Violent Crime

Homicides

1970-1979      191,690 (9.06 per 100,000 population)

2010-2019     155,034 (4.8 per 100,000 of population. 2019 numbers projected based on average # of homicides of the previous nine years as final numbers from FBI not yet available. Again, there are racial disparities in murder rates, but the overall numbers even among various races are lower.)

Violent crime per 100,000 populations. Rates climbed in the mid-1960s, peaking in 1990-91. They have consistently declined since then.

1970                451

2019               387.2 

Prisons (Number of prisoners)

1970                196,000

2010               1,570,00

Health and Education

MVA Fatalities Rates per 100,000 population

1970    25.67

2018   11.18 (last year data available)

Infant Mortality Rates

The U.S. is far behind other developed nations in infant mortality. Comparable country average (nations with similar levels of development such as Canada, United Kingdom, France, Japan) is 3.4 per 1000 live births

US Infant Mortality Rates per 100,000 population

1970    26

2015   5.8

Literacy Levels

The U.S. is 7th in the world in literacy rates. The ability of most Americans to read sits at about 99%, although there are racial disparities. Educationally, Americans sit in the middle of the world curve in terms of analytical abilities in math, science, and reading.

In the 1970s, the U.S. led the world in education. Clearly, we have failed in the promise of public education.

Defense spending as a % of GDP

1970    7.8%

2018   3.16%

Education vs. Military Budget

1970    Military $79.1 billion   Education $1.0 billion

2020   Military $989 billion ($160 billion increase over 2 years)  Education $64 billion (10% decrease over 2019)

Culture

#1 in Music Billboard Chart

1960 Theme from A Summer Place (Percy Faith)

1970 Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)

2010 Tik Tok (Kesha)

#1 Movie

1960   Swiss Family Robinson

1970    Love Story

2010   Avatar

#1 T.V.

1960   Andy Griffith Show

1970    Marcus Welby, MD

2010   Breaking Bad

In the culture category, while I may be prejudiced here, but the 60s and 70s win this one, hands down.

___________________________________________________________

Can we say the U.S. has suffered a decline, moral or otherwise, over the past 50 or 60 years?

Probably not.

Yet I can make an argument we have become more socially open and accepting. We embrace a more democratic form of social interaction, minimizing the once formidable lines of separation between races, ethnicities, and religions. 

Despite the constant bombardment of “breaking news,” we have become less violent people. By all measures, we have seen a reduction in homicides and other crimes of violence.

The burgeoning prison population and the de-emphasis on education are troubling. The overwhelming number of people are in prison for non-violent crimes. Imprisonment has little to do with crime reduction. It turns people into career criminals doing life on the installment plan.

What drove the reduction in violent crime? Many theories abound.

Some claim the high rates of incarceration take violent offenders off the street. This seems logical, except with a fifty percent recidivism rate, it is only a partial explanation.

Increased community policing efforts is another suggestion.

Reduced opportunity to commit crimes due to the prevalence of home surveillance cameras, cellphone cameras, and other technology such as DNA evidence is a factor. The “graying of America” is another possibility with the average age rising above the mean for those most likely to commit crimes.

Two wild theories relate to reduced violence within society. One, proposed by Rick Nevin, a Virginia economist, claims a correlation between eliminating lead from gasoline and a reduction in violent crime.  In a peer-reviewed study, he makes an interesting case. He even wrote a book on the subject, Lucifer Curves. (https://www.amazon.com/Lucifer-Curves-Legacy-Lead-Poisoning-ebook/dp/B01I3LTR4W)

An even more controversial theory, by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, the co-author of Freakonomics, and John Donohue of Yale University, argued that the 1973 Supreme Court Case of Roe v. Wade legalizing abortions was a significant contributor to reduced incidents of violent crime.

Research shows unwanted children had higher incidents of psychiatric problems and propensity to violence. Eighteen years after the decision, when those pregnancies legally aborted would have reached the age of 18, the start of the range of age of most violent offenders, the incidents of violent crime decreased.  Controversial, to say the least. Critics of the theory tend to oppose abortion, so a full analysis is lacking.

These matters are all complex and intimately related. I doubt one explanation can account for the data. Yet, an honest look at comparing and contrasting the America of the mid-20th century and the one we live in today would show a vast overall improvement.

We have not suffered a “moral” decline. We have entered an age where we are overwhelmed with information absent any legitimate controls over the validity or veracity.

Fake news is a real phenomenon, but it is not characterized by just the things we disagree with. If there has been any decline, it is in our undervaluing the benefits of education.

The world becomes a more stable, safer, and fair place when we fundamentally understand our differences. There is no single path to a better America. Yet there is one certain path to our demise and decline, ignorance.

Until we set our minds to creating the best educational system and opportunity for success in the world, we will continue to look to the false memories of the good ‘ole days.

Our success lies in seizing the day, not clinging to the past.                                   

A Eulogy for the Police

Friends, Americans, Countrymen (in a non-gender specific, judgment-less way) lend me your ears.
I come to bury the Police, not to praise them.
The Evil that some cops do lives after them;
The Good by most is oft interred with their bones.
So let it be with the Police.
The noble protesters hath told you the Police were ambitious.
If it were so it was a grievous fault.
And grievously would the protesters have the police answer for it.
 Here, under the leave of the protesters and the rest—For these protesters are honorable people,
so are they all honorable people,
Come I to speak at their defunding and disbanding.
The police were my friends, I once stood among them, they were faithful and just unto the country and their charge.
But the protesters say the Police are ambitious.
And the protesters are honorable people.
The police hath brought many captives off the street
Whose deeds did vex the citizens and the land.
Did this in the Police seem ambitious?
When that the desperate and abandoned hath cried, the Police were there when no others came to help and wiped their tears.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.
Yet the protesters are honorable people.
You all did see that on their service, we offered them little in appreciation, let them suffer the demons of their work, pilloried them for being human and prone to human frailties.
Yet still they chose to stay, do their duty, and stand on that thin blue line.
Was this ambition?
Yet the protesters say the police are ambitious
And sure, they are honorable people.
I speak not to disprove what the protesters spoke,
But here I am to speak of what I do know.
You all did love them once, not without cause.
What cause withholds you then to abandon them?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And people have lost their reason. Bear with me.
My heart is in the coffin there with the police,
As will all of us should these honorable people have their way
And I must pause till reason returns.

Thanks for reading, please share with everyone!

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A Reformation: Restructuring Law Enforcement is Just One Element of a Complex Problem

The wailing, crying, and calls for defunding or eliminating police forces is about as idiotic an idea as ever was conceived. It is comparable to saying we should abandon medicine because a few doctors engage in malpractice or eliminate all lawyers because some innocent people are convicted.

You don’t fix a problem by irrational acts. Nor do you ignore a problem because it is complicated and does not lend itself to simple solutions. If we are serious about addressing racial disparity—within Law Enforcement and society as a whole—we must address all the factors contributing to the issue.

Incidents of black (primarily) men being killed by police officers does not automatically show racial bias. There is a host of studies—https://www.pnas.org/content/116/32/15877,  https://www.nber.org/papers/w22399— that contradict the premise of bias in use of lethal force against blacks by law enforcement.

And there are studies which show there is a bias in use of force—both lethal and non-lethal— by the police against blacks. (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0141854)

What do these contradictions tell us? They tells us we don’t track the data in any meaningfully significant way to draw reasonable conclusions. This leads us to form anecdotal inferences based on personal experience—either positive or negative encounters with the Police—on traditional media reports of incidents, or from social media information.

Using such varied, unreliable, and unconfirmed sources, coupled with our implicit biases, lends itself to forming powerful, but not necessarily accurate, assumptions. The tendency to confirmation bias is inevitable. By ignoring information which contradicts our own perspective, we handicap our ability to understand the full scope of the problem.

Racially motivated use of lethal force by law enforcement—if a full and impartial analysis of the data shows that to be true —is just one aspect of a much bigger problem.

Yet, if the perception among minorities is a systemic racial bias by law enforcement, and a propensity to use lethal force against such groups by police officers, it is critically important we both capture and analyze the data and address the perception as if it were reality.

Arguing the data shows no bias—absent comprehensive and thorough analysis–only fuels mistrust. Ignoring the possibility the data is insufficient to understand the problem is equally dangerous. It is assumptions—blacks are more likely to be involved in violent crimes by nature, cops are inclined to shoot blacks—that have created the problem.

Cultural misconceptions about groups we do not belong to i.e., minorities, cops, etc. all add to the problem. Education is the key to solving such false beliefs, but the process will not be easy or swift.

While we can strive for the ideal, we must face the realities of life.  There are bad people in the world who will assault, rob, attack, and murder their fellow humans. One of the primary functions of Law Enforcement is preventing such crimes and apprehending those who would commit them.

That will not change for the foreseeable future. Using force when necessary to perform such responsibilities will always be an element of policing. Improving the process of hiring officers, eliminating the often political nature of such practices, is critical. Better training in the use of minimum force necessary to accomplish the goal is paramount to reducing unlawful or excessive use of force.

For example, the RI Municipal Police Training Academy training syllabus lists 106 hours of firearms training, 154 hours of Traffic Enforcement, and 57 hours of Police Community Interaction and Dealing with Special Populations.

I suspect the training regimen for most law enforcement agencies would reflect the same allocation of training time.

While I am not suggesting a reduction in firearms training, the emphasis in the initial training phase is on weapons and tactics. Such programs set a tone for priorities. We miss an opportunity to equip officers with skills to de-escalate violent situations and reduce the need for lethal force. This is the best time to give officers confidence in their ability to communicate and interact with the community.

Such skills are as critical as the ability to know how and when to use lethal force in the complex fog of situations officers find themselves in on a daily basis.

The factors which lead most to commit crimes—poverty, lack of education, unemployment, drug addiction—are outside the control of the police.  These must be addressed by our society before we can hope to change the nature of police agencies.

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime”

Aristotle “Politics”

Awareness of the factors that contribute to crime is important. But causality is not a defense to criminal behavior, it is a mitigating factor we must take into consideration when applying appropriate means of correcting such acts.

Three major reformations need to occur before any meaningful restructuring impacts police interaction with the public. Until these matters are addressed, law enforcement will be the agency of last resort for dealing with the problems of society. Under the current structure, they are ill-equipped, ill-trained, and improperly organized to address these problems without these changes.

The three urgent elements requiring change are these.

  1. Judicial reform
  2. Prison reform
  3. Educational reform

If Justice is not equal under the law. If access to Constitutional rights is limited by one’s financial resources. The inevitable results are what we see happening across America.

Blacks account for 13.4% of the U.S. population, yet make up 37.5% of the prison population. We need to understand the reason behind this. There is no race-based propensity for crime, poverty is the primary driving factor regardless of the race of the offender. There are a host of contributory reasons and an unfair Judicial System tipped against poor defendants is one of them.

Coupled with Judicial Reform is Prison Reform.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons budget for 2019 was $7.1 BILLION.  The Federal recidivism rate—those who are released from prison and re-offend—is 49.3%. Almost half of the people we put into the prison “Corrections” system return to prison.  (https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/research-publications/2016/recidivism_overview.pdf)

In Rhode Island, the recidivism rate is 50%. (https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/recidivism-rates-by-state/)

Does funding a program with a 50% failure rate sound like a wise investment? Couple that with the Federal government embracing private prisons—facilities that need prisoners to be profitable—and you have a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Annual spending in 2018 on just prisons in the United States:  $182 billion

If one measures success by our rates of incarceration—we have the largest prison population and the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world—we wildly succeed in imprisoning people and are terrible at corrections and rehabilitation.

Unless the goal is to fill these private prisons, we are good at that. But the cost to society for our policy of mass incarceration is enormous and of questionable benefit. https://www.vera.org/publications/price-of-prisons-what-incarceration-costs-taxpayers

This leads to the key element, the lynchpin of the problem—flawed and unequal public education. Here’s a stark fact of how we set our priorities from a study by the US Department of Education.

“Between 1979 and 2012, state and local government expenditures grew by 107 percent to $534 billion from $258 billion for elementary and secondary education, while corrections spending rose by 324 percent to $71 billion from $17 billion.”

In the 2021 budget, the President has proposed a 10% reduction in spending for the US Department of Education. The same budget calls for a 1.6% decrease in spending for the Bureau of Prisons.

There are myriad related issues—lack of addiction treatment, mental health care, housing, employment opportunities—which all compound the crime problem. Focusing exclusively on the police masks the real problem, and will do nothing to solve the long-term issues.

It is unfair to target law enforcement alone when considering ways to eliminate racial bias in public safety.  Police officers reflect society. The implicit biases we all carry inevitably affect our interaction with others if we are not cognizant and continuously alert to the problem.

Education is the key to better understanding.

Yet absent complete studies clarifying the level of racial bias in applying force by Law Enforcement, it would be wise to err on the side of caution and focus on the issue.  More attention within agencies to the possibility of prejudice will inevitably lead to better policies and controls over the use of force.

The very nature of humans precludes the elimination of all force by the police in many circumstances. There are bad people in the world who will commit violent crimes and resist efforts to stop them. While some level of force will always be an element of being a police officer, we must remember the root causes behind criminal behavior. Lawful application of necessary force is not the problem, brutality is.

Improving trust between the police and the minority community is a two-way street. Refusing to report information of criminal activity, particularly involving firearms and gang activity, because of a perception the police will either over-react or not show up at all just perpetuates the mistrust.

Minority communities rightfully expect police departments to change their behavior and treat everyone fairly. These same communities bear a responsibility to cooperate with the police to eliminate the criminal element which casts a shadow on these communities.

Trust requires both sides to move toward middle ground. Failing to act is not an option. Understanding the causes behind most criminal activity—and the shared responsibility to act to change things—rests with all of us.

Except for the rare sociopath, most crimes result from societal conditions often outside the control of the person committing the crime. Poor educations, inadequate employment opportunities, drug addiction, and mental health issues all contribute to causation.

There is little doubt about the prevalence of racial disparity within America. There is also little doubt things have improved. But until we eliminate as much as humanly possible the unfair treatment of others because of the color of their skin, the lofty goal of all men being equal will remain an illusion.

Until we address these issues, nothing will change. Not within police agencies or society at large. America is a country with a promise of equality unmet by reality. 

We all bear a responsibility to face it and change things.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed — Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Langston Hughes

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Black on the Blue Line

Truth and reason are eternal. They have prevailed. And they will eternally prevail; however, in times and places they may be overborne for a while by violence; military, civil, or ecclesiastical.

Thomas Jefferson

During my career with the East Providence Police Department, I had the privilege of working with many outstanding local, state, and federal officers and agents. One of those federal agents is a man named Matthew “Matt” Horace, whose law enforcement career spanned twenty-six years.

I met Matt when he was a Special Agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. We worked several cases together—wiretap, undercover narcotics, weapons—and I came to respect Matt as a dedicated and committed professional.

Matt has since moved on into the private sector, bringing his talents and experience to bear on security and other issues important to successful business operations. He has appeared on a variety of media shows–CNN, CBS–as an expert in use of force.

Recently, I wrote a piece on my blog that created a stir among the thousands of followers who regularly read my blog. This piece, First, Admit the Problem Exists (https://bit.ly/2XZ2JO3) acknowledges the existence of endemic implicit racism within law enforcement agencies.  The piece was shared hundreds of times across a wide spectrum of platforms.

The reactions were varied and, sometimes, troubling. Everything from “thank you for writing about this important subject” to “Blacks commit more crimes, that’s why they have more contact with cops.” Troubling to say the least.

It’s one thing for me, a white man who never faced rampant discrimination because of the color of my skin, to talk about the matter. Matt, a black man in a profession that, until just a short time ago, refused to allow people of color into its ranks, brings a much more personal and poignant perspective.

Matt has done this through a magnificently researched and incisively written book. He details both the overall experience of persons of color with law enforcement and some troubling personal experiences that underscore the extent of the problem.

The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement (https://amzn.to/3coAD48) lets everyone feel the tension and fear many black men and women experience when interacting with police officers.

But the book is more than just a detailing of this disturbing phenomenon in America. Matt’s unique perspective also puts one in the shoes of law enforcement and the often-chaotic moments leading to a decision to use deadly force.

Implicit Bias plays a big part in this issue facing law enforcement.  Matt details how implicit bias, more so than the absence of explicit or overt bias people often point to as a counterargument to these discussions, as the real issue we need face as a society.

Implicit Bias:  bias that results from the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious or declared beliefs: implicit bias in cases of racial discrimination.

The ensuing violence over the past few days and, as Matt points out in the book, the long history of violent reactions to fatal encounters of blacks with law enforcement, often results in unintended consequences. The violence is a cry of frustration. Yet the violence and destruction often reinforces the implicit bias held by those who only see the violence and not the cause behind it. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, the celebrated Civil Rights activist and proponent of non-violent protests, had this to say about such incidents.

” It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.”

 It’s one thing for those of us who’ve stood on the thin blue line to talk about and acknowledge these matters. While necessary and key to bridging the chasm between the black community and the police, it is only part of the solution. It is infinitely more impactful when an experienced professional such as Matt Horace, who knows both sides of the line, puts it so bluntly before us.

Perhap this will trigger more than talk followed by inertia.

I would encourage those who wish to understand the problem to read this book. The time to insist on change—permanent, responsible, and effective—was never more critical.

“The wrongs inside police departments are not about a handful of bad police officers. Instead, they reflect bad policing procedures and policies that many of our departments have come to accept as gospel. To fix the problem requires a realignment of our thinking about the role police play and how closely they as a group and as individuals are knitted into the fabric of society. Do they stand apart from societal norms, or will they uphold their motto of “To Protect and Serve”? Are they to be looked at as the men and women who sweep up the refuse left by our refusal or inability to tackle societal problems, or are they partners in our efforts to provide a vibrant and supportive community for all? The decision is ours.” Horace, Matthew. The Black and the Blue (p. 219). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition. https://amzn.to/3coAD48

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