Why are many white people so bent on supporting the police, right or wrong? – By Wayne Johnson, Attorney, Political-Economist

Why are many white people so bent on supporting the police, right or wrong?   You have to look back to the founding of the original police departments in the United States.

 

Slave patrols were the precursor to modern day police in the United States. Slave Patrollers had their own characteristics, duties, and benefits, apart from slave owners and overseers. Slave patrol duties started as breaking up slave meetings. These slave meetings occurred on holidays, in which some would plan revolts and uprisings.

 

Eventually, slave patrol expanded to be year-round, not just on holidays. Slowly, new duties and rights of patrollers became permitted, including: “apprehending runaways, monitoring the rigid pass requirements for blacks traversing the countryside, breaking up large gatherings and assemblies of blacks, visiting and searching slave quarters randomly, inflicting impromptu punishments, and as occasion arose, suppressing insurrections.”

 

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Even today, if you see a large rally of Black people on a holiday, such as Juneteenth, the police will come and break it up before sundown, even if there is no active curfew in the area.

 

Slave patrols consisted mostly of white citizens. Most people in slave patrols came from working and middle-class conditions. In some southern states, the militia and army served as slave patrols. In other southern states, slave patrols came about from colonial or state government legislation.

 

Slave patrols typically rode on horseback in groups of four or five, sometimes even in family groups. They often worked sun-up to sundown and varied their times and locations of patrol, to lower the chances of slaves escaping. They used no special equipment. Their chief tools, instead, were whips and intimidation.

 

Today some police behave like slave patrollers, asking questions of Black people who they believe are not ordinarily in the neighborhood and/ or ordering people off or out of the streets, as in the Michael Brown case.

 

Some states, such as South Carolina, required every white man, under consequence of forty shillings, to arrest and chastise any slave found away from their home without proper verification.

 

In some areas, killing a slave was not considered a crime by the courts or community.  We see this as an epidemic today. Police detaining and killing Black men with impunity and immunity.

 

Despite the difficulties of being a patroller, there were also benefits. For example, patrollers were exempt from public, county, and parish taxes and fees during their term of service.

 

Today, police receive lucrative retirement and pension benefits, and generous overtime for keeping an eye on protesters.

 

In addition, some patrollers were paid additional sums with surplus money.

 

Also, regardless of the power patrollers held, they had limitations. For example, although whippings and beatings were permitted, a deterrent also existed. This was the fact that, if whipped or beaten too severely, the slave was then of no use to their masters as laborers the next day. As a consequence, overly brutal patrollers could expect revenge from slave owners.

 

Today there is no deterrent except maybe a lawsuit.

 

After the Emancipation Proclamation, the increasing number of white men being called to the militias of the South in 1862 and 1863 resulted in many slave patrols simply not having enough men to be as active as they once were.

 

Even though slavery and patrols were legally broken down in 1865 at the conclusion of the Civil War, the patrol system still survived. Almost immediately in the aftermath of the war, informal patrols sprang into action.

 

Later, city and rural police squads, along with the help of Union army officers, revived patrolling practices among free men. During the Reconstruction, old style patrol methods resurfaced and were enforced by postwar Southern police officers and also by organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Fifty years ago, KKK members who worked as law enforcement officers arrested civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.   The law enforcement officers intentionally released the three of them into a mob of Klansmen later that evening who were waiting to ambush them.

 

I do not want to isolate this group of Klansmen, and pretend that almost every white person who lived in that area was not in the Klan or was not a Klan sympathizer. Also, I do not want to appear disrespectful to Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner; however, that is the reception that most Black folks had been receiving since their ancestors were brought over here in chains.

 

We too often want to pretend that the Klan was his group of misfits. They were a very powerful organization to be reckoned with, with powerful members throughout the United States. They were in politics, the judicial system, and in law enforcement. They could kill you or make you disappear, and no white person in his or her right mind would lend you any assistance. Goodman and Schwerner most likely did not believe that anything like that would happen to them because they look like typical white people.   Chaney probably believed that because he was in the company of two the white looking Jews that would provide protection for him.

 

In this country, the KKK was synonymous with law enforcement.   They worked hand in hand and to be captured by one was like being captured by the other. There were even Jim Crow laws and Black codes to assist them in belittling a Black person’s desire to be truly free, and pursue wealth. They went into Black communities and burned out successful businessmen and seized their property.   Black people could not go to court because they had laws and mores preventing and discouraging such action. Moreover, many of the judges were in the Klan or they were Klan sympathizers.

 

Why are there Garners, Browns, Grants, Martins, and Kings today?

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Rodney King Beating

 

 

The simple answer is we never fixed the system. Some of these police still act as though there are on slave patrol. Forget innocent until proven guilty. Many white folks believe that Blacks are guilty until proven innocent. Some have an attitude that goes something like this… “What is that nigger doing around here? I will go over there and demand answers.” Many police believe if you are Black and young and a male, you probably have some contraband on you or you probably have a warrant, or you are on probation or parole. They feel if they stop you they will find something on you that will subject you to arrest.

 

 

If the Black person does not give an appropriate response he or she is an uppity Nigger, and he or she flunks the attitude test, and then things escalate.

 

Why do things escalate?   Well, that is the topic of many discussions. Many white people do not believe the audacity of some of these young Black men. Many Black men feel, and there is legal support for this belief in the case law and in the United States Constitution, that if they are not doing anything wrong, a police officer has no right to demand anything of them.

The law requires that one does submit to an arrest, even an unlawful arrest. However, that is the end of it.  One does not have to be polite.  One does not have to engage in conversation if he is free to go.  If one is not on probation or parole one does not have to engage in any conversation; however, the law is such that one has to specifically invoke the Fifth Amendment if he wants to remain silent.  One does not have to surrender his or her life or submit to excessive or unreasonable force even in a lawful arrest.  The critical question is when does force become unreasonable.  That is a question for a jury.

 

In the case of Michael Brown, if it is true that the officer began firing shots at him for no reason, he had a right to take reasonable steps to try to preserve his life.  Be mindful; however, when you make the decision to protect yourself from unreasonable force the question you must consider is whether you will be successful against an armed assailant.  If an officer is trying to take your life I suppose you do not have much of a choice.

Many people do not understand the dilemma between cops and Black people because their ancestors were never slaves in this country. Maybe we should have played games called masters and servants or people versus pigs, much like cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians, and maybe then white people would understand the dynamic between police and Blacks in this country.

White people do not understand the dynamic because the white people’s ancestors were on the question asking side of the equation.   They demanded the answers, and they still feel they are entitled to answers from Black people.

 

Let’s put it like this… white people would understand this better if they were walking in their neighborhood and one or more Black men approached them and demanded answers, like “[W] here are you going? From where did you come? What is in the bag? Or, are you on probation or parole?”

 

Of course, a white person would feel offended by any of those questions. They feel that it is reasonable for police officers to ask those questions of Black people because they too want to know the answers to the questions.

White people have different experiences with the police.  It is not uncommon for Black people to be treated as suspects, and arrested, or subjected to excessive force even when they are the ones who call the police for assistance.  Most white people have no idea what it is like to be Black and have an encounter with the police.

I once represented a man who the police arrested for domestic violence.   According to him, his wife accused him of cheating and she became hostile.  He left the home in such a huff that he forgot his shoes.  When he re-entered the home to get his shoes his wife blocked him from getting to his shoes.  He called the police so they could help him get his shoes and leave.  His wife, who was knowledgeable about police issues warned him not to call them.  He called anyway.

 

Several minutes later the police arrived and when he attempted to greet them at the front door, and explain why he called, one of them pushed past him and asked to speak to his wife.  The officer asked his wife if he attacked her, to which she replied he had not.  However, she mentioned she was blocking him from getting his shoes, and he tired to push her aside to get to his shoes.  Upon hearing that, the officer ordered the man to put his hands behind his back and submit to be handcuffing and arrest.  Both the husband and the wife were in shock.  Needless to say, the case ultimately was dismissed.

As I understand what happened in the 49ers Ray McDonald case he and his pregnant girlfriend got into an argument.  He ordered her to leave his home, but she would not.  He tried to force her out, but she pushed past him and ran upstairs.  Not wanted to create an incident, he called a police officer who worked in San Francisco, but who also doubled as game security at 49ers games.  He asked him for advice on getting his girlfriend out of his home.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s girlfriend overheard McDonald on the telephone and she decided to call 911 and report to the police that McDonald was attempting to force her from his home and she did not want to leave.   The local police supposedly arrested McDonald for domestic violence.

When last I checked you have a right to expel unwanted guests from your home, and that is true despite the person is pregnant, and the child may be yours.  It may not make sense, and she may still sue you for child support, but if the home is your separate property, and you are not married, you may still demand that person to leave.  Under those specific facts, the police should not have arrested Ray MacDonald, and it was right for the District Attorney not to file charges against McDonald.

 

Moreover, the San Francisco police officer who tried to assist McDonald in getting the woman out of the home did nothing wrong in offering his assistance to McDonald under those facts. What was McDonald to do?   He owned the residence and he lived there.  The girlfriend should have left until the situation was manageable.

Many white people thought both McDonald and the San Francisco officer should have faced charges for something.  Unless the woman was subjected to domestic violence that was not a police moment.

Many white people do not see it like that.  When it comes to Black people they think the police should behave as the slave patrollers did in the 1800s, and that Black people should just submit to their every whim and should not question them.

 

In most cases where Black men are involved they do not have to violate the law.  Black people only have to be Black to be “suspicious” and / or subject to arrest. That is why Zimmerman harassed Martin and shot him.   He wanted to know why the person he looked at as a “Nigger” was in his neighborhood. Moreover, because he was packing a pistol, he felt powerful and he felt he could demand an answer.

 

If people like Zimmerman did not have weapons they would not feel so emboldened. If the police did not carry weapons they would not feel so emboldened.

 

If Zimmerman did not have that attitude, Martin would most likely still be alive because Zimmerman would not have felt he was entitled to a response.

 

That is why the courts like criminals to be on probation or parole.   When you are on probation or parole you are essentially in prison, but you are on the street. That is like being a slave, but not being on the plantation. That gives the police the right to believe they are slave patrollers and treat Black men like slaves.

 

They have the attitude that you are violating their rights by being on the streets. They feel that you are violating their rights by not answering questions. Do not get me wrong, it is not just answering the questions, it is the attitude.

 

Recently, a white officer detained me while I was driving across the bridge.   He used his public address system to tell me to pull off the bridge and into this dark forested area.   I kept rolling until I reached the other side. He was disturbed that I did not pull over on the island and in the dark forested area, and he asked me why I failed to do so. I explained it to him as best I could. I told him I am a Black man in the United States, and it was late and dark outside. I told him that I did not feel comfortable pulling over in an isolated forested area at that time of night.   I told him I wanted to wait until I was in an area were there may be witnesses to our encounter.

 

He then asked me if I had been drinking. I told him that had not been. He then had me follow his finger with my eyes. I first rolled my eyes, and then I followed his finger to the best of my ability. He then asked me from where I was coming. I asked him from where he was coming. He told me hat he was just making conversation.   I asked him why he wanted to know. I told him that if it was just conversation I did not feel I had to respond and I also told him that he could tell me from where he was coming first. He then told me that I had been speeding, but he was not going to give me a ticket, but if I continued with that attitude he might. I told him to write the ticket. I did not really want a ticket; however, I did not feel that he was behaving appropriately.

 

I flunked the attitude test. Fortunately, we were in a heavily populated area, and that particular officer probably did not want escalate the situation.

 

White people say that they would just cooperate. However, white people are not usually harassed by police officers. Usually, it is one of them who initiate the police contact between Black people and the police so they see nothing wrong with it. They feel that if you are not doing anything wrong you should have nothing to hide.

 

Well, that is okay if you want to forfeit your Constitutional rights. However, you do not have the right to ask that I do the same. There is a reason we have a Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. There is a reason we have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.   Those rights are not there simply to be forfeited at the whim of any police or white person.

 

Of course, the founding fathers were slave owners and they did not intend that Black people have Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights, and many white people and most police officers still operate from that position, that we do not.   That is why they coined the terms “Black while driving” and “racial profiling.”

 

White people never get stopped for being Black while driving, and they never get racially profiled.   For many of them, those things are unimaginable.  They have an entirely different attitude because they are the ones who call the police, and they call them for stupid things like cats in trees, or Black men in the neighborhood.

© Copyright 2014 admin, All rights Reserved. Written For: Earth Colony

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