During those twenty-five years, I served as a criminal investigator targeting organized crime syndicates, violent street gangs, and narcotics conspiracies. I led groups as diverse as FBI SWAT Teams, 24/7 operations center administrative units, task forces comprised of federal agents and local cops, and an FBI regional office in upstate New York. While heading the FBI’s Hudson Valley Resident Agency between 2008 and 2012, my efforts in leading a diverse group of local, state, and federal investigators on the Hudson Valley Safe Streets Task Force received acclaim from The New York Times, New York Magazine, Hudson Valley Magazine, New York Newsday, and National Public Radio (NPR), as much for the wildly successful violent street gang cases we made with the Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York, as for the unique policing tactics I brought to the region — having earned traction in the inner-city communities by having previously invested time and efforts as a basketball coach at the local Boys & Girls Club in Newburgh, New York. “Community Policing” from the Feds. Something unique. And something that was predicated on building relationships with the communities we were sworn to protect and serve and gaining “buy in” from the citizenry. I understand that as a coach and an FBI chief that teamwork was essential to successes we enjoyed.
Before I retired in December of 2015, I had served in overseas capacities on numerous occasions, culminating in a stint as the senior executive manager for the FBI’s Legal Attaché office in the U.S. Embassy located in México City, México. I spent six months in Department of State Spanish language immersion training prior to that assignment, learning not just the language, but issues pertaining to cultural awareness. It was a unique opportunity to enhance my understanding of political and diplomatic matters in areas that an FBI Agent typically had limited exposure to during a career spent investigating criminality within the domestic United States.
I also spent time as an undercover agent targeting two police departments in upstate New York with reputations for corruption. Wrong is wrong. Yes, even folks who join an honorable and noble profession like policing can have criminals in their midst. The percentages are infinitesimal. But they exist. Let me acknowledge that uncomfortable truth upfront.
Now, with all that as a backdrop to my appeal, allow me to stipulate that I do not speak for all law enforcement professionals. I also do not speak for all white folks. And while I am at it — I am not the designated spokesman for all Roman Catholics, all heterosexual males, all former Army-Rangers, all men with shaved domes, nor all Atlanta Falcons fans. I speak for myself. But I have a fairly unique background that makes me suited to act as an emissary, a go-between, if you will. And I’d like to exercise that authority right now…
So, I am addressing this message to you, the trending hashtag, and omnipresent force to be reckoned with. I’m talking to YOU, Black Lives Matter.
Why the outreach on this particular medium? Well, we need to find some common ground here. And your organization is purposely decentralized and shies away from elevating any of its membership to head of the body. Yes, you have chapters and some loosely acknowledged membership that has seen the inside of the previous president’s White House and has shown up on various cable talk shows from time to time. But your command structure is distinctly different than say the Fraternal Order of Police or the FBI Agents Association. Maybe this is purposeful — you ARE an organic grassroots movement, and founded by and populated by Millennials, you tend to shy away from authority, and structure, and the dictates that an organizational construct requires.
So, my reach out is through the written words on this page. I trust you’ll read them and ingest them and though we may differ on a number of points contained therein, my earnest hope is that you sense where I am coming from and help me to understand the same about you.
From this law enforcement professional’s perspective, we need to ensure our communities are safe for the residents who live there and the cops who patrol there, as well. And they’re not. In many big cities there appears to be a return to the lawlessness of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Pick up any newspaper and prepare to be regaled with horrific stories about the uptick in murder and the mayhem. Some of our inner-cities [think: Chicago] are veritable war zones. More deadly therein for young men of color than are the real battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why is that? I know that these somber tales receive a fraction of the news coverage afforded to the incredibly rare instances of officer-involved-shootings occurring under questionable circumstances. That’s 21st century American. #upsidedownworld
Do you agree? No? Okay, then, allow me to explain…
Take for instance a story that has been well covered the past few weeks. It involves a Baltimore area man with professed white supremacy beliefs who traveled to New York City with the expressed intention to kill black people. This murderous cretin did just that, murdering an innocent man in cold blood, 66-year-old Timothy Caughman, before being arrested and charged with “murder, as an act of terror.” An appalled New York City Mayor de Blasio soon weighed in and allowed that he couldn’t recall such an incident “in recent history.” And for even those, like the author, who ingest quite a bit of news every day, the mayor’s recollection seemed fair and on point. But was it?
On April 4th, the New York Post’s Opinion page highlighted the fact that, as Seth Barron at City Journal pointed out, something eerily similar happened a few weeks earlier, but you may not have noticed. A white woman in Queens was murdered, allegedly by a black woman who provided police with her racist motives.
From the Post: But in that case, “the admission of racial animus was reported and quickly forgotten” — no elevating the slaying “beyond a hate crime to the realm of domestic terrorism.” Why the difference? In the Caughman case, it was “to satisfy a political agenda of black victimhood, for which white perpetrators are in short supply.”
And I would argue that this phenomenon pertains to cases of police shootings of persons of color as well. You don’t sense this either? To my point, allow me to relate a telling anecdote about one of my students at St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens, where I serve as adjunct faculty. In a social sciences course I teach entitled, “The Sociology of Deviance,” we were exploring some of the officer-involved-shootings that had received massive news coverage between 2014 and 2017. Armed with the available shooting statistics [more on this later], I asked of the class what their opinion was related to the number of African-Americans shot by police when compared to other groups.
One of my most intelligent, engaging, and inquisitive seniors, an African-American male whose father currently serves as a corrections officer in New York City, smiled a broad smile, and innocently quipped:
“Come on, Professor; you watch the news. Of course young black males are slain at a much higher rate than any other group — IT’S SPLASHED ALL OVER THE NEWS EVERY SINGLE DAY!”
Serving as a guest law enforcement analyst from time to time at CNN, I was well aware of the torrent of news coverage at the time — this was in September of 2016, and the cable shows were showing clips of Keith Lamont Scott’s videotaped shooting in Charlotte, N.C. on loop, it seemed. Over the course of several days, while appearing on several shows to discuss a recent terror attack in New York, I shared the CNN green room with the usual post-police-shootings scheduled guests like Marc Lamont Hill, Van Jones, and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
The coverage of the Scott shooting — of which details later emerged confirming he held a gun, not a book, and was shot by an African-American police officer — was equal or more robust than the coverage of Ahmad Khan Rahami‘s attempt to explode multiple bombs in New York and New Jersey. And lost in the hysteria of the Scott shooting, a number of police officer shootings of white subjects during the same time period. To my former student’s point:
“IT’S SPLASHED ALL OVER THE NEWS EVERY SINGLE DAY!”
So, we have to begin this conversation by acknowledging some hard truths. And thus, “weaponized” news coverage as a useful tool of your movement must be understood. There are low-information-voters on both sides of every issue and they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds, and political stripes. But, let’s affirm that the mainstream media contributes mightily to our divide by highlighting and covering favorably the side of every issue they’re sympathetic to, and, casting shade on the side or ideology that doesn’t comport with their world view. Can we at least acknowledge that? Pretending that liberal media bias doesn’t exist is folly and strains credulity in an academic argument.