This first appeared in The Havok Journal on July 21, 2020.
Ex-Mayor of Minneapolis Betsy Hodges recently wrote:
“I remember clearly one officer, a middle-aged white man, who is now a sergeant with the department, looking me dead in the eye and cursing me out in front of the entire room. I needed to take a walk in their shoes, he said, peppering his insults with profanity, so that I could “know what that’s like.” He complained of protesters’ “calling us names, getting in our faces” and throwing objects at officers. And “you’re letting them,” he said.
The not fully said bottom line of his message was clear: White liberals like me ask the police to do our dirty work — dealing with the racial and economic inequities our policies create. Normally, we turn a blind eye to the harsh methods that many of them use to achieve our goal of order, pretend that isn’t what we’ve done, and then act surprised when their tough-guy behavior goes viral and gets renewed scrutiny.
Whatever else you want to say about police officers, they know — whether they articulate it neatly or not — that we are asking them to step into a breach left by our bad policies. The creation of more-just systems won’t guarantee the prevention of atrocities. But the status quo in cities, created by white liberals, invites brutal policing.”
Read that again if you want to. It is quite a powerful statement to make as a politician.
Let’s look at another community that had to deal with bad policies at the hands of politicians.
“The City budgets for sizeable increases in municipal fines and fees each year exhorts police and court staff to deliver those revenue increases and closely monitors whether those increases are achieved. City officials routinely urge Chief Jackson to generate more revenue through enforcement. In March 2010, for instance, the City Finance Director wrote to Chief Jackson that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year. . . .
Given that we are looking at a substantial sales tax shortfall, it’s not an insignificant issue.” Similarly, in March 2013, the Finance Director wrote to the City Manager: “Court fees are anticipated to rise about 7.5%. I did ask the Chief if he thought the PD could deliver a 10% increase. He indicated they could try.” The importance of focusing on revenue generation is communicated to FPD officers. Ferguson police officers from all ranks told us that revenue generation is stressed heavily within the police department and that the message comes from City leadership. The evidence we reviewed supports this perception.”
Do you know which city that report is from? I’ll give you another paragraph from the report:
“Ferguson has allowed its focus on revenue generation to fundamentally compromise the role of Ferguson’s municipal court. The municipal court does not act as a neutral arbiter of the law or a check on unlawful police conduct. Instead, the court primarily uses its judicial authority as the means to compel the payment of fines and fees that advance the City’s financial interests. This has led to court practices that violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process and equal protection requirements. The court’s practices also impose unnecessary harm, overwhelmingly on African-American individuals, and run counter to public safety. Most strikingly, the court issues municipal arrest warrants not based on public safety needs, but rather as a routine response to missed court appearances and required fine payments.
In 2013 alone, the court issued over 9,000 warrants on cases stemming in large part from minor violations such as parking infractions, traffic tickets, or housing code violations. Jail time would be considered far too harsh a penalty for the great majority of these code violations, yet Ferguson’s municipal court routinely issues warrants for people to be arrested and incarcerated for failing to timely pay related fines and fees. Under state law, a failure to appear in municipal court on a traffic charge involving a moving violation also results in a license suspension.
Ferguson has made this penalty even more onerous by only allowing the suspension to be lifted after payment of an owed fine is made in full. Further, until recently, Ferguson also added charges, fines, and fees for each missed appearance and payment. Many pending cases still include such charges that were imposed before the court recently eliminated them, making it as difficult as before for people to resolve these cases.”
This paragraph gave it away. Yes, it is Ferguson. These two paragraphs came from the investigation that the U.S. Department of Civil Rights Division conducted. Click here to read the full report.
The above to examples I gave you showed how certain laws and policies that are put in place force police to act, not to the benefit of the community, but the politicians. When a police department is treated as a revenue-building scheme for a city or town, it is no longer a police department. It is now a business. That is a very dangerous way for a police department to operate.
Qualified immunity has been a hot-button topic lately. I have heard that it is a license to kill for cops. Cops can get away with murder, it makes cops invincible, etc. That is further from the truth.
Qualified immunity safeguards all public officials in situations where the law is unclear and does not give them adequate guidance. It allows lawsuits to proceed in a government official had fair notice that his or her conduct was unlawful but acted anyway. In my research of recent history, in the area where I work, I can’t pinpoint an exact time where wrongful conduct was protected by qualified immunity.
When a police officer violates the civil rights of a person or persons, including alleging excessive force, are premised on the 4th amendment of the Constitution, which states that people “shall be secure against unreasonable seizures.”
Qualified Immunity was first recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Qualified Immunity (QI) is not an absolute immunity from suit. The Supreme Court has stated, “by defining the limits of QI we provide no license to lawless conduct.”
The standard law term that is used a lot in criminal courts is reasonable. “Would it be reasonable for a victim to assume that the suspect carried a firearm when they told the victim that they had a gun, but one was never shown?” A reasonable person would assume that the suspect was armed with a gun.
Let’s switch gears to QI. With similar language above, the standard is, what would an objectively reasonable official have known? Not: what are his or her beliefs of that particular person? A police officer, who thinks they are acting lawfully, this would not protect them from liability. They would only be protected if a “reasonable” police officer would not be aware that the conduct violated the law.
What’s even more concerning are the politician’s kneejerk reactions about qualified immunity without really assessing the ramifications of new laws and policies, how it affects their communities. So now we are left to deal with the removal of qualified immunity. Below is a quick explanation of how it works:
There was also a recent Federal Judge decision that was handed down regarding the Parkland Shooting in Florida. “The school district and sheriff’s office in the Florida county that is home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had no constitutional duty to protect the students there during the deadly February massacre.”
Now, take away QI, what do you think police officers are going to do? When administering CPR to someone and they accidentally crack a rib, because that does happen, the family can now sue the officer. When an officer has a dog locked in a hot car and decides to break the window of the car to save the dog…well, now that dog owner can sue the officer. What is going to happen is less and fewer police officers are willing to risk their financial health over the sue-happy society we have become and not want to hold people accountable for their actions.
With all this noise that is going on about police reform, why aren’t the court systems being looked at? Why aren’t judges being looked at? Why aren’t probation officers being looked at? This revolving door of justice gets old quickly when I have to deal with the same violent criminal day in and day out. There are people that I deal with that are always in and out of prison, only to wreak havoc on their communities. I have personally dealt with all types in the court system and like every other profession, there are good ones and there are bad ones. There those who could care less and some go above and beyond their work.
We have had police officers, victims, and witnesses who were killed due to the relaxed justice system. There were countless times where I arrest a known violent criminal and is out and about the very next day. Should there be reform…of course…but it should come from the top down. It should come with open dialogue, public hearings, involve all the stakeholders to come up with a rational step forward rather than taking 20 steps back.
Recently, a senator came to our police department to discuss the issues with a recent bill that was passed by the senate. He went into roll call and talked to us about how he supports the police and then went into a tangent about systematic racism and some other rehearsed statements. Several officers sitting there stood up, who were minorities, and called the senator out. One of the officers told the senator that he grew up in a tough urban area. The officer worked hard to get himself out and became a police officer. Several other minority officers had the same explanations. The senator just nodded his head. We can tell that his mind was already made up about the issues and he was just giving us lip service.
Laws and policies that are created due to a knee-jerk reaction never work and hurt those it is meant to protect. This whole idea of “well if you’re a good cop, you got nothing to worry about” does not work in your fairy tale world of unicorns and lollipops. There are some truly evil people out there in society and if police officers have to second guess themselves, more and more innocent people are going to get hurt and taken advantage of by these evil people. In the above examples, I showed how certain politicians create policies/laws and rely on the police departments to enforce those laws. It creates hostility between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.
Ayman is an Army Veteran who was deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and became a police officer in 2007 after 8 years of military service. He has worked in the patrol division, in a plainclothes anti-crime unit, as a Metro-SWAT operator, and as a detective in a major crimes unit, as a narcotics task force detective with the DEA, and as an operator with the DEA Special Response Team (SRT). He also helped organize SRT operations in Southern New England.
As an assistant team leader, he assisted and coordinated the planning of operations as well as conducted various aspects of training. He has investigated high-level drug traffickers, gang members, and conducted numerous operations. He is currently the Officer in Charge of the Problem-Oriented Policing Unit. Ayman is a law enforcement firearms instructor, a less-than-lethal weapons instructor, a certified use of force instructor at his police department Ayman’s hands-on experience with law enforcement operations at many different levels coupled with his compassion to save lives has brought him to coordinate “Project Sapient.”
This initiative is a joint effort comprised of law enforcement professionals of all levels combined with the Special Forces philosophy of winning hearts and minds. Ayman has found that to reach more officers and departments, it is important to share his experience with media outlets that reach law enforcement.
He regularly contributes to The Havok Journal, writing articles that provide insight into current law enforcement trends and methodologies to help officers become better equipped to handle an ever-changing work environment.
Project Sapient is currently a Podcast. Ayman’s vision of Project Sapient is to eventually train other law enforcement officers and civilians alike in stress inoculation. Something that is sorely needed in the Law Enforcement profession. In his writing, Ayman draws from his hands-on experience as both a law enforcement professional and his military service.
For years, Ayman has seen the trend in lack of training policing. Whether it’s budget cuts, political enemies, or ineffective policy, Ayman has made it his mission to bring innovation, unconventional policing methods, and to have those tough conversations and instruction to assist law enforcement to better relate with and advise communities.
He sees firsthand the need for better training and tools for law enforcement to serve their communities most effectively. A better-trained officer is what policing a free society requires.