CHRO & AAAC Anti-Discrimination Police/Community Forum

Community Party 

Analysis of the CHRO & AAAC Anti-Discrimination Police/Community Forum

24 June, 2010    3:00-5:00pm   Legislative Office Building


First they said it wasn’t a problem

Then they flipped it—it’s the people that lack respect

Next they say we have laws (unenforced)

Now they admit it happens

And they are “working on it”

Then they switch topic—in true diversion

And finally back to criticism on the community

Racial Profiling – Daniel Malo, 24 June, 2010

In short order, made for show; with requisite back-patting and blame shift.  The forum opened with words from the director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).  Mr. Robert Brothers began by telling an anecdote from his police officer days.  It was a routine about rookie cops and cups of coffee. The reaction from the audience—a feigned laughter, the perfunctory kind.  Perhaps an irrelevant joke was not the best way to begin conversation on such a serious issue.

Mr. Glenn Cassis, Executive Director of the African-American Affairs Committee (AAAC), gave a brief statement about the age of the organization and the availability of reading material for the audience.  The focus then turned to the conversation at hand.  From the onset, it was boasted that Connecticut was one of the least racist states, and that very few allegations of racial profiling are received by the state agency tasked to handle them (CHRO).

The CHRO backed up their assertions with a you tube clip, showing the recent immigrant marchers facing harassment from bigots bused in from out of state.  Obviously, the racist behavior in the video was appalling.  But we’re talking about police profiling here.  The recent case of the 17 year old black girl in Seattle being punched in the face by a white officer was brought up.  They declined to show that YouTube clip, however.

The three legislators and four current and former law enforcement officers on the panel went on to say that the community has lost respect for police officers and that in “their day” they would have cooperated fully, without ever questioning officer integrity.  It is the fault of those being arrested—the simply lack respect.  “We need to reach the kids” well, yes obviously, but the issue here is racial profiling.  The issue is not just about “the children!”  What about the kind older lady, Mrs. Sharp, who’s been pulled over on multiple occasions for “driving while black?”

Well, “we have laws against it.”  Agencies report their arrest data, and “this hardly occurs.”  “The media” is partly to blame, for sure, for twisting stories.  Like the members of the panel admit, “cops are human, too.” They even “have feelings.” Yes, I don’t deny that.  I’ve known plenty of law enforcement professionals, and while they are generally dry folks, I’m sure they possess feelings.  For a brief movement, we are reminded of the purpose of the forum: the Penn Act gets a mention, but is summarily dropped.  They are “working on racial profiling.”

It’s about “keeping the kids busy.”  And oh by-the-way—there is a great swimming program—bring the children.  The eloquent speaking gentleman behind me spoke of Conyers and the Civil Rights movement, and then touted the merits of his mentorship organization.  A legislator suggested more cops in school.  The audience suggested the cop actually teaching, rather than just waiting there for a student to arrest.  Respect goes both ways.

Finally, the forum moves to Q & A, which is dominated by agency members, businessmen, and law enforcement professionals.  The community is called out, again, and while I agree that “we are all family” and should treat each other as such, nothing is accomplished here in terms of a discussion about racial profiling.  Amid the intra-agency back-patting and pleasantries, there was just a brief allusion to the fix, once and for all, regarding this issue.  And it’s already in place.

The Alvin W. Penn Racial Profiling Prohibition Act (PA 03-160), a public act—LAW—in the State of Connecticut IS the fix.  Or anyway, it is supposed to be.  The State’s 110 police departments submit traffic stop data to the AAAC, which analyzes it and reports on findings of racial profiling.  Oddly, for it being a state law, only 27 departments are compliant—and Hartford isn’t one of them.  Again on compliance, the AAAC has been unable to review this data because they “lack the funding.”

I had my hand raised to ask the panel some questions about the Penn Act, but of course, we ran out of time, and I was left hanging.  Raising their hands before me to echo their colleagues on the panel were CHRO agency members and a police officer, who won the ire of the crowd by informing everyone that “there is no law to arrest people for driving while black.”  Your audience is smart enough to know that. Without a doubt, it is read between the lines, an underlying issue ignored due to inadequate examination of the issue.

I wanted to say that the Penn Act needs teeth—otherwise it is just a database of arrest/stop data.  I am of the belief that if you are gonna take personal data, it should be used to an appropriate end.  To what end has the data collected been used?  Why have we played this charade if the answer is already out there—let’s talk about implementation.  Some of the questions I had in mind would answer ‘why, this lazy approach?’, as well as address the reason why only 25% of the States police departments follow the law.

In order:

Assistant Hartford Police Chief Neal Drieff:  Why is the City of Hartford—the State Capitol—not in compliance with this mandate?

Elected officials on the Panel; Reps. Robles and Lawlor, Senator Coleman:  Why is the Penn data not being put to its intended use?

AAAC Executive Director Cassis:  Funding?  To write a report?  College students do it for free… Can’t this be as simple as a Scantron?

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