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Restraining White Supremacy Must Be the #1 Priority of the New HPD Chief

Last week, I answered the first part of this Hartford query: “Strategic Policy Partnership, the firm assisting the City of Hartford to recruit its new Police Chief, is seeking input from residents.  Please consider the following two questions.  1) What qualities and characteristics would you like to see in the new Chief? 2) What issues should the new Chief focus on when he or she begins work?”

I indicated integrity was central to the new chief of police, and I told the scandalous story of bad lawyering in Corporation Counsel’s office to protect cops who broke a man’s leg and then tried to pull him out of the hospital to book him.

This week, I will approach the second part of the question. You, too, can send Strategic Partners your answers to Hartford_at_policy-partners.org. Let them hear our voices.

2) The main issue facing the chief of police is changing residents’ perception that the Hartford Police Department acts an occupying military force, enforcing apartheid laws set by the philosophy of white supremacy.

Hartford is largely a non-white community. With few exceptions, the interests of the non-white community have not been represented well in the state legislature.

For decades, the Democratic Party monopoly has elected representatives in the state legislature who have been crooked, self-interested, in the pocket of special interests or completely and totally ineffective. Or all of the above. And they have failed to protect Hartford residents from police overrreach.

So the police force enforces laws made by people who do not look like City residents.  The police force may have a component of non-white officers.  The last chief, Daryl Roberts, was not white. But he certainly acted as a hand-maiden for the white power structure.

Enforcing laws which disproportionately punish non-whites is an act of white supremacy. You do not have to be white to act as a white supremacist.

Clayton Bigsby is Dave Chappelle’s hilarious parody of a blind black man who is the United States’ leading white supremacist. Chappelle’s modern-day Uncle Tom lampoons the real phenomenon of non-whites who act against their own interests.

The mere mention of white supremacy makes some people uncomfortable. The term evokes a visceral reaction, calling up swastikas, legions of Nazis, burning crosses and white hooded terrorists. It is the villain whose name must not be spoken. Racism doesn’t cover the whole picture.

We fail to examine this legal philosophy and this belief system at our own peril.  The state police, when examining threats, make lists of white supremacist hate groups like the 51st Militia, the White Wolves or the Creativity Movement.

But law enforcement agencies never look at the less extreme form of the tribalist disease of white supremacy. By white supremacy, I mean the cultural construct that refers “to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources.”

This quote comes from Professor Francis Lee Ansley of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law.

The ingrained and often-unspoken nature of white supremacy can be found in the recent debate about strengthening Connecticut’s Alvin Penn Law mandating police officers tracking of racial characteristics in traffic stops.

The furor around the Penn Act grew with the arrests of the East Haven officers for violating Latinos’ rights. Then Matthew Kauffman of the Hartford Courant did an intense statistical analysis of 100,000 traffic stops. His lead sentence on a February 26, 2012 story front page Sunday story revealed it went beyond East Haven:

“Black and Hispanic drivers stopped by police across Connecticut are significantly more likely to leave the encounter with a ticket or a court date than are white motorists pulled over for the same offense, a first-ever analysis of state data shows.”

What is unsaid: whites are uplifted as a result of the statistical disparity. Whites benefit when non-whites suffer. Whites avoid the problems associated with breaking the law: paying fines, handcuffs, jail time, making bail, missing work, losing money, loss of status in society, etc.

The oppression of racism is a component of white supremacy. The flip side is white privilege and white uplift. Prof. Ansley describes it as conscious and unconscious (and C.G. Jung says the greatest sin is to be unconscious). Our society lets this happen, and we should all be ashamed.

The new chief of police in Hartford needs acute awareness of white bias in law enforcement – laws made by whites, enforced on the streets by whites (or white proxies) and punishments levied in courtrooms by white judges and lawyers.

Examined from the education policy angle, Ernest R. House, a professor emeritus at University of Colorado Boulder said: “Americans will support policies that are harmful to minorities that they would not tolerate if those same policies were applied to majority populations.”

Professors Ansley and House appear in a 2005 paper by British researcher David Gillborn entitled “Education Policy as an act of white supremacy: whiteness, critical race theory and education reform.”

Gillborn argued “racial advantage and inequity is structured in domination and its continuation represents a form of tacit intentionality on the part of white power holders and policy-makers.” This is true in education or law enforcement.

The new chief of police’s primary mission must be combatting white supremacy, denuding the “tacit intentionality” targeting non-whites in traffic stops, drug busts or political monitoring.

The war on drugs is a war on non-whites, since whites compose the majority of drug users but not the majority of the prison populations serving time for drugs. The side-effects of the drug war, like the demolition of the Fourth Amendment privacy and search and seizure protections, fall hardest on non-whites.

David Cole in the December 22, 2011 New York Review of Books explored three books decrying the growing surveillance state. Cole examined David K. Shipler’s tome “The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties.” Cole focused on Shipler’s ride-alongs with Washington, D.C. cops:

“Shipler vividly describes a world wholly foreign not only to Supreme Court jurists but to most Americans, in which police routinely subject young black men to intrusive confrontations and searches of questionable legality.

“The officers’ tactics, exploiting every loophole the Supreme Court has wittingly or unwittingly created, would provoke loud protests if employed against residents of the District’s wealthier neighborhoods. But the young African-American men who are their nightly targets are have little recourse other than simmering resentment.”

I hope when you read that, you heard echoes of Ernest R. House. This simmering resentment of a lack of control over our own police force makes us angry, and makes it feel like HPD works for someone else.

That same disparity is found in the New York City Police Department’s awful monitoring of Muslims across the Northeast. The Muslims spied upon are not white.

Gov. Malloy, a lawyer, refused to criticize the NYPD. Two weeks ago I suggested Malloy was racist for enacting and enforcing racist education policies. Now, compare him with New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (who is white) saying NYPD overstepped its bound.

HPD’s new chief must fill the void left by Malloy, but take it a step further by criticizing racial and religious profiling of non-whites.

More importantly, HPD’s new chief needs to confront white supremacy and its insidious tentacles and implications. This mission will show Hartford residents that HPD is not the militarized arm of an occupying power, but an organization dedicated to making the streets of Hartford safe, secure and livable.

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