- Cities consider body cameras for cops in wake of...
Cities consider body cameras for cops in wake of FergusonMSNBC -- Two major U.S. cities announced Thursday that they are moving forward with efforts to arm police with body cameras, to improve accountability and transparency.
- NFL increases penalties for domestic violence
NFL increases penalties for domestic violencetheGRIO REPORT - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has implemented a six game suspension for NFL personnel who are charged with domestic violence or sexual assault and banishment from the league after a second offense...
- ‘Girlfriend Intervention’ is a terrible show
‘Girlfriend Intervention’ is a terrible showOPINION - Lifetime channel premiered its latest show, 'Girlfriend Intervention' last night, and it lived up to all the side-eyes people were already giving it...
- Albino supermodel Shaun Ross addresses lack of...
Albino supermodel Shaun Ross addresses lack of diversity in fashiontheGRIO VIDEO - New York Fashion Week kicks off next week, showcasing some of the elite designers from around the world, many of which model Shaun Ross has worked for...
- 71-year-old bodybuilder inspires at health and...
71-year-old bodybuilder inspires at health and fitness expotheGRIO REPORT - Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr. is a rarity. He is a champion bodybuilder and at the ripe old age of 71 he is still going strong...
- Game recruits Rick Ross, Diddy and others for...
Game recruits Rick Ross, Diddy and others for Mike Brown tribute tracktheGRIO REPORT - While J. Cole was among the first rappers to address Ferguson and the shooting death of 18-year-old Mike Brown on record, the majority of the hip hop community has been relatively silent... Cali emcee Game aims to change that...
- Government Wants To Buy 12 Acres Of Weed From Pot...
Government Wants To Buy 12 Acres Of Weed From Pot FarmersThe government wants to buy 12 acres of marijuana for research according to a listing…
- Louisiana Governor Sues Obama Administration Over...
Louisiana Governor Sues Obama Administration Over Common Core StandardsLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal proves his strong opposition to Common Core State Standards with a…
- BET Apologizes For Joke About Blue Ivy’s Hair
BET Apologizes For Joke About Blue Ivy’s HairPhoto by John Shearer/Invision for MTV.com/AP Images All chaos broke loose on social media, as fans…
- Gap: Pay Disparities Between Male and Female...
Gap: Pay Disparities Between Male and Female Employees EliminatedGoing against the grain of women earning less than men, Gap says all their employees…
- New Audio Allegedly Captures Darren Wilson...
New Audio Allegedly Captures Darren Wilson Shooting Michael BrownIn light of Michael Brown’s funeral, which found everyone from Spike Lee to Al Sharpton…
- Pharrell Being Sued for $1 Million
Pharrell Being Sued for $1 Million'Happy' Pharrell Williams is being sued by the producer of his YouTube show, ARTST TLK…
- The Weight of Words: New Course Tackles...
The Weight of Words: New Course Tackles Writers’ Impact on Black History
Literature—regardless of how it is delivered, whether in song, sermon, novel, short story, poem or essay—has the unique ability to inform, to uplift, and to shape our opinions and worldviews.
- Black Men: 'I'm Tired of Feeling Like Someone's...
Black Men: 'I'm Tired of Feeling Like Someone's Enemy'
(Editor’s note: We began this summer with a commemoration of Freedom Summer, 50 years after blood was shed on Southern soil to insure our inalienable right to vote as citizens of these United States. We end this summer with renewed cries for freedom; the freedom to walk our neighborhood streets without dying, the freedom to pick up a toy without getting shot and the freedom to wait for our children after school, as Chris Lollie was attempting to do, without getting tased by police.)
- Why Did My Great-Granddad Change His Name?
Why Did My Great-Granddad Change His Name?
Dear Professor Gates:
- We Want a Future Without Fergusons
We Want a Future Without Fergusons
Since the tragic police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, we have heard time and time again that his brutal death unearthed the pain of old wounds. But those wounds are anything but old.
- Black Owners Say Racist Graffiti Was...
Black Owners Say Racist Graffiti Was Spray-Painted on Their Chicago Restaurant
According to the owners, Nouveau Tavern is the only black-owned restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Because of that, they believe, they are being targeted for racially motivated harassment, reports CBS Chicago.
- Philadelphia Cop Files Police-Brutality Lawsuit
Philadelphia Cop Files Police-Brutality Lawsuit
Brandon Ruff, a police officer in Philadelphia, has filed a lawsuit against his own department for assault.
- St. Louis County Police Officer Dan Page Retires...
St. Louis County Police Officer Dan Page Retires Following Inflammatory VideoThe St. Louis County police officer who pushed a CNN journalist on live television in Ferguson, Missouri, and was earlier suspended from duty after a videotape surfaced in which he threatened to "kill everybody," has retired.
St. Louis County police officer Dan Page, a 35-year police veteran, had his last day with the force on August 25th, MSNBC reported on Friday night. A representative of the St. Louis County Police Chief told MSNBC that Page is expected to receive a his full pension.
Page fell into the national spotlight when he pushed CNN's Don Lemon who was in Ferguson covering the unrest stemming from the killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a police officer. The engagement between Page and Lemon was shown on CNN.
Lemon would later uncover a video of Page where he threatens violence and also says disparaging things about President Barack Obama, Muslims, and LGBT people. Page was suspended from duty on August 22, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar saying that the comments Page made in the surfaced video, "deeply disturbed me immediately."
- Jamaica's Javed Jaghai Drops Legal Challenge To...
Jamaica's Javed Jaghai Drops Legal Challenge To Anti-Gay Sodomy LawKINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A young Jamaican gay rights activist who brought an unprecedented legal challenge to the Caribbean island's anti-sodomy law has withdrawn the claim after growing fearful about violent backlashes, advocacy groups and colleagues said Friday.
Last year, Javed Jaghai made headlines after initiating a constitutional court challenge to Jamaica's 1864 law that bans sex between men. He argued that the anti-sodomy law fuels homophobia and violates a charter of human rights adopted in 2011 that guarantees people the right to privacy. But in an affidavit, Jaghai said he has been "threatened enough times to know that I am vulnerable." The 25-year-old man believes his "loved ones are under threat" by intolerant people and the drawn-out court challenge is causing too much stress and anxiety.
"Though the cause and the case are noble, I am no longer willing to gamble with my life or the lives of my parents and siblings," Jaghai wrote in a statement withdrawing his Supreme Court claim.
Jamaica's rarely used anti-sodomy law bans anal sex and sets a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and hard labor. Anything interpreted as "gross indecency" between men can be punished by two years in prison.
Janet Burak of New York-based advocacy group AIDS-Free World said the fear that pushed Jaghai to end his court challenge is an all-too familiar fear among the LGBT community in Jamaica. It's "the same fear that keeps gay men in Jamaica underground, away from effective HIV testing, prevention treatment, care and support interventions," she said in a statement.
When Jaghai initiated the legal challenge last year, several church pastors led crowded revival meetings in Jamaica's two biggest cities to oppose overturning the anti-sodomy law.
Many Jamaicans consider homosexuality to be wrong, but insist violence against gays is blown out of proportion by activists. But anti-gay epithets are heard frequently and attacks on LGBT Jamaicans or people perceived to be gay do occur from time to time. Last year, a transgender teen named Dwayne Jones was murdered by a mob at a crowded street dance and his slaying remains unsolved.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller vowed to put the anti-sodomy law to a "conscience vote" in Parliament during the leadup to 2011 elections but nothing has been accomplished.
J-FLAG, Jamaica's biggest gay rights group, says Jaghai's courage has inspired other young homosexuals in Jamaica who are not willing to live in the shadows.
"Javed has made history and will forever remain a hero to the Jamaican LGBT community," said activist Brian-Paul Welsh.
David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd
- Police Tactics Again Under the Spotlight in...
Police Tactics Again Under the Spotlight in Racially Charged Demonstrations: When Will They Ever Learn?The events in Ferguson demonstrate once again the unsurprising results of a recent empirical study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, that found that "[p]olice tactics often provoke protesters." They also remind us how little we retain of lessons that should be learned from past experience.
It is extraordinarily troubling that Missouri, St. Louis County and Ferguson government and police officials were so utterly clueless about the fundamentals of dealing with super-heated situations where excessive force and aggressive tactics can turn peaceful mass demonstrations into riots.
We have been here before. As Pete Seeger wrote as American embroilment escalated in Vietnam, "When will they ever learn?"
The Berkeley study referenced above summarizes some of the key lessons we have had over time based on the tragic consequences of bull-headed police tactics. To put it bluntly, the authorities were so clueless and clumsy in Ferguson that they did not know they had to act promptly and consistently; be compassionate to the victim's family; and keep themselves and their police from escalating into inflammatory rhetoric and gross misstatement. They acted in ignorance of basic principles: the need to set up and follow a clear and unified command structure; give clear and consistent orders to their forces; coordinate and keep control over all their forces; keep their forces from using no more force or show of force than necessary to contain and control each situation; and keep their forces from provoking or starting violent confrontations with peaceful demonstrators. Instead they deployed uncoordinated police from departments throughout St. Louis County, unnecessarily armed with military weapons and equipment designed for use in war or extreme domestic situations. Their troops arrived in bomb-hardened military vehicles, brandished automatic rifles, and overused tear gas to disperse citizens.
The Missouri, St. Louis and Ferguson authorities demonstrated once again that, at least in some parts of America, memories remain far too short about events of the last 50 years, and lessons learned from those events.
The Consequences of Excessive Force
Here is where we should have learned about what not to do, from events over the last 50 years alone that were mishandled by politicians, police and National Guard -- painful lessons that were ignored or overlooked by the authorities in Missouri, St. Louis County and Ferguson:
Watts, 1965: In August 1965 riots flamed through Los Angeles' African-American Watts neighborhood. Watts became like a war zone. Before calm was restored, 3,900 National Guardsmen, more than 900 LAPD and more than 700 Los Angeles County officers were deployed. More than 30 people were killed, more than 1,000 were injured, and nearly 3,500 were arrested before the riots were quelled. All this was triggered by an inept and unduly forceful police arrest of several African Americans, then fueled by race issues and rumor, and not contained soon enough due to lack of police and government preparation, planning and prompt, measured action.
Detroit, 1967: Less than two years later a police raid of an unlicensed bar in Detroit on July 23, 1967, triggered five days of riots in which more than 40 people were killed, more than 1,100 injured, and more than 7,000 arrested. Many of the killed and injured were shot unnecessarily by undisciplined National Guardsmen firing military weapons, often at bystanders. Discipline was imposed and the riots ended only after federal troops were deployed and the National Guard was federalized.
Kent State, 1970: In April 1970 anti-war demonstrations and student strikes broke out on many U.S. college campuses in protest of President Richard Nixon's order to bomb of Cambodia during the Vietnam war. Following a riot through the town of Kent, Ohio, and the burning of the ROTC building on the Kent State University campus, Ohio Gov. James Rhodes ordered units of the Ohio National Guard to Kent State. The demonstrations morphed into protests both of the war and of the presence of the National Guard on the campus. On May 3 Gov. Rhodes ramped up the rhetoric, exclaiming at a press conference in Kent:
We've seen here, at the city of Kent especially, probably the most vicious form of campus-oriented violence yet perpetrated by dissident groups. They make definite plans of burning, destroying, and throwing rocks at police, and at the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. This is when we're going to use every part of the law-enforcement agency of Ohio to drive them out of Kent. We are going to eradicate the problem. We're not going to treat the symptoms. And these people just move from one campus to the other and terrorize the community. They're worse than the Brownshirts and the communist element and also the Night Riders and the vigilantes.
Shortly after noon on May 4, the Guard's commanders ordered the Guardsmen to disperse a crowd of demonstrators and other students who were just going to or from class. The Guardsmen had scant training in controlling civil disorders and were armed with military weapons, with a killing range of over a mile, which they had been ordered to "lock and load." They started by dispersing the crowd by marching menacingly at civilians with fixed bayonets and firing tear gas at them. Without warning a unit of the troops fired 67 rounds of ammunition over 13 seconds, most just in the general direction of students and some aimed at particular students. The Guardsmen killed four and wounded nine students.
Los Angeles, 1992: On March 3, 1991, LAPD officers were caught on video brutally beating Rodney King after King, an African American, led police on a high-speed chase through Los Angeles County. On April 29, 1992, four white LAPD officers who were involved in beating King were acquitted of violating state law by a jury in police-friendly Simi Valley. Los Angeles and state authorities had no contingency plans to control what happened next. In response to the acquittals, riots started in predominantly African-American South Central Los Angeles. They quickly spread well beyond that neighborhood. Before the riots ended many days later nearly 10,000 National Guard and federal troops were patrolling the streets of Los Angeles; more than 50 people were killed and over 2,000 were injured.
The Results of Taking Appropriate Action
Here is what happens when the authorities take (mostly) proper action to quell riots or control mass demonstrations:
Detroit, 1967: In 1965 the first order given by Regular Army General John L. Throckmorton when he took command over all forces in Detroit was "to have all Guardsmen unload their weapons and put the ammunition in their pockets." The troops also were ordered to reload their weapons only on orders of an officer, and to stop firing their weapons at looters. The wanton killings and wounding by Guardsman gunfire stopped after that.
Martin Luther King assassination, 1968: Riots broke out in many American cities following the April 4, 1968, assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis. In some cities riots were once again suppressed with undue use of deadly force by ill-trained and supervised police and National Guard troops. Unconstitutional mass arrests occurred in many cities. In some cities, however, where politicians were forthright in engaging their African-American communities, or where planning, coordination and proper command-structure controls were employed, riots were avoided or quickly quelled with minimal police or National Guard violence. In several cities riot control worked best when the National Guard was federalized and put under the command of seasoned regular Army generals.
Jackson State, 1970: In May 1970 the adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard kept a tight rein on his troops sent to control demonstrations at Jackson State College that followed the Kent State shootings. Two people were killed and several were wounded, likely by Jackson or Mississippi State Police. None of the Mississippi National Guardsmen shot a civilian.
Kent State, 1970: After the Kent State shootings the Department of Defense and its National Guard Bureau took measures to assure that National Guard Troops that are deployed to control civil disorder or demonstrations are properly trained and properly controlled by their officers, and that they do not wantonly fire military weapons at unarmed civilians.
Seattle WTO Meeting, 1999: Massive demonstrations that sometimes involved violence by demonstrators were quelled with no loss of life by police gunfire, due to prompt and coordinated action by local and state police and National Guard. Even so, just as in the response in some cities to the 1968 riots following the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, unconstitutional mass arrests were employed.
Many cities, 2011 and 2012: During the Occupy demonstrations in 2011 and 2012, no civilian was killed by police. When police engaged in egregious conduct against civilians, they were swiftly disciplined.
What Went Wrong in Ferguson 2014
No demonstrator was killed by police in Ferguson (though there were breathtakingly close calls). That seems to have been just plain lucky, given everything that was done wrong by the authorities and police. They appear to have shown no early compassion to Michael Brown's family; they tried ineptly to control the flow of information to the public, including by prematurely pushing out untested versions of the events that led to Michael Brown's killing and by arresting and harassing reporters; they deployed police from many departments throughout St. Louis County without imposing a clear command structure and coordination; they deployed military weapons and equipment prematurely and inappropriately; they did not distinguish between peaceful demonstrations exercising their First Amendment rights and rioters and looters, suppressing both with equal vigor. As in the Watts riots, the government and police department of the City of Ferguson in particular were unprepared for dealing with issues of race that were at large in their community. They failed to recognize or respond to the African-American outrage that resulted in part from the rapid change in the racial demography of Ferguson unmatched by any significant changes in its police department.
What Happens Next?
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the federal government increasingly provided local police with military weapons and equipment unsuited to use in controlling demonstrations and civil disorder. There were shocking images of improper use of such equipment by the police in Ferguson. Why, we have to ask, were the police pointing their military semiautomatic rifles at demonstrators? Why did they even have such weapons so visible? The images of police in Ferguson with too much firepower and too little control and coordination are causing serious reconsideration of this program by conservatives and liberals alike and the federal government. Both Congress and the Obama administration are weighing and reevaluating the situation.
Of equal importance, the national conversation about the continued importance of race in America is refocusing on what needs to be done to get us into a post-racial era, which we have not yet reached despite our having an African-American president and an African-American attorney general.
For those who may think that Barack Obama's election has moved America into a post-racial era, I say "nonsense." Only the politically tone-deaf can believe that much of the hardened opposition to President Obama and his administration is unrelated to his race; only the politically tone-deaf can believe that the hardened opposition to immigration reform is unrelated to race; only the politically tone-deaf can believe that the great divide within the GOP between the old-guard establishment and the nearly lily-white tea-party fringe is unrelated to race; only the politically tone-deaf can believe that use of excessive force by police is unrelated to race; only the politically tone-deaf can believe that the overcrowding of our prisons and jails is unrelated to race; only the politically tone-deaf can believe that continued widespread poverty and the increasing divide between the super-rich and the working poor and middle class in America are unrelated to race.
Let's get real, America. Only by acknowledging and dealing with the continued importance of race as a principal underlying cause of our deficiencies can we ever hope to deal with and resolve those defects in our nation.
- Chicago Business Learns Little Leaguer Is...
Chicago Business Learns Little Leaguer Is Homeless, Offers To Pinch Hit And Pay Family's RentWhen Jackie Robinson West players returned home to Chicago this week, seemingly everyone in the nation knew about the U.S. champions of this year's Little League World Series.
What most people didn't know, however, was that 12-year-old Jaheim Benton -- No. 8 on the Jackie Robinson West squad -- had no particular home to return to. As the Sun-Times reported late Thursday, Benton and his family are homeless. But one local businessman wants to change that.
Spencer Leak Jr. told The Huffington Post he heard of Benton's situation on the radio Friday morning while holding to phone in for an unrelated story. When it was his turn to talk, the 44-year-old vice president of Chicago's Leak & Sons Funeral Homes said on the air that his family's business would be willing to cover an entire year's rent for the Benton family.
“I just felt for them. I look at my son and my daughter and by the grace of God, they’re able to come home to their own beds every night. But that could all end tomorrow,” Leak told HuffPost. “God has blessed us, so we have to give back. Whether it be help for a funeral or housing or giving food, we have to step up to do that.”
Leak said he met with Jaheim's mother, Devona, later that day and the two "talked privately, and hugged and talked about some items for the future."
The Benton family's struggles began when Devona, a home care provider with Catholic Charities -- the charitable arm of the Chicago Archdiocese -- had her hours cut back due to fewer clients. According to the Sun-Times, Jaheim's father works as a part-time radiator technician. Between the two part-time salaries, the family couldn't afford to keep their home.
“I have been at my job for six years. I have never had this happen to me," Devona Benton told the Sun-Times. "This is the first time I have ever lost a home."
Jaheim and his father recently were staying at the home of a family friend. Devona, meanwhile, also cares for her three grandchildren, as well as Jaheim's older brother and adult sister.
"Mrs. Benton is such a strong woman," Leak told HuffPost. "She does not want the focus to be on her -- she wants the focus to be on the team. Even though she’s going through trials, she’s still more conceded about [Jackie Robinson West ]."
"This shouldn't have even been a story," Leak added. "If I had heard of it before now, it wouldn't have been a story because I would have done something about it."
For decades, the Leak family has had a history of stepping in to help fellow community members in need.
The family funeral home, which was founded in 1933 by Leak's grandparents, handled roughly one-fifth of the Chicago's funerals in 2012, according to Crain's Chicago Business. The Leak family often provides services at a reduced rate for those without insurance. In more severe cases, the Leaks completely waive the roughly $4,000 cost of a typical funeral.
"You have to be willing to give back to the community that supports this business," Leak said, adding that he hopes his family's act of kindness will inspire others to help their fellow neighbors in need.
"What we’re doing is not out of the ordinary," he said. "It’s what all Chicagoans -- what all Americans -- should be doing."
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- Past Performance Teaches Us Plenty About Saving...
Past Performance Teaches Us Plenty About Saving For Future Retirement
Investment types often trot out the cautionary phrase, "past performance does not necessarily predict future results." And for good reason. Clients must understand that their financial tomorrow is no guarantee. Yet when it comes to the question of whether we are doing enough to ensure that we won't outlive our resources in retirement, we can learn a lot from history.
Until the late 1800s, nearly everyone worked where they lived or at least nearby. America was largely an agrarian society of farmers and craftsmen. The economy was simpler, far less global. Transportation followed rivers, railways, and local roads. The Industrial Revolution's rapid transit and automobiles were still around the corner.
The industrialists created the commuter society, in which radiating trolley lines allowed workers to traverse between homes in the suburbs and jobs in the city, and back again. The industrialists also adopted pensions for their workers. As of 1919, over 300 private pension plans covered about 15 percent of U.S. wage-and-salary employees, according to the Pension Research Council, and as companies expanded benefits to attract workers and reduce turnover, that amount only continued to grow.
Pension plans were followed by profit-sharing plans facilitated by the Revenue Act of 1921, and then came the creation of Social Security, the social safety net enacted in 1935. All of these programs, whether private or public, were easily financed and funded because workers typically clocked in and out until the age of 65, and life expectancy was around 70. There was no major financial exposure to invest in workers' retirement years.
But over time, our collective saving habits slipped as memories of the Great Depression grew distant and fuzzy. Soon, consumer spending eclipsed all of our take-home pay as credit became more widespread and accessible. We discovered we could go into debt. Fueled by inflation, especially in housing, our debt grew and grew through an extended period of economic euphoria -- one might call it "irrational exuberance" -- yet no one worried.
Then housing values, which rose dramatically and fueled all sorts of economic excess, plummeted stone-like into an abyss. The Great Recession took hold, destroying jobs and devastating nest eggs. Our savings were history.
Meanwhile, during the past decade, the 401(k) plan had become our go-to retirement savings program. Employers elevated what was originally intended as a tax-sheltered savings program -- all but terminating "expensive" pensions -- and went with the smaller -- and finite -- 401(k) contributions. With personal pre-tax contributions available, the thought was employees would put away funds for the future. At the same time, public pension plans -- which are not protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) or the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) -- saw their funding slide as politicians, by necessity or by choice, put the money toward more tangible and pressing programs.
The austere result is more and more local governments face dire financial straits, even bankruptcy, causing these plans to be sharply reduced or eliminated mid-stream. The private sector has beaten the public sector to the punch by eliminating pension plans or finding ways to turn them over to the PBGC.
As for the much vaunted 401(k), employer contributions for the most part are lower than the predecessor pensions, and while there may be some advantage to these plans for today's mobile work force -- mobile as in jumping from job to job, not working remotely via a tablet computer -- the outlook is less than stellar. The median 401(k) size stands at about $24,000, according to a Fidelity Investments report. For those older than 55, the nest egg is about $65,000.
Young people often take a bit more money home rather than into their 401(k) account. When they change jobs, they often cash in their 401(k) accounts, paying not only taxes but a penalty for early withdrawal, leaving in some cases about half the account in their pocket, and nothing for retirement. Some 5.7 million, or 4 percent, of U.S. households reported paying penalties on early 401(k) withdrawals in 2011, according to Bloomberg data.
Somehow, we must change this grim retirement cycle. Running up debts by turning our homes into piggy banks is not the way, nor is burning up our salaries while putting little aside for our ever-extending post-retirements. In addition to the disruption in employer funding, Social Security could be pressured negatively as the population ages and, with added longevity, what funding there is -- government, employer or personal -- could be stretched to last, or depleted altogether. In either case, that leaves worse than planned, or hoped-for, retirement.
The key is for people to take personal responsibility in their retirement planning. Here's how:
- Calculate (with an online tool) the amount of benefits and savings you will need/want in retirement;
- Pay yourself first -- establish a routine savings plan that calls for savings first;
- Maximize 401(k) opportunities, especially those matched by an employer (don't leave your employer's cash on the table);
- Buy an annuity or high cash value life insurance policy with periodic premiums -- and pay the premiums;
- Open an investment account (with a broker, discount brokerage firm or financial adviser);
- If discipline is lacking, have an amount automatically taken from your bank account weekly or monthly and placed into a retirement or investment account;
Individuals must take it upon themselves to increase their savings. There is a real need to avoid -- as some financial planners are wont to say -- "too much life at the end of the money."
- Ferguson Police Chief, Now An International 'Bad...
Ferguson Police Chief, Now An International 'Bad Guy,' Wants To Help His City Move ForwardThis article was made possible in part by HuffPost readers through their support of the Ferguson Fellowship. Here's how you can back more reporting like this from Ferguson and St. Louis over the next year.
FERGUSON, Mo. -- Nearly three weeks after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by one of his police officers, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is a man under a lot of pressure.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the chief's actions came under strong criticism. Against the recommendations of the Justice Department, he released a video allegedly showing Brown robbing a nearby convenience store shortly before his death -- even though Brown had been stopped for walking in the street, not because of the robbery. Jackson soon ceded much of his authority to police a large portion of Ferguson to other law enforcement agencies.
His officers have recently begun responding to calls in that area again. And the criticism over Jackson’s decisions in the Brown case has shifted to critiques of the lack of diversity within and training of the Ferguson police force.
Thursday night, inside a sweltering church just down the street from the Ferguson police station, there were calls for Jackson’s resignation during a forum hosted by NPR's Michel Martin.
Early Friday afternoon, when The Huffington Post caught up with the chief at the entrance to the police station, Jackson was busy responding to text messages from his peers, preparing for an expected Saturday demonstration around Brown’s death and arranging for officers to be trained in the use of body cameras that two companies have donated. He also recently got around to reading a fake op-ed published under his name on the satirical website The Onion and wanted to make sure people knew it wasn't him.
As he spoke with The Huffington Post, he occasionally paused to swing open the door for people entering the station: some there on business, another there to donate cases of drinks to the police dispatchers.
During the conversation, Jackson clarified contradictory statements he had previously made about whether Officer Darren Wilson believed that Brown might have been a suspect in a robbery when he stopped the teen, with Jackson stating definitively that Wilson did not connect Brown with the robbery and stopped him simply because he was walking down the middle of the street. (Whether Brown believed he was being stopped because of the incident at the liquor store is a separate question.)
Jackson also said that his officers still were not wearing name tags because protesters “that don’t want to be peaceful” would read the tags and start “taunting them” by name. “It kind of reduces that personal taunt and allows us to be generic,” Jackson said. He added that they would be wearing the name tags again soon.
Here’s what Jackson’s life is like these days, as told to The Huffington Post. His comments have been condensed and edited, and the order of some quotes has been rearranged:
"Daily life now is doing things like trying to get the body camera, meeting with various local and national leaders to try to set up various types of training, not just for us but for the region.
"We do the racial profiling training and the cultural diversity stuff, but it’s not enough. Obviously, it’s not enough.
"So what we want to do is get more of the training where officers, in the academy especially, can get a direct feel for what it’s like to be a young black male with the police behind them, you know, what it feels like. Try to get some of those firsthand stories.
"There’s a whole laundry list of training that’s really beneficial to get at this problem so that we can all live together peacefully. I’ve gotten reached out to people from Cincinnati, Sanford [the Florida town where Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012]. ... I’ve been texting back and forth. They had some really great programs. I don’t know if you remember in Cincinnati a young man was shot in the back, I guess, by a police officer, and they had sort of a similar -- well, nobody has really had anything like this, this bad. This is bad.
"A lot of what my life is right now is trying to move forward. Lots of meetings. I sat down with Akbar Muhammad [of the Nation of Islam] and some colleagues. Good conversations. I mean, they want me fired, but very friendly, open talk. They’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re not who we thought you were,’ you know, those kind of things.
"It was like a logistics meeting, really. We talked about, you know, where are we going to set up our tents, where are we going to put the trailer, can you feed us electricity, make sure you guys get water. They’re really committed to having this be peaceful.
"This week, we’re going back to normal. We’re going to wait and see how Saturday goes, and see if Sunday is calm. Our intent is to go back to normal operations on Monday with body cameras. At the end of the shift, all they have to do is -- everybody has a number, so they just put it in the docking station, and it goes into the server. We had two companies actually donate.
"Everyone who is on duty will be able to have one. It keeps people in check, being monitored, and it counts because a lot of times people make complaints that are way exaggerated -- you know, the officer was rude to me ... -- so it helps both sides. And it also helps if an officer has a manner that’s perceived as confrontational … we can train them. So it helps with training, it helps with internal affairs investigations, it helps with knowing what happens. If we’ve got a problem officer, and we get a complaint, and it just so happens that the camera is turned off during the complaint, there’s discipline there regardless. But it will help us. It will help us identify officers with problems or officers who are trending towards being problematic. It allows us to do some coaching, some training. It will take a lot of the guesswork out of what happens.
"When [outside officers] go in and show up for something like this [the unrest in Ferguson], the briefing needs to be more clear. Most of these people have a legitimate beef or a legitimate gripe; they’re asking legitimate questions. People with the weapons, those are the people we’re concerned about, not the people saying, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot.’ It’s a different agenda.
"What we’re doing now is we’re getting back in there. Understand that we’re been working with those neighborhood associations and trying to get them to take ownership of the city and be involved in activities. So when we’ve been back over there these past few days, people have been waving at us. People from the apartments have sent me goodies these past few days. Our history is better than this. So we’re back in there, we’re responding to calls -- as is the [Missouri State] Highway Patrol, they’re in that corridor. Sick case, stolen bicycle, the usual, just normal calls.
"We had a call that came out that said some peaceful protesters were being harassed by some not-so-peaceful protesters. That’s how the call came out. But anyway, [St. Louis] County [Police] is still in there. So we’re just going to try to transition back to normalcy. There’s been a grant from the county for businesses to try to rebuild -- I think it’s like a million dollars for Ferguson businesses affected.
"That QuikTrip, this was a grocery store for those thousand apartments that were back there and another 200 across the way. People could walk there to get their groceries, and it wasn’t one of those places that was going to dig you and charge you too much -- that happens in a lot of poor neighborhoods, places that just gouge you. This is just a regular QuikTrip that charges regular prices for groceries. And they wanted to keep that there because they had a really particular customer base. I don’t think they’ve decided yet. I think they’re waiting to see how this plays out in the long run.
"Thirty-five years in the community being the good guy, now I'm internationally the bad guy, that hurts. But it is what it is."
(Disclosure: Jackson also repeatedly apologized for actions of the officers who put a Huffington Post reporter and a Washington Post reporter under arrest inside a McDonald's on Aug. 13.)
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