Young, Black and Charged as Adults

African-American teens in Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county were 20 times more likely than their white peers to be arrested and charged as adults in 2016 and 2017, according to a newspaper investigation.

Denzel Glover was 16 when he was arrested and taken to Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Jail for shooting another teen in September 2016. Kiyon Swindle was 17 when he was arrested in March 2017 for leading Allegheny County police on a high-speed chase that ended with Swindle crashing a stolen vehicle into another vehicle, injuring several people.

Tomichael Sherrell was just 15 when he was arrested and charged with robbery, and 16 when he was sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to felony robbery. He spent nearly a year in county jail because he could not pay cash bail.

From the moment Sherrell, Swindle, and Glover were charged, they were treated as adults, held in adult jail, and then prosecuted by the Allegheny district attorney’s office and convicted as adults.

Pennsylvania law requires that people who are accused of serious felony offenses like murder, robbery and aggravated assault, and are at least 15 years old, be charged as adults if the case involves the use of a weapon during the crime or if the person has a history of using a weapon.

But these cases can be diverted to the juvenile system by prosecutors after defendants are charged. Despite numerous opportunities, the district attorney’s office never moved Sherrell, Swindle or Glover from adult court to the juvenile system.

Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel at the Juvenile Law Center, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that advocates for juveniles, told The Appeal that “nothing good” comes from incarcerating and prosecuting children as adults.

“You’re removing kids from their communities,” she said. “That’s strike one.”

Swindle, Glover, and Sherrell have something in common with majority of children charged and tried as adults in Allegheny, Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county with over 1.2 million residents.

They are African American.

Allegheny County Jail

Allegheny County Jail. Photo via Flickr

The Appeal reviewed all charging dockets filed in magisterial district judge offices in Allegheny County in 2016 and 2017 and found nearly 200 cases where teens were charged as adults by the district attorney’s office. In more than 80 percent of those cases, the defendant was African American.

The review only tracked cases where the defendant was under the age of 18, both when the offense occurred and at the time charges were filed.

Black youth only account for about 20 percent of the total youth population age 14-17 in Allegheny County, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. But African-American teens in the county were 20 times more likely than their white peers to be arrested and charged as adults in 2016 and 2017, The Appeal found.

The Appeal made multiple attempts to reach Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office for comment but received no response.

*“There’s all of this implicit, and sometimes explicit, bias that drives law enforcement into [minority] communities and that drives these kids into our justice system,” Levick said.

And that racial disparity only grew as cases moved through Allegheny County’s system.

In 2016 and 2017, Black teens in the county accounted for about 85 percent of children charged in adult court, 91 percent of those referred for prosecution, nearly 97 percent of those who received an adjudication, and 100 percent of all children sentenced to either jail or prison, according to The Appeal’s review of court records. Black teens were also 85 times more likely to be prosecuted in adult court than their white peers.

The Appeal also found that prosecutors were less likely to withdraw cases against Black teens early in the proceedings, before those cases reached the trial court. And in Pennsylvania, withdrawing can often indicate that a case might move from adult to juvenile court.

Of the six cases involving a white teen sent to Zappala’s office, The Appeal found only two criminal dockets in the higher court. In one case, the defendant died before trial; the other was still active at the time of The Appeal‘s review.

Conversely, about 70 cases involving Black teens were sent to Zappala for prosecution. From those cases, The Appeal found that Zappala’s office created 46 adult criminal dockets—28 of those cases have ended in a prison, jail or probation sentence; in three, Zappala’s office dropped all charges; and 15 are still awaiting adjudication.

Recent research suggests that sending teens through the adult justice system and incarcerating youth with adults can have grave consequences.

Youth held in adult prisons and jails are twice as likely to die by suicide  than their adult counterparts, and roughly 36 times more likely to die by suicide than their peers held in juvenile facilities.

Research has also found that young people sent through the adult justice system are more likely to commit new offenses, and commit them more quickly than similarly charged youth who went through the juvenile system.

As such statistics have come to light, courts and states have begun rethinking how they punish children.  Four U.S. Supreme Court decisions have held that the death penalty and mandatory life without parole sentences for children are unconstitutional. In one such ruling, the high court noted that “adolescent brain anatomy can cause transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences.”

States have also moved away from the “adult time for adult crime” and “superpredator” narratives of the 1980s and 1990s. In 2016, the Vermont legislature passed a law allowing people 21 and younger, and charged with certain nonviolent offenses, youthful offender status and adjudication through the juvenile system.

Last year, New York raised its age of adult criminal liability from 16 to 18; in October, Washington State’s Supreme Court held that life without parole sentences were unconstitutional for individuals convicted of offenses they committed as children.

The American Bar Association now recommends that children “be treated as juveniles in the court justice system, with a focus on rehabilitating rather than simply punishing.”

But there’s movement in Pennsylvania, too.

In 2014, the state Supreme Court determined that lifetime sexual offender registration for individuals who committed offenses when they were children was unconstitutional and a violation of state law. The lower court cited a growing body of research regarding youth brain development and delinquent behavior, noting that “lifetime registration is also contrary to the rehabilitative goals of our juvenile justice system, as a court of second chances.”

And the conservative columnist George F. Will recently urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take a juvenile life without parole case out of Mississippi to force the state to take seriously its rulings granting parole eligibility to youth who are not “permanently incorrigible.”

The attorney for Joey Chandler, the lifer in the case, argued that he has been incarcerated “virtually without disciplinary blemish and that he excelled in job training programs offered at the prison.”

“Accountability matters,” Levick of the Juvenile Law Center said. “But accountability in developmentally appropriate ways is what we should be focused on.”

Joshua Vaughn is a 2018 John Jay/Tow Juvenile Justice Reporting Fellow. This is a condensed and slightly edited version of a story that appeared this week in The Appeal. The full version can be accessed here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Race, Gun Use in Self-Defense at Issue in Alabama

The police killing of a black man in Alabama calls into question the role of minorities in the popular slogan among Second Amendment enthusiasts: “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

To a police officer who raced to the scene at last week’s shopping mall shooting in Hoover, Al., the black man with the gun was “a suspect brandishing a pistol,” according to a police account. The officer fired, and Emantic Bradford Jr., died. As it turned out, Bradford was not the gunman. On Thursday, police arrested Erron Brown, 20, and charged him with attempting to murder an 18-year-old man during the melee, the New York Times reports. Police initially identified Bradford as the culprit, only to change their story a day later. Two competing versions of what Bradford did — try to protect those in danger or pose a threat by wielding a gun during a moment of chaos — are at the center of a controversy over race, gun rights and bias that has erupted in the predominantly white suburb of Birmingham.

The incident calls into question a popular slogan among Second Amendment enthusiasts: “The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Black people trying to protect themselves or others with a gun may not get the benefit of the doubt in heat-of-the-moment situations. This month, police fatally shot a black security guard who had pulled his gun to break up a shooting in a suburban Chicago bar. A Portland State University policeman fatally shot a black Navy veteran who had been trying to break up a fight near a bar when his firearm fell to the ground. In Alabama, Bradford’s family members and activists have accused the officer of being too quick to assume that because Bradford was a black man with a gun, he was a threat rather than a good Samaritan.

from https://thecrimereport.org

White Supremacy ‘a Sickness,’ says Ex-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young

Civil rights leader and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young’s “distinguished contributions to justice” were cited by American Society of Criminology president Karen Heimer in giving him the Presidential Justice Award.

Civil rights leader and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young was honored for  his “distinguished contributions to justice” by the American Society of Criminology (ASC), which concluded its annual meeting over the weekend in Atlanta.

In his remarks to the participants, Young recalled his efforts to promote Atlanta as a  “city too busy to hate,” noting that he had been taught by his father that “white supremacy is a sickness.”

Young, who served as the host city’s mayor from 1982 to 1990, said he sent police officers into the city’s housing projects to help young people gain self-confidence through activities like midnight basketball league.

Young, 86, admitted to the academic audience that in college he got a “D” in sociology.

He got a standing ovation with his closing declaration that “peace is practical… it makes sense…and it is possible.”

Young received the Presidential Justice Award from outgoing ASC president Karen Heimer of the University of Iowa.

Young served as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1960s as a senior aide to Martin Luther King, Jr. He was elected three times to Congress before being appointed by President Jimmy Carter as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977.

This report was prepared by Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Laissez-Faire Racism’ Remains Core of Justice System, Conference Told

The victories of the Civil Rights era have been undermined by the systemic bias that perpetuates mass incarceration and the unequal treatment by courts, police and corrections of people of color, two prominent scholars told the American Society of Criminology Thursday.

The victories of the Civil Rights era have been undermined by a “laissez-faire racism” that continues the historic criminalization of people of color, an American Society of Criminology (ASC) panel was told Thursday.

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of Social Science at Harvard University, said the rhetoric used by President Donald Trump and his supporters during the recent midterm election campaign to warn of a so-called invasion by Central American “criminals” was the most recent example of the prejudice that continues to distort American justice.

“Racial inequalities have morphed into a new modern era of laissez-faire racism,” which is no longer tied to the institutional racism that once infected education, employment, politics and other areas of American life and has since been outlawed by civil rights legislation, said Bobo, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Bobo

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of Social Science, Harvard. Courtesy Wikipedia

He was speaking to a packed plenary session at the annual ASC conference, attended by justice practitioners, students and researchers from throughout the U.S. and abroad.

“American culture is deeply disfigured by white supremacists,” he said at the Atlanta meeting, noting that the tough-on-crime strategies of recent years which disproportionately affected Americans of color had been supported by politicians of both parties.

Bobo welcomed Trump’s long-awaited endorsement this week of a bipartisan justice reform bill that would reduce sentences for some federal offenders, but he said the nation’s leaders needed to move from tinkering with reforms to a system-wide effort to remove the racial biases and inequalities that have long been a critical part of crime control.

“We’re in a fluid moment,” he said.

Bobo observed that even though incarceration was at a 26-year-low and crime rates were declining, disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos remained under the purview of the justice system.

His bleak assessment was underlined by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Heather A. Thompson of the University of Michigan, who told the audience that white supremacist views were “baked into the DNA” of American life and politics.

Thompson

Heather A. Thompson, winner of 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History

According to Thompson, it was “whites’ drive to maintain power” over nonwhite populations⸺particularly Native Americans and freed slaves⸺that “determined the high rate of criminalization” of those groups.

“There are huge lessons to be reckoned with” from two centuries of U.S. history during which “people of color have always been associated by whites as sources of trouble and disorder,” she said.

Echoing the views of Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” Thompson said the end of slavery forced white leaders to use police and other parts of the justice system to reduce any political competition from African Americans that would challenge their power.

“Racism and disproportionality are not a byproduct of our criminal justice system,” she said. “[They] are core and fundamental to that system.”

Thompson won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.”

Stephen Handelman is executive editor of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Laissez-Faire Racism’ Remains Core of Justice System, Conference Told

The victories of the Civil Rights era have been undermined by the systemic bias that perpetuates mass incarceration and the unequal treatment by courts, police and corrections of people of color, two prominent scholars told the American Society of Criminology Thursday.

The victories of the Civil Rights era have been undermined by a “laissez-faire racism” that continues the historic criminalization of people of color, an American Society of Criminology (ASC) panel was told Thursday.

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of Social Science at Harvard University, said the rhetoric used by President Donald Trump and his supporters during the recent midterm election campaign to warn of a so-called invasion by Central American “criminals” was the most recent example of the prejudice that continues to distort American justice.

“Racial inequalities have morphed into a new modern era of laissez-faire racism,” which is no longer tied to the institutional racism that once infected education, employment, politics and other areas of American life and has since been outlawed by civil rights legislation, said Bobo, the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard.

Bobo

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of Social Science, Harvard. Courtesy Wikipedia

He was speaking to a packed plenary session at the annual ASC conference, attended by justice practitioners, students and researchers from throughout the U.S. and abroad.

“American culture is deeply disfigured by white supremacists,” he said at the Atlanta meeting, noting that the tough-on-crime strategies of recent years which disproportionately affected Americans of color had been supported by politicians of both parties.

Bobo welcomed Trump’s long-awaited endorsement this week of a bipartisan justice reform bill that would reduce sentences for some federal offenders, but he said the nation’s leaders needed to move from tinkering with reforms to a system-wide effort to remove the racial biases and inequalities that have long been a critical part of crime control.

“We’re in a fluid moment,” he said.

Bobo observed that even though incarceration was at a 26-year-low and crime rates were declining, disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos remained under the purview of the justice system.

His bleak assessment was underlined by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Heather A. Thompson of the University of Michigan, who told the audience that white supremacist views were “baked into the DNA” of American life and politics.

Thompson

Heather A. Thompson, winner of 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History

According to Thompson, it was “whites’ drive to maintain power” over nonwhite populations⸺particularly Native Americans and freed slaves⸺that “determined the high rate of criminalization” of those groups.

“There are huge lessons to be reckoned with” from two centuries of U.S. history during which “people of color have always been associated by whites as sources of trouble and disorder,” she said.

Echoing the views of Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” Thompson said the end of slavery forced white leaders to use police and other parts of the justice system to reduce any political competition from African Americans that would challenge their power.

“Racism and disproportionality are not a byproduct of our criminal justice system,” she said. “[They] are core and fundamental to that system.”

Thompson won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.”

Stephen Handelman is executive editor of The Crime Report.

from https://thecrimereport.org

60% of Hate Crimes are Racially Motivated: FBI

The majority of hate crime victims last year were targeted because of the offenders’ race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry bias, according to an FBI report released Tuesday

The majority of hate crime victims last year were targeted because of the offenders’ race, ethnicity, and/or ancestry bias, according to an FBI report released Tuesday.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program analyzed data collected in 2017 by 16,149 law enforcement agencies that included information about hate crime offenses, victims, offenders, and locations where such incidents happen.

The report,  Hate Crime Statistics 2017,  classified 7,175 criminal incidents and 8,437 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.

About 21 percent of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ religious bias. Last month 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers was charged with 29 federal crimes in the aftermath of a mass shooting killed 11 people and injured six others during worship service at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to report, about 16 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias,  and most hate crime incidents occurred in or near residences/homes, according to the report.

Though the FBI report adds a glimpse to hate crime in the United States, the report isn’t definitive on whether such crimes are rising or falling. A recent study found that even though hate crimes are surging globally—the United States included—they are drastically underreported as many victims believe their reports won’t be taken seriously by law enforcement and that police officers rather solve other crimes like robberies, murder, etc.

Furthermore, the FBI report yields incomplete data as reporting is voluntary and not all jurisdictions submitted data though nearly 1,000 more agencies reported in 2017 than the previous year.

The full report can be found here.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR News Intern.

from https://thecrimereport.org

How the Law Complicates Tracking Hate in Oregon

Some hate crimes are so heinous there’s no debate about whether they should be prosecuted. But the law isn’t always so clear-cut for police. Oregon is a good example.

Hassania heard the footsteps one late summer evening in downtown Portland, Ore.

She was on her way home from work. Hassania, a Muslim woman from Morocco, wore a hijab, as she does every day, and bright-colored clothing bejeweled at the wrists. The hem of her kaftan hovered just barely off the ground.

The footsteps grew closer. Then she saw him — an older white man with gray hair and glasses ran at Hassania from behind and then got in her face, blocking her way. He stood just inches from her.

“Too close to my body,” Hassania said.

The man raised his middle finger at her, then spat at her feet.

She gasped and shouted a sarcastic remark about his impoliteness. The man ran off.

As the noise of his footsteps receded, she asked herself one question over and over:

“Why? Why? Just why?” Hassania said. “Maybe because I’m a Muslim, African woman?”

Hassania came to the United States in July to share the work she’s doing teaching Moroccan girls from the countryside about leadership skills and gender equality issues. The image of America she had formed in her mind while studying U.S. history in books and classes 5,700 miles away — an America where racism is a thing of the past, where everyone, regardless of background, is welcome if they’re willing to contribute to society — began to unravel.

Once safely home, she called friends to ask for advice. One told her to take off her hijab. She couldn’t fathom that.

“’No, don’t say that to me,’” she remembered telling the friend. “’Please, this is my identity, this is me. This is not easy to take it off.’”

Another friend advised her to call the Portland Police Bureau. That friend told her to report the incident as a hate crime.

She tried.

Within hours of last month’s horrific attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, federal prosecutors charged the shooter with multiple hate crimes: obstruction of the exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and obstruction of religious beliefs resulting in injury to a police officer.

In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for the death penalty for the man accused of targeting and shooting two African-Americans last week at a grocery store in his home state.

“If these are not hate crimes,” McConnell said, “I don’t know what a hate crime is.”

But the judicial system isn’t always so clear-cut, and people who lash out in hateful ways aren’t always criminals according to the law.

Under Oregon law, a hate crime occurs when a person or group damages property, does something threatening or subjects another person to offensive physical contact “because of the person’s perception of the other’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”

It’s a very specific legal definition, one that police, sheriffs and district attorneys say often falls short of satisfying people who have experienced hateful behavior.

“It is really difficult to provide the solution a community member is looking for and is asking for,” said officer Natasha Haunsperger, who works in the Portland Police Bureau’s community engagement office. “It’s such a major disconnect in what we can do versus perception once you’re a victim of a hate crime.”

That’s because law enforcement officials must have enough probable cause to determine an alleged perpetrator intentionally threatened or assaulted someone because of a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. Unless they occur in conjunction with a crime, derogatory statements about a person’s race or religion, while hostile, aren’t unlawful.

In fact, they’re protected by the First Amendment.

“You are allowed to use hurtful, awful, disgusting words; you’re allowed to say that under our Constitution,” said Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel. “You’re not allowed to threaten somebody, put someone in fear of imminent physical violence.”

Hassania called Portland Police a day after she was accosted.

The officer she spoke with wouldn’t take a police report because, Hassania later recalled, he said what had happened to her was not a crime.

If the police arrested everyone in Portland who offended someone, the officer added, police would have to arrest everyone in Portland. Under the law, he explained, there was nothing they could do.

Hassania, who asked to be identified by just her first name to protect her from further abuse, said the officer she spoke with made her feel like an idiot.

“My dream of America became nightmare of America,” she said.

Hassania wasn’t alone when she called the police. Seemab Hussaini, who chairs Oregon’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was with her when she made the call and was appalled at what he overheard.

On Aug. 24, the day after Hassania called the police, CAIR-Oregon publicly denounced the Portland Police Bureau’s response.

“These are statements that marginalize affected communities, remove power or any hope of being recognized for victimhood,” Hussaini said.

That tension between what people — particularly people of color — expect when they call the police for help and what law enforcement officers can legally prosecute under the law plays out time and time again in communities across the Northwest and around the country.

Within many communities of color, skepticism toward law enforcement is rooted in historic precedent. And now, with a spike in reported hate crimes since the election of President Donald Trump and a spate of attacks fueled by hate, there’s more pressure for law enforcement to get it right. If they don’t, critics say, hate festers and the people police have sworn to protect end up feeling even less safe.

Documenting Hate To Address Hate

Hassania’s call to the police would have been handled differently just a few hours south in Eugene, Ore., which has the largest number of documented hate crimes in the state, and where city officials have taken a different approach to hate.

There, she would have had the option to report what happened to her to the city’s Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement even if the police decided there was no crime to investigate. Information about the incident would then also be collected by the Eugene Police Department and reviewed by city officials and police, who meet quarterly to make sure each complaint about hateful behavior is correctly labeled.

Those results are put into an annual report analyzed by the city’s Human  Rights Commission.

So far, all that additional information and analysis haven’t led to specific policy changes in Eugene. But just keeping track is important, city leaders say.

Hate crimes

Lt. David Natt of the Eugene, Ore. Police Dept. says the city’s approach to documenting hate crimes and bias incidents helps. Photo by Conrad Wilson/OPB

“It allows us to give them something that’s more actionable than showing the empathy of understanding how they feel about something and explaining to them it doesn’t necessarily rise to a criminal level,” said Lt. David Natt, who heads up bias crimes and documentation for the Eugene Police Department.

“We still get the opportunity in the community to recognize that we’ve had this event.”

Eugene residents say that process gives law enforcement a clearer sense of what’s happening in their communities. That’s important because hate and bias crimes tend to be under-reported nationwide.

Eugene’s unique system of documenting hate and bias incidents has a magnifying effect:

The number of hate crimes reported in Oregon nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016 — a jump from 66 to 104. Portland — Oregon’s largest city — had 10 hate crimes reported in 2016, according to data voluntarily reported to the FBI. Eugene had 38.

The numbers in Eugene last year, which include both incidents and actual crimes, are even higher, at 139. According to the most recent data, vandalism replaced intimidation as the most common hate crime charge, and race remains the leading motivating factor. Reports of vandalism involved swastikas; racist, homophobic and transphobic slurs; and white nationalist recruitment material.

The data also shows African-Americans are significantly overrepresented as victims of hate and bias crimes. Of the 31 reported race-related hate crimes, 25 were committed against African-Americans.

“Those reporting mechanisms have helped,” said Eric Richardson, president of the Eugene chapter of the NAACP. “It’s a way for us to see what the problems are.”

By documenting hate, he said, you address hate.

Eugene’s approach casts a wider net because it documents bias incidents on top of hate crimes. Hussaini, with CAIR-Oregon, said that would be helpful in Portland, where only hate crimes — those incidents that appear to meet the legal definition of a hate crime — are tracked.

“Track the culture,” Hussaini said. “Track the culture behind what causes a hate crime to occur. They can be circumvented, stopped if they are found early.”

Portland Considers Another Approach To Hate

Recently, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) invited officers from Eugene to exchange information about how they document hate. They met with Natt, the Eugene lieutenant who heads the city’s bias unit, and a representative from Eugene’s Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement division.

Eric Richardson

Eric Richardson, president of the Eugene, Ore., chapter of the NAACP. Photo by Conrad Wilson/OPB

In August, following that meeting, PPB launched a public database of potential bias and hate crime statistics.

But the data doesn’t include incidents such as Hassania’s. Rather, the data only illustrates incidents that officers have deemed a crime, meaning they took the initial step of officially documenting what happened. In launching the new public tool, PPB said it hopes to “increase transparency and encourage the community to report instances of possible bias and hate crimes to the PPB, regardless of the nature or type of incident.”

Portland police say when it comes to documenting more bias incidents, they need help from the community. In fact, the city already has a foundation for a system like the one that exists in Eugene.

Portland Detective Jeff Sharp, who investigates bias crimes, said the bureau is hoping to work with Portland United Against Hate, a partnership of community organizations, neighborhood associations and the city. Portland City Council awarded $40,000 to PUAH in 2017 for a pilot project to collect, track and analyze hate incidents.

Findings from the program’s first year show that hate crimes go unreported in Portland because of an expectation of inaction when a victim reports: People don’t call the police because they don’t think the police will do anything. Organizers also found that the process for reporting hate crimes needs to take into account a victim’s trauma and, above all, avoid exacerbating it.

There’s also the Police Bureau’s Muslim Advisory Council, which is made up of leaders in the Muslim community. Its members meet every month with officers. Those interactions help the community feel heard, said Laila Hajoo, president of the Islamic Social Services of Oregon State, a Portland-based nonprofit.

“A lot of the refugees that come here are terrified to bring up issues with authorities because they are afraid of deportation, or because it’s going to make their life more miserable,” Hajoo said. “If they can confide in us, then we have an opportunity to discuss this at the council” — and police officers can engage.

While the bureau is making strides, it still falls short of a system for tracking incidents such as Hassania’s. And from Hassania’s perspective, the reality is that talking about hate isn’t as powerful as documenting it.

“Now, I felt like, ‘No, I have to protect myself,’” she said.

It took Hassania weeks to process what happened to her. She missed several days of work because she was afraid to go outside. She even attended the Portland Police Bureau’s “WomenStrength” self-defense workshops.

More than a month after the incident, Hassania attended a seminar titled “Islamophobia Workshop: Strategies for Survival” at a mosque in Beaverton, Ore. She was eager to hear other people’s experiences with hate and reflections on why they occurred.

Among the attendees were Destinee Mangum and Walia Mohamed, the two girls who prosecutors say were targeted aboard a MAX train in 2017, just before a white man stabbed three people, killing two. Mohamed wore a hijab at the time of the attack, just as Hassania does.

Hassania stood and faced the two girls. “I want to thank you so much for being here,” she told them.

Then, she retold the events of that late summer evening on her way home from work to those in attendance at the seminar. She turned to the dozen or so people in the room, and posed a question: “Who will protect me if the police didn’t protect me?”

What Hassania wanted, and still wants, is for someone from the city of Portland—anyone—to say that what happened to her matters in the eyes of law enforcement.

This is a slightly edited version of a broadcast report by Erica Cruz Guevarra and Conrad Wilson of Oregon Public Radio. Wilson is a 2018 John Jay Rural Justice Reporting Fellow. For the complete broadcast, please click here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Keeping Blacks Off Juries With the ‘O.J. Strategy’

A California death row inmate is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a prosecutor’s practice of asking potential jurors about O.J. Simpson’s acquittal as a way to remove blacks from the jury pool.

It’s illegal to dismiss prospective jurors because of their race. Civil rights advocates say some California prosecutors have found a way to keep blacks off juries without using overtly racial criteria. You might call it the “O.J. strategy,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The first step is asking prospective jurors how they felt about the 1995 acquittal of former football star O.J. Simpson, who is African American, in the killing of his ex-wife and her friend, both whites. The next step is to dismiss black jurors who agreed with the verdict, while offering a non-racial explanation that satisfies the courts. Attorneys for two black men on California Death Row say their clients were denied a fair trial in the 1990s, because prosecutors used the O.J. question as a “proxy for race” to cull black people from juries.

One man is seeking review in the U.S. Supreme Court after California’s Supreme Court upheld his death sentence without deciding whether the Simpson question was a tool for racial exclusion. California courts have banned racial discrimination in jury selection since 1978, eight years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same conclusion as a matter of constitutional law. Defense lawyers, joined by the NAACP, say San Bernardino County prosecutors used the O.J. strategy as a thinly veiled loophole. Using the O.J. question responses to strike jurors, said defense attorney Alexis Hoag, was “something that the D.A.s inserted into these cases, in what I argue was a very meaningful and intentional way.” If the Simpson question is a stand-in for race, it isn’t the only one. Federal and state courts in California have found racial discrimination by prosecutors who said they had removed jurors because they lived in heavily black communities of Los Angeles County.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Black and White in Alabama: The Scarred Legacy of a 1975 Police Shooting

The death of Bernard Whitehurst Jr. at the hands of a white Montgomery policeman 43 years ago raised unsettling questions of police bias and official coverup, foreshadowing the #Black LivesMatter movement. A new book re-examines the case, prodded by a son’s quest for restitution and justice.

On a December afternoon 43 years ago, a white police officer in Montgomery, Ala., shot and killed a black man during a foot pursuit in connection with a $45 grocery store holdup on the city’s poor west end.

Officer Donald Foster Jr. claimed he shot only after Bernard Whitehurst Jr., a 33-year-old father of four, had gone into a “shooting crouch” and fired first. He was hailed as a hero.

But there were problems from the start with his account.

The first police backups to arrive found no gun near the dead man. A short time later, a .22-caliber pistol materialized 27 inches from Whitehurst’s body.

The weapon was found to have been confiscated in a police drug raid a year before. It was a throw-down gun, an old-school cop trick in bad shootings. Whitehurst was not the stickup-man, and an autopsy—conducted after an exhumation—showed he was shot in the back.

The shooting, on Dec. 2, 1975,  has hung like lumber-mill stink over Montgomery for decades, despite a belated city apology to the Whitehurst family and erection of two memorial markers in recent years that condescendingly cast the case as a learning experience “to teach powerful lessons to police officers seeking to understand the line between right and wrong.”

book coverA new book by Montgomery native Foster Dickson takes the first long retrospective look at the case, whose racial overtones resonate today in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, in a book published last week, Closed Ranks: The Whitehurst Case in Post-Civil Rights Montgomery.

Just a decade after Alabama’s capital city had gained infamy as a southern bastion against civil rights, the shooting and ham-fisted coverup seemed destined to further scuff Montgomery’s reputation.

But police circled the wagons against a criminal investigation and civil lawsuit. In the end, there were no consequential convictions or civil judgments against anyone. In a final preposterous twist, the fate of accused cops hinged solely on lie detector tests.

One of the driving forces behind the book was the youngest of Whitehurst’s children, Bernard III, who was just 10 weeks old when his father was killed. His family was left fractured and deeply impoverished.

Whitehurst III, a boot-strapper who emerged from housing-project destitution and now operates a successful contracting business, told me that the Montgomery power structure was clinging to institutional racism in the 1970s.

“Black lives didn’t matter in 1975,” he said. “It would have been a totally different outcome if he was killed today. Police officers would have been charged with murder, tampering with evidence, etc. That would have been unheard-of back in 1975.”

Along with his mother and siblings, Whitehurst III has pressed for financial reparation from the city. So far, they have been rebuffed.

“I don’t think compensation will ever heal the pain and suffering my family has endured,” he told me. “But we do deserve some kind of compensation. He was the breadwinner of the household. He worked two jobs to provide for his family, and the City of Montgomery murdered him.”

Key court transcripts were missing; so Dickson, born in Montgomery a year before the shooting, cobbled his narrative largely from interviews and newspaper accounts.

He presents a warts-and-all portrait of the shooting victim, who was the subject of a scathing campaign by cops desperate to show that he was guilty of something—anything.

In one egregious move, police conjured an “eyewitness” six months after the shooting who identified Whitehurst as the robber and a gun-owner.

District Attorney James Evans described the alleged witness as “mentally retarded and a functional illiterate” who was “incapable of self-maintenance.”

Dickson writes, “No matter who we believe or how we judge Bernard Whitehurst Jr. as a person, one truth cannot be denied: He was effectively arrested, tried, convicted, and executed for a robbery he did not commit, all before any police laid a hand on him.”

Officer Foster, a 25-year-old five-year veteran, was absolved of blame under protocols of that era—long-since tightened—that allowed police to shoot at “fleeing felons.” And even that was a contrivance, since Whitehurst did not match the description of the robber, beyond being black.

Foster Dickson

Foster Dickson. Photo courtesy New South Books.

Police chased him for up to 30 minutes, and his flight suggested guilt to Foster.

Running from a cop is not illegal—although it does make the officer’s heart pump and blood boil. Dickson makes a point that Whitehurst had a longstanding reputation as breaking into a trot whenever he saw a police car.

So why did he run from police? Considering the way his life ended, perhaps he was simply clairvoyant.

As Dickson documents well, DA Evans and Harold Martin, editor of The Montgomery Advertiser, were viewed as police adversaries during the investigation and were subjected to “whisper campaigns” about their personal morals.

This back-alley combat continued for 18 months after the shooting. Finally, in 1977, a strange deal was struck in which police officers and bosses implicated in the coverup would take lie detector tests and face dismissal if they failed.

Several cops quit preemptively, including Foster. Five others were fired. Colonel Ed Wright, the city’s hulking public safety director, failed his test and “voluntarily retired.” Mayor James Robinson resigned under pressure, despite passing a polygraph exam. That outcome was big local news at the time, but the historical view is that the men got away with murder.

In 1975, the racial demographic ratio in Montgomery was about two-thirds white and one-third black. Those numbers have flipped today to nearly a 60 percent majority for African Americans.

Dickson told me that his hometown has changed during his lifetime— “and mightily in the last 20 years.”

“I would say that post-Civil Rights Montgomery (and Alabama) maintained a certain status quo through the end of the 1990s,” he said. “The city still has issues to face now…but there are signs of hope that a 21st century mindset is prevailing, albeit slowly.

David Krajicek

David Krajicek

“There is a new kind of honesty about our past and about our challenges. If you ask me, the main difference is our candor about the challenges of racial division and poverty, coupled with a more progressive willingness to address them and seek solutions.”

The body of Bernard Whitehurst Jr. lies moldering beneath the rubble of that progress—shot to death in the twilight of the Jim Crow era, when a white city directorate managed to finesse an outcome in an appalling shooting that left no one notably discommoded but the dead man and his family.

As Herman Harris, a pioneering African-American city councilman in Montgomery, explained to Dickson, “Well, you know, the general pattern in this state or this area of the country at that time: blacks usually came out on the short end of the stick, so to speak.”

David J. Krajicek (@djkrajicek) is a contributing editor of The Crime Report. He welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

U.S. Black Male Murder Rate Called ‘National Crisis’

“Each day in America, the number of black homicide victims exceeds the toll in the Parkland, Fl., mass shooting,” says Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center. As of 2015, a homicide rate of 18.68 per 100,000 people among African Americans, compared with an overall rate of 4.62 per 100,000.

Lorease Mumford of Detroit still is reeling from the loss of her only son, whose December 2016 killing remains unsolved. She is not alone, the Detroit News reports. African Americans die from homicide at much higher rates than other racial groups, especially in Michigan and its largest city, Detroit. The toll on African-American males is relentless, as evidenced by the fatal shootings of three young men, all in their 20s, in the lobby of a White Castle restaurant last month. FBI data analyzed by the Washington-based Violence Policy Center showed that there were 7,014 black homicide victims in the U.S. in 2015, a homicide rate of 18.68 per 100,000 people among African Americans, compared with an overall rate of 4.62 per 100,000.

Of those 7,014 victims, 88 percent were male. In Detroit, of 312 homicide victims in 2016, 279 were African American; 246 of those black victims — 88 percent — were male. While Detroit’s rate of black male homicide is high — 97 per 100,000 — it trails that of Chicago, where the rate is 120 per 100,000. As of Aug. 1, 64 African-American men between the ages of 18-35 had lost their lives to gunfire in Detroit, out of 175 homicides. Detroit Police Chief James Craig says while crime in the city has gone down overall, the homicide rate among the city’s black male population, especially young people, remains stubbornly high.  “It’s not just a Detroit thing,” said Craig. “It’s a national problem.” Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center says the analysis points to homicide as a “national crisis” for African Americans. “Each day in America, the number of black homicide victims exceeds the toll in the Parkland, Fl., mass shooting,” he said. “And just like Parkland and other mass shootings, these deaths devastate families, traumatize whole communities, and should provoke an outcry for change.”

from https://thecrimereport.org