Black and White: Survey Reveals Huge Disparities in Assessing Police Violence 

Nearly three-quarters of black respondents consider violence against civilians by law enforcement officers to be an extremely or very serious problem, while less than 20 percent of white people feel the same

by: Jon Queally

Just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri—a death which propelled the national Black Lives Matter movement and a national conversation about racialized police violence to the forefront—a new poll released Wednesday reveals just how different the perceptions and experiences regarding law enforcement in the United States remain for black community members compared to their white counterparts.

Conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago, the new survey found black people are much more likely to have had a personally negative experience with police officers, with more than 3 in 5 saying they or a family member had been ill-treated by police based on their race, compared to just 3 percent of white respondents who said the same. In addition to actual experience, the perceptions of law enforcement practices and behavior were starkly different between black and white civilians.

Strikingly, when it came to assessing the severity of problematic police violence in the country, nearly three-quarters of black respondents consider violence against civilians by law enforcement officers to be an extremely or very serious problem, while less than 20 percent of white people feel the same.

Additionally, as AP reports, the survey found:

  • More than two-thirds of blacks — 71 percent — thought police are treated too leniently by the criminal justice system when they hurt or kill people. A third of whites say police are getting away with it, while nearly half — 46 percent — say the police are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
  • When asked why police violence happens, 62 percent of whites said a major reason is that civilians confront the police, rather than cooperate, when they are stopped. Three out of 4 blacks, or 75 percent, said it is because the consequences of police misconduct are minimal, and few officers are prosecuted for excessive use of force. More than 7 in 10 blacks identified problems with race relations, along with poor relations between police and the public that they serve, as major reasons for police violence.
  • Whites and blacks disagreed over whether police are more likely to use deadly force against blacks. Nearly 3 out of 4 whites — 74 percent — thought race had nothing to do with how police in their communities decide to use deadly force. Among blacks, 71 percent thought police were more likely to use deadly force against black people in their communities, and 85 percent said the same thing applied generally across the country. Fifty-eight percent of whites thought race had nothing to do with police decisions in most communities on use of deadly force.
  • Seventy-two percent of whites said they always or often trust police to do what is right for them and their community, while 66 percent of blacks said they only sometimes, rarely, or never trust the police to do what is right.

While accounting for how the diversity of a community impacts certain perceptions, the survey found white Americans who live in more diverse communities—those where census data show at least 25 percent of the population is non-white—were more likely than whites who live in more homogenous communities to say police in their communities sometimes treat minorities more roughly, 58 percent to 42 percent. Additionally, those in more diverse areas are more likely to see police officers as too quick to use deadly force, 42 percent to 29 percent.

Despite the very large differences in experience and perception, the study also discovered widespread agreement among both races that specific police reforms, in fact, are needed. For example, 71 percent of overall respondents said body cameras on police would be an effective deterrent to police aggression and 52 percent said they think community policing programs would help reduce the friction in minority communities.

“This survey indicates that while there is a deep divide among  Americans on these issues, there are key points of agreement as well,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center. “There is  widespread agreement that race relations in the United States are in a sorry state, and blacks and whites agree that changes in policies and procedures could be effective in reducing tensions between minorities and police and in limiting violence against civilians.”

The nationwide poll was collected July 17 to 19 using the web, landlines, and cell phones to conduct interviews with 1,223 adults, including 311 blacks who were sampled at a higher rate than their proportion of the population for reasons of analysis.

Source: Black and White: Survey Reveals Huge Disparities in Assessing Police Violence | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

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In Midst of Shutoffs, Protesters ‘Liberate’ Water from Detroit Mayor’s Mansion 

‘Denying tens of thousands of people the right to water ought to be criminal. Doing it while living in a publicly-funded, city-owned mansion is just despicable.’

by: Sarah Lazare

Over a dozen protesters on Tuesday converged at the Detroit mayor’s publicly-funded mansion and “liberated” his water supply, in a creative direct action highlighting the inequities that underlie the city’s mass water shutoffs and resulting humanitarian crisis.

Campaigners from the Detroit and Michigan Coalitions Against Tar Sands went to Mike Duggan’s “Manoogian Mansion” and filled jugs of water from a hose attached to an external spigot. They carried banners that read “Water is Life” and “Thousands of Kids Without Water.”

“While real Detroiters live in a crisis, the Mayor lives in a city-owned mansion,” declared Detroit resident Valerie Jean in a press statement. “Today we’re forcing Mayor Duggan to share his water with the people of Detroit.”

“Denying tens of thousands of people the right to water ought to be criminal,” Jean added. “Doing it while living in a publicly funded, city-owned mansion is just despicable.”

In particular, protesters said they were taking action “because of Mayor Duggan’s refusal to support a Water Affordability Plan.” Grassroots groups and residents have long been pushing for the plan, which aims to make water affordable and accessible for the city’s residents.

But instead, the city approved a 7.5 percent rate increase to water rates last month, adding to the ever-climbing water prices. The increase comes as tens of thousands of Detroiters face water shutoffs and many more live under imminent threat.

Tawana Petty, organizer with Detroiters Resisting Emergency Managers and We the People of Detroit, told Common Dreams that it has been difficult to assess exactly how many people are impacted “because we’re dealing with an entity and players that are not entirely honest.” However, Petty said: “We estimate that about 20,000 homes, at least 40,000 people, are currently without water. They are aiming for an additional 2,000 to 3,000 water shutoffs per week.”

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is turning off the taps despite mass resistance in Detroit and rebuke from United Nations experts, who said last year that Detroit’s water shutoffs are condemning residents to “lives without dignity,” violating human rights on a large scale, and disproportionately impacting African-Americans.

Tuesday’s action made direct reference to Flood the System, a call for climate justice direct actions in the lead up to the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations slated to take place in Paris in November and December.

“I am grateful they took that stance,” Petty said of the protest. “Those types of civil disobedience are exactly what this time and movement against neoliberalism, capitalism, and racism will require.”

Source: In Midst of Shutoffs, Protesters ‘Liberate’ Water from Detroit Mayor’s Mansion | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

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Despite Epic Crash of World Economy, White Collar Prosecutions at 20-Year Low 

But that doesn’t mean Wall Street malfeasance itself is on the wane, researchers point out

by: Deirdre Fulton

Despite lofty rhetoric from politicians who vowed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis to hold Wall Street accountable, U.S. Justice Department statistics show a “long-term collapse” of federal white collar crime prosecutions, which are down to their lowest level in 20 years, according to a new report from Syracuse University.

The analysis of thousands of records by the university’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) shows a more than 36 percent decline in such prosecutions since the middle of the Clinton administration, when the decline first began. While there was an uptick early in Barack Obama’s presidency, current projections indicate that by the end of the 2015 fiscal year, such prosecutions will be at their lowest level since 1995.

But that doesn’t mean white collar crime itself—which involves a wide range of activities such as health care fraud and the violation of tax, securities, antitrust, federal procurement, and other laws—is on the wane.

“The decline in federal white collar crime prosecutions does not necessarily indicate there has been a decline in white collar crime,” the researchers are swift to point out. “Rather, it may reflect shifting enforcement policies by each of the administrations and the various agencies, the changing availabilities of essential staff and congressionally mandated alterations in the laws.” 

They add that “because such enforcement by state and local agencies for these crimes sometimes is erratic or nonexistent, the declining role of the federal government could be of great significance.”

Furthermore, failure to prosecute white collar crimes does more than let individual fraudsters off the hook, as journalist Glenn Greenwald argued in 2013:

The harms from this refusal to hold Wall Street accountable are the same generated by the general legal immunity the US political culture has vested in its elites. Just as was true for the protection of torturers and illegal eavesdroppers, it ensures that there are no incentives to avoid similar crimes in the future. It is an injustice in its own right to allow those with power and wealth to commit destructive crimes with impunity. It subverts democracy and warps the justice system when a person’s treatment under the law is determined not by their acts but by their power, position, and prestige. And it exposes just how shameful is the American penal state by contrasting the immunity given to the nation’s most powerful with the merciless and brutal punishment meted out to its most marginalized.

But while news of the 20-year low is troubling, it’s not particularly surprising. As journalist David Sirota noted on Thursday for the International Business Times:

In 2012, President Obama pledged to “hold Wall Street accountable” for financial misdeeds related to the financial crisis. But as financial industry donations flooded into Obama’s reelection campaign, his Justice Department officials promoted policies that critics say embodied a “too big to jail” doctrine for financial crime.

Sirota went on to point out, both the former head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, Lanny Breuer, and former Attorney General Eric Holder made similar remarks at the time. “Prior to serving in the Obama Justice Department, both Breuer and Holder worked at white-collar defense firm Covington & Burling,” Sirota wrote. “Both of them went back to work for the firm again immediately after leaving their government posts.”

Source: Despite Epic Crash of World Economy, White Collar Prosecutions at 20-Year Low | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community




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