Tag Archives: stand your ground

MAD MEN RETURN……..they never left

The murder of Trayvon Martin continues to garner headlines in much of the national media, as it should. I, for one, would like to see this tragedy pave the way for some positive headway made into establishing a long awaited, and overdue national dialogue on race relations in this country. I taught a course in cultural diversity to baby-faced recruits when I was assigned to the police academy. In my opening comments, I would mention how if it were up to me, they would teach this course in our schools starting in the first grade, if not Pre-K. As Roland Martin from CNN puts it, will the death of Trayvon Martin be a “moment or a movement”?

A bit of blame has been cast on just about everyone involved in this tragedy. From George Zimmerman who pulled the trigger to the Sanford Police Department who many accuse, myself included, of conducting a questionable investigation. You may have even heard Geraldo Rivera blaming Trayvon for his own death because he was wearing a hoodie (the same Geraldo who as the president of the Young Lords vehemently fought for justice for those who couldn’t.) One group that has virtually skated so far in the blame game are the Mad Men. No, not the characters of the AMC hit show, but the members of the Florida legislature who enacted the “stand your ground” law. Trust me when I say that I’m not attempting to be humorous when I ask WTF was the Florida legislature thinking. And not just the Florida legislature but also the 20 or so states that have enacted similar legislation.

Maybe they should have just called it the ‘vigilantes r us’ law. Even police officers, who are constantly in the cross hairs of violence, have to abide by laws and departmental regulations on when they can use deadly physical force. Law enforcement professionals are schooled in the use of force continuum. A standard that provides law enforcement officials & security officers with guidelines as to how much may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. A layman’s explanation on the continuum of force would be that cops could bring guns to a knife fight, but not to a fist fight. If every cop ever punched in the face by a dirt bag were legally allowed to shoot that dirt bag, well just use your imagination. We place stringent restrictions on the use of deadly physical force on police officers to prevent and curtail the abuse of power by those who society already entrusts with so much power. In a civilized and law abiding society we don’t want our police officers to also play the role of judge and executioner. Why, then, do states like Florida pass legislation that allows an average citizen to do that which those that we entrust with our safety can’t? Why does the National Rifle Association, which prides itself on its support for law enforcement agencies, endorse legislation which these same agencies are vehemently opposed to? Hmm…I wonder if it has anything to do with gun sales and the hefty contributions that gun manufacturers make to the NRA….

We must ensure and demand that the Trayvon Martins of society get their chance to be heard – even if their own voices can’t be heard. We must also strive to ensure that his tragic and avoidable death become a movement in our hearts and minds and not just a moment, like so many others that have been forgotten.

Let’s Stand Our Ground

The last thing that I want to do is to sound like that ex Green Bay Packers quarterback who kept saying that he was retired, only to come back and give it one more shot again and again. Or like Michael Corleone in The Godfather 3 who said, “Just when I thought I was out….they pull me back in”. The truth is I haven’t gone anywhere, nor have I thrown in the towel. But, I have been encouraged by some of my readers to continue to throw my two cents into the black hole of blogs. This seemed like an appropriate topic to return with.

In wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, America is soul-searching

How or where do I even begin to write about the terrible tragedy that befell 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and his family? I think about my own son who is only two years older than Trayvon, and all of the other mothers and fathers with teenage sons – especially those who are labeled as suspicious by individuals like George Zimmerman simply because of the color of their skin. It’s so saddening for me to think how I am thankful that my son didn’t inherit my complexion, particularly if we were living in one of those states that have adopted what I refer to as “if they’re brown, prone them out” legislation (I’m looking at you, Arizona).

Cops, like most sports fans, are guilty of ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’. We read or hear about crimes and we are quick to form an opinion on the ‘alleged’ perpetrators guilt or innocence. We are also quick to criticize the actions of police officers and their departments as well as to how investigations are handled. With that in mind, I will refer to my holy tenet of criminal investigations – the one about things looking or smelling like shit. That tenet certainly applies in this case. I, along with many outraged citizens, just have a few questions for the Sanford Police Department on how this investigation was handled.

For example: why did Trayvon’s body sit in the morgue unidentified when his cell phone was found on him? That’s like finding a victim’s wallet in his pocket, but not opening it up to see if there’s ID inside. They couldn’t have called back the last number? There wasn’t a “Mom” or “Dad” in the contacts list? Did they fail to identify him because they were too incompetent to think of using his phone to figure out his identity, or because they just didn’t really care who he was or who might be missing him? And if it was that they were too incompetent, how can we have confidence in the quality of the investigation that they conducted?

I am often forced to watch old episodes of Law and Order (I really do like the show, it’s just that my wife enjoys it more). This avoidable tragedy got me to thinking about the words that the narrator opens with, “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”

It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I ask: who represented Trayvon Martin? Was it the Sanford Police Department who, in my opinion, were more interested in the vindication of George Zimmerman than they were in obtaining justice for the kid that he shot dead? George Zimmerman the obvious aggressor and instigator in this incident, in who’s eyes Trayvon Martin was acting suspiciously simply because of the fact that he was black and wearing a hoodie. The same police department who didn’t – or wouldn’t – use Trayvon’s cell phone to assist in identifying him or notifying his parents? Or was it the prosecutor’s office who didn’t think that his murder justified a response to crime scene and instead adjudicated the matter over the phone?

The above cause me to reflect on a multiple homicide that I assisted with in Jackson Heights, Queens, many years ago. Two groups of rival Hispanic drug dealers got into an altercation while at a restaurant/club. Words were exchanged, guns were drawn, and shots were fired. When the shooting ended, 12 men and women had been shot, 7 of them fatally. Several of those who had been shot were innocent victims who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. At the conclusion of a debriefing on the case for the brass, a Detective/Sgt. stood up and nonchalantly said, “So what we have is a bunch of dead spics, who cares?” It seemed to me then that not much had changed in the context of racial prejudice and racism. And it seems to me today that much is still the same.