Good Goes Bad, Bad Gets Worse.

"Oakland?  I gotta move to OAKLAND?"  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“Oakland? I gotta move to OAKLAND?” (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Tomorrow is the last day of the 2014 NFL season. An elite few will be still be ballin’ hard as they try to make the playoffs. Everybody else is just getting this last meaningless game the hell out of the way, try not to get hurt (though some guys may try to hurt somebody else if only to take out their frustrations) and then clean out their lockers.

“What will happen, will happen,” Harbaugh told reporters when asked about his future coaching plans, “What will not happen, won’t happen.”

What will not happen is another season with James Harbaugh freaking out on the sidelines as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Four years ago, Harbaugh was The Man, the chosen One who would lead the 49ers out of the poverty of the Dennis Erickson/Mike Nolan/Mike Singletary years back to the Bill Walsh Super Bowl riches.  Didn’t turn out that way.   The history of how the good times turned bad have been detailed by reporter Tim Kawakami but suffice it to say, it’s not really a shock the 49ers and Harbaugh are about to break up badly.

To be a 49ers fan is to be shooting for the future while simultaneously shackled to the past. It’s not Jim Harbaugh’s fault he isn’t Bill Walsh (or even George Seifert). It’s not Colin Kapernick’s fault he isn’t Joe Montana or Steve Young (but he’s not Jeff Garcia or Alex Smith either).

When Harbaugh packs his bags to return to Michigan and a reported $8 million yearly check, he will be the highest paid coach in college football. This would be a nice pay raise from the $5 million the 49ers are paying him and would bump Harbaugh into the Sean Payton/Pete Carroll/Bill Belichick neighborhood without actually winning a Super Bowl like those guys. To put this in perspective the 32nd lowest paid NFL coach was the already whacked Dennis Allen of the Raiders.   Even a nobody like this was pulling down $3 million, so never feel sorry for a fired NFL coach. They’re all overpaid.

“Aw man! The singer forgot the lyrics of the National Anthem!”

 

 

In his wake the 49ers will either promote one of their defensive coaches, Jim Tomsula or Vic Fangio. If they decide to start fresh, look for the team to seek out an offensive coordinators such as Denver’s Adam Gase or New England’s Josh McDaniels in hopes someone can resurrect the 49ers DOA offense and if he isn’t traded, Kapernick’s career.

There are many reasons for Harbaugh and 49ers front office to part ways. A below .500 season after coming one completed pass from a second Super Bowl berth is an excellent one. Of all the disappointing underachievers in the NFL, nobody is as disappointing and underachieved more than the 2014 49ers.

Despite getting the Niners to the NFC Championship game three consecutive years, they only won it once and went on to lose a heartbreaker against brother John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens. Winners know how to close and Harbaugh never could. He repeatedly came up short in the biggest games. Coupled with an inability to win the arms race with arch-rival Seattle Seahawks, despite the impressive win-loss record, Harbaugh leaves San Francisco better than he found it, but still frustratingly distant from the Gold Standard days of Walsh and Montana.

If owner Jed York and general managerTrent Baalkie wanted to make the fans happen they would order Harbaugh to fire offensive coordinator Greg Roman, make him play out the last year of his contract and put down in writing a promise to make Harbaugh the highest paid coach in the NFL if he could (a) beat the Seahawks and (b) get to and win another NFC championship.

Hello, I must be going.

What Harbaugh wants as much as money is control. He wants to pick his own players, draft his own rookies, sign his own free agents. He wants to pick his own G.M. who will do all those things the way he’s instructed to do them and hammer out the messy and boring contract details. What Harbaugh wants most the 49ers won’t give him which leaves teams like the Raiders and Jets that might happily go along with Coach Khakis can do the kind of renovation job he did with the Niners with these two perennial bottom-feeders.

The failure of the Niners was a team effort.   All-time rushing leader Frank Gore is a free agent who wants to stay put, but at 32 year old and a $6 million salary, he’s not coming back at that price. Anquan Bolden is 34 and Kapernick’s most reliable receiver and that’s a worrisome combination. Ray McDonald has already been whacked for his off the field problem and Aldon Smith is probably right behind him. Justin Smith is thinking retirement, Vernon Davis has vanished from the gameplan and former first rounder Michael Crabtree is too slow to stretch defenses and too unreliable to be a go-to receiver.

An offensive line full of highly-paid first rounders has become a sieve as Kapernick is the most sacked QB in the league.   Stud linebacker Navorro Bowman was injured in the NFC Championship loss to the Seahawks and never made it back to the field.   The talented troublemaker, Aldon Smith served an eight gamesuspension which sapped the defense’s pass rush capabilities and he may not be back.   Last year the Niners ended the season with one player on injured reserve.   This season the number jumped to 16.    “Next Man Up” is the ruling philosophy in the NFL and the 49ers are about to apply it to a winning, but difficult head coach.

“He’s my best coach. I didn’t enjoy here until we started winning. Since he’s been here, I’ve been winning.” That what Gore said about Harbaugh.  Crabtree added, “He’s one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever played for… He’s a player’s coach. He’s just a good dude. Everyone has their own opinion, but he’s been a good dude to me. And this team.”

Yet Harbaugh came up short on discipline as time and again a Niners player would show up on a police blotter.  Instead of cutting the bad actors loose, Harbaugh and Baaike would make excuses and extend second, third and fourth chances.  There isn’t space to list all the Niners who posed for mug shots during Harbaugh’s tenure,  but the handling of defensive end Ray McDonald is a signature moment of this whole shitty season.  McDonald was investigated by the police for striking his pregnant girlfriend but not charged.  Instead of suspending him the 49ers allowed McDonald to keep playing.   After sliding by for beating up a pregnant woman, McDonald rewarded the team’s trust by his name popping up in a sexual assault.  That was a bridge too far even for the lenient and lax 49ers brain trust and they cut McDonald the same day.

The blame for the team’s flame-out will fall primarily on Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman and both will be gone next season and veterans Gore, Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Justin Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith and Vernon Davis all possibly decamping as free agents, salary cuts or retirement.   This will be a drastically changed 49ers team in 2015 and no matter who takes over its hard to see similar success forthcoming.

“Who’s Got It Better Than Us?” was the war cry Harbaugh rallied his players with when the Niners were one of the league’s best teams.   Now they’re not.   The answer to the question has become,  “Lots of other teams not named the San Francisco 49ers.”

Don’t worry for Jim Harbaugh.   He’ll do just fine wherever he lands.   It’s less certain the 49ers will do likewise.

 

Those khakis will be worn somewhere else next season.

 

The Gentle Art of Middle Age Ass-kicking

Smile? I AM smiling.

Of the four seasons there are only two that matter for Hollywood. The summer where the blockbuster behemoths rule the box office and the winter when the bulk of the Oscar bait is released. Between them is spring and fall where everything else that isn’t certain to break the box office or charm the critics gets dumped.

Even among the rubble of these dead zones a quality gem can emerge from the pack. John Wick and The Equalizer are not gems. They are totally serviceable completely forgettable popcorn flicks where aging actors strut their stuff showing they can still kick ass and take no names.

The acting styles of Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves couldn’t be more different. Washington has won two Academy Awards while Reeves pretty much gives the same performance over and over. Washington has played crooked cops, boxers, detectives, Black icons, soldiers, and nearly always with charm, intelligence and style. Reeves is pretty good at playing slackers and hackers. It isn’t that Reeves can’t act, but never seems to want being caught doing it.

Despite their day-to-night differences in their approach to acting Washington and Reeves have appeared in a movie together in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing which I’ve never seen because Shakespeare sucks. I have seen The Equalizer and John Wick and I can say without fear of correction or contradiction these are two movies telling the same story.

Both feature two men of action with shadowy pasts shaking off the rust to do what a man gotta do namely killing a lot of  bad guys who need to be dead while shrugging off wounds that would kill a platoon while still being  the one guy who can kill 25 guys without busting a sweat.

Different actors making the same movie.

Different actors making the same movie.

Washington can give bad performances in bad movies like Virtuosity, 2 Guns and John Q but in The Equalizer he gives a lazy one. Mumbling, speaking in a monotone,  barely changing expression as he switches back and forth between two modes: smiling sincerely as a clerk in a Home Depot stand-in into a dead-eyed, thug-torturing sadist. Denzel couldn’t make it clearer he’s picking up a paycheck here, but despite reuniting with Antoine Fuqua from Training Day, Washington just looks bored and after 132 minutes of this trifling, instantly forgettable flick, I totally understand why.     Disposable trash has its place, but it has to know its place.   The Equalizer  would like you to think its a better movie than it is.   It’s not.

Washington turns 60 next week and he’s slowed his roll to one film a year as he makes fewer movies he takes less risks.    The proof is clear in the films that have followed since American Gangster tried for epic scale in 2007, but came up a bit short.   Out of  The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3The Book of Eli, Unstoppable, Safe House, Flight, 2 Guns,  and The Equalizer, there’s some good Denzel, some bad Denzel, some okay and some awful Denzel.   Flight is not a great movie, but was the last time America’s most charismatic actor broke a sweat.  Next up aher remake and this time it’s a Western, The Magnificent Seven.   Can’t you feel the electricity?

It’s funny, but as Washington grows older his acting style moves closer to Reeves.   Wooden and deadpan with stares and glares replacing emotional range or depth.   There’s nothing complex about the characters of Robert McCall and John Wick.  They lock on their mission with single-minded intent and then the killing starts until they run out of faceless thugs to kill.

Washington is one of the rare actors in Hollywood who’s never made a sequel, but that could change as both The Equalizer and 2 Guns set up the possibility for future installments.  That will be good for Denzel’s $20 million paycheck, but can’t we get a follow-up to Devil In A Blue Dress or Inside Man too?

No, we are not musicians. We are actors. At least one of us is.

 

Reeves has no worries about slumming as a middle age action hero roles (he’s 50) or falling off from his heights as an actor.   Reeves isn’t an actor as much as he’s a reactor.  Whether its Speed or The Matrix, something always happens to his characters and Reeves has to respond to whatever it is.   That’s okay by me because even if he isn’t a very good actor, he makes a perfectly acceptable ass-kicker and he kicks major ass as an unstoppable force who isn’t stingy with his bullets.    “Double Tap” should be the name of the next John Wick flick.

Both films have reached the end of their first-run life and are may be lingering in the second run theaters.   For the right price and the popcorn has enough butter, I’d go see either both of them again before last installment of The Hobbit.   Not a lot for a brother to get hyped about unless you’re into swords and a lot of actors in wigs.

A Tarnished Star

Four words.
Bill Cosby is over.
Most likely he will never spend a night in jail. Most likely he will spend the sunset years of his life dragging his ass from civil courtroom to courtroom. Most likely he will spend a great deal of time looking out a window and asking himself, “How did this happen to me?”


You did it to yourself, Bill.

I can no longer defend Bill Cosby any more.   To defending his darkened and tarnished soul imperils my own. It imperils every Black man who defends Cosby and denigrates the women whom have called him out for his trespasses against them.

I wanted to believe Cosby.  I desperately wanted to believe. I wanted to tell myself this was all a horrible, horrible mistake and there was a reasonable, plausible explanation.

But a lie cannot live forever and there have been too many women, too many awfully similar accounts, too many who were intimidated and ridiculed and humiliated into silence, who repressed their pain and have only now found their voice and are speaking up loudly and clearly: A beloved and powerful man drugged me and raped me and nobody believed me.

How can I cry for Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and not cry for Tamara Green, Barbara Bowman and yes, Janice Dickinson too? How can I righteously decry violence against Black men by White cops and not decry violence against White women by a Black man? Just how much of a hypocrite am I willing to become to protect a sacred cow?

All out of alibis.

All out of alibis.

I don’t want to be a fool and only a fool could believe all these women are making shit up merely to trash Bill Cosby. The conspiracy theories behind JFK’s assassination would pale into insignificance in comparison to what degrees of delusion one must submit to believe Cosby is an innocent being pursed by spurned starlets.

That is a level of deliberate blindness I can’t deal with. While I will always cherish Cosby for the man he was, I must turn my back on the man he has turned out to be.  The Cosby I thought I knew, the Cosby I watched on I Spy and The  Electric Company and Uptown Saturday Night and The Cosby Show was a mirage, a fake, a fraud, a public image that masked a deeply sick man and serial sexual offender.
Bill Cosby is a rapist.

What changed my mind? Beverly Johnson did.    As America’s first Black supermodel, it is not easy to dismiss Johnson when she in writes in Vanity Fair how Cosby assaulted her and how she overcame her initial reluctance to tell  her story.

…I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country’s most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?

As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind.

Beverly Johnson: It takes an icon to take down an icon.

As if I needed to be reminded. The current plight of the black male was behind my silence when Barbara Bowman came out to tell the horrific details of being drugged and raped by Cosby to the Washington Post in November. And I watched in horror as my longtime friend and fellow model Janice Dickinson was raked over the coals for telling her account of rape at Cosby’s hands. Over the years I’ve met other women who also claim to have been violated by Cosby. Many are still afraid to speak up. I couldn’t sit back and watch the other women be vilified and shamed for something I knew was true.

When I sat down to write my memoir in 2013, I pondered if I should include my Cosby experience. I didn’t want to get involved in a he-said/she-said situation. Now that other women have come forward with their nightmare stories, I join them.

Finally, I reached the conclusion that the current attack on African American men has absolutely nothing to do at all with Bill Cosby. He brought this on himself when he decided he had the right to have his way with who knows how many women over the last four decades. If anything, Cosby is distinguished from the majority of black men in this country because he could depend on the powers that be for support and protection.

First, the pennies fell from my eyes. Second, I felt nauseous over what I could now clearly see.

I apologize for doubting. I apologize for being a Cosby apologist. I apologize to Janice Dickinson and all the women I’ve been so flippant and dismissive and callous and cruel toward. I’m sorry for my appalling ignorant insensitivity.

Mostly though I’m sorry for aiding and abetting a sexual predator.

I wanted to believe in the myth of Bill Cosby. Letting go of what I thought I respected and admired for even longer was harder than I thought it would and it hurts. This is something very hard for me as a Black man to say to White people. It hurts to lose a Black success story. There are so many Black failures and fuck-ups rubbed under your nose in that you yearn for and look long and hard for a brother who seems to be doing it right.

Cosby wasn’t just the first leading man on television.  He was one of the funniest comedians ever.  He proved it for decades on television, on film and onstage.   He championed jazz music, a genre near and dear to my heart.  Cosby didn’t forget his roots as he gave back to Black colleges with endowments and financial support.   Education was a cause he and his wife Camille championed.   What was there not to like about the man?

As it turns out, plenty.   But it was all whispers and shadows.   Easily ignored and easily dismissed as spurned women or calculating starlets trying to shake some dollars out of a Black hero with deep pockets.    Even as the numbers of women coming forward grew and changed, what stayed the same was their stories.   A young woman meets, an older and powerful man who seems to have an interest in their career or just a good time and he’s glad to help, but first drink this.

He kept us all in the dark.

Until  Johnson came forward it was possible to rationalize why Cosby was remaining stolidly silent.   Until Beverly Johnson came forward it was conceivable to invent scenarios to explain away the allegations.   Until Beverly Johnson came forward it was possible to keep up, however dim, some small hope Cosby might not have been guilty of the terrible things the women were saying he had done.

Beverly Johnson cancelled all that.  No more lies or alibis.  No more illusions.   This is not a conspiracy.  This is not mass hysteria.   This is it.   It’s over for Bill Cosby.

It hurts to lose a man you’ve admired. It hurts to lose someone who was a father figure. It hurts like hell.  But my father wasn’t a rapist. My father was not Bill Cosby.

It hurts me to say I’m sorry to anyone I offended, outraged or disappointed. It hurts, but it would hurt more not to say five little words: Bill Cosby is a rapist.

It hurts to type those words.   It would hurt more not to.

…And Justice For All?

cop car on fire

These are my last words for the foreseeable future on the series of shooting by the police of Black men and it’s not because I don’t have more to say.   Actually it’s more that this is a topic that first fills me with blind, irrational anger, followed by nauseated disgust and finally fatalistic pessimism.    It’s unhealthy to allow any one subject become so pervasive it becomes all-encompassing, so I have to let this go and move on.

This is going to be long, but I hope it makes sense.

There’s a degree of certain cognitive dissonance associated with the killings of Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, John Crawford II among the other recent examples of cop-vs-civilian citizens.

Only the most angry of anarchists could boldly state there is no need for the police. Time and again it has been demonstrated the police are the only organization between order and chaos. Whether it’s some thoughtless neighbors blasting their music too loud in the wee hours or an old woman who’s fallen down and can’t get up or a child doesn’t arrive home after school or some guy has just rear-ended your brand new Chevy, there needs to be the person who comes along and makes a crazy world sane again for a while.

Most of us were brought up to respect police as figures of authority worthy of respect equal to that of doctors, lawyers, clergy and politicians. They were the Good Guys protecting us all from the Bad Guys.

Of course, the reality is never that black and white and the cracks in the facade become even more acute when the reality is Black and White.

Akai Gurley: Protected and Served to Death.

Akai Gurley: Protected and Served to Death.

I don’t know if Akai Gurley was a good man who didn’t deserve to die in a darkened staircase or a bad man who would have likely met with a bad end sooner or later. But what I do know is when something happens and keeps happening and it’s always reasoned away and waved off as merely “an accident” that isn’t an explanation as much as it is denial.

It didn’t surprise me when Darren Wilson walked. Mike Brown was viewed as a threat. It didn’t surprise me when Daniel Pantaleo walked. Eric Garner was a physically unhealthy man who refused to be taken into custody without resisting. It didn’t surprise me when the cops who blew away John Crawford II in a Wal-Mart walked because he had no business walking around with a realistic looking BB gun.

Neither did Tamir Rice so it won’t surprise me if Officer Timothy Loehmann walks despite being judged unfit for duty by a small town police force but apparently OK for the Cleveland cop shop.

That same dysfunctional Cleveland cop shop following a U.S. Justice Department investigation into acts of excessive force recently agreed to a consent decree which will doubtlessly lead to possibly hundreds of officers fired and forced into retirement. Getting bad cops off the street is a help to good cops, but you’ll rarely hear them say it out loud.

I have communicated with several ex-cops and those who aspired to be cops and they comment regularly on  a discussion board I patronize on several officer related shooting threads as well as high-profile non-police involved deaths such as the Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride cases. They offer insights and perspectives on police procedure, protocol and perspectives civilians are on the outside of peering in. They offer a valuable contribution in the ongoing process of building bridges and not walls between the police and the community.

However, when it comes to matters of police misconduct, corruption and brutality, their default setting seems to be to close ranks with their brethren in blue and fall back to the now familiar stance of “us vs them” and if you aren’t one of us, you must be one of them.

Frank Serpico was one of “us” until he broke the cop code of silence and testified about corruption in the NYPD. Hollywood made Serpico the flawed hero in a movie starring Al Pacino, but the NYPD still regards him as a snitch, a rat, and a villain.

Want to see a hero cop? Frank Serpico qualifies.

Serpico says police brutality now is as bad as police corruption was back in his day and for many of the same reasons: a permissive culture that looks the other way, closes ranks, protects bad cops and persecutes good cops trying to do their jobs the right way.

And today the Blue Wall of Silence endures in towns and cities across America. Whistleblowers in police departments — or as I like to call them, “lamp lighters,” after Paul Revere — are still turned into permanent pariahs. The complaint I continue to hear is that when they try to bring injustice to light they are told by government officials: “We can’t afford a scandal; it would undermine public confidence in our police.” That confidence, I dare say, is already seriously undermined.

Things might have improved in some areas. The days when I served and you could get away with anything, when cops were better at accounting than at law enforcement — keeping meticulous records of the people they were shaking down, stealing drugs and money from dealers on a regular basis — all that no longer exists as systematically as it once did, though it certainly does in some places. Times have changed. It’s harder to be a venal cop these days.

But an even more serious problem — police violence — has probably grown worse, and it’s out of control for the same reason that graft once was: a lack of accountability.
I tried to be an honest cop in a force full of bribe-takers. But as I found out the hard way, police departments are useless at investigating themselves—and that’s exactly the problem facing ordinary people across the country —including perhaps, Ferguson, Missouri, which has been a lightning rod for discontent even though the circumstances under which an African-American youth, Michael Brown, was shot remain unclear.

Today the combination of an excess of deadly force and near-total lack of accountability is more dangerous than ever: Most cops today can pull out their weapons and fire without fear that anything will happen to them, even if they shoot someone wrongfully. All a police officer has to say is that he believes his life was in danger, and he’s typically absolved. What do you think that does to their psychology as they patrol the streets—this sense of invulnerability? The famous old saying still applies: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (And we still don’t know how many of these incidents occur each year; even though Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act 20 years ago, requiring the Justice Department to produce an annual report on “the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” the reports were never issued.)

It wasn’t any surprise to me that, after Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, officers instinctively lined up behind Darren Wilson, the cop who allegedly killed Brown. Officer Wilson may well have had cause to fire if Brown was attacking him, as some reports suggest, but it is also possible we will never know the full truth—whether, for example, it was really necessary for Wilson to shoot Brown at least six times, killing rather than just wounding him. As they always do, the police unions closed ranks also behind the officer in question. And the district attorney (who is often totally in bed with the police and needs their votes) and city power structure can almost always be counted on to stand behind the unions.

In some ways, matters have gotten even worse. The gulf between the police and the communities they serve has grown wider. Mind you, I don’t want to say that police shouldn’t protect themselves and have access to the best equipment. Police officers have the right to defend themselves with maximum force, in cases where, say, they are taking on a barricaded felon armed with an assault weapon. But when you are dealing every day with civilians walking the streets, and you bring in armored vehicles and automatic weapons, it’s all out of proportion. It makes you feel like you’re dealing with some kind of subversive enemy. The automatic weapons and bulletproof vest may protect the officer, but they also insulate him from the very society he’s sworn to protect. All that firepower and armor puts an even greater wall between the police and society, and solidifies that “us-versus-them” feeling.

Photograph: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

At 77, Frank Serpico is an old man and old men are susceptible to being scoffed at as behind the times and out of the loop. Even the film was made over four decades ago. Yet, Serpico says he loved being a cop. He just wishes he could have been allowed to be the honest cop he wanted to be and not the threat he became because he refused to be a dishonest one.

I honestly do not believe most cops are racist, but in all honesty, there are racists who are cops.  Their default setting is to side with the cops because they were cops that is no less understandable than mine is to side with a Brown, Garner, Gurley, Rice, Martin, Ferrell, Grant, Bell or Diallo because I look like them.

I’ve said before nobody needs the protection of the police more than the Black community. If Black people are disproportionately killed by the police, and more specifically, by White police officers that is in no small part due to the disproportionate numbers of Blacks committing crimes and incarcerated for those crimes. But that’s a much more complicated problem than finger-pointing idiots like Rudy Giuliani or Charles Barkley can resolve with their simplistic solutions.

Serpico doesn’t have all the answers to society’s ills either, but he does have some suggestions deserving of being included in any discussion of the bloody schism between cops and communities of color.

1. Strengthen the selection process and psychological screening process for police recruits. Police departments are simply a microcosm of the greater society. If your screening standards encourage corrupt and forceful tendencies, you will end up with a larger concentration of these types of individuals;
2. Provide ongoing, examples-based training and simulations. Not only telling but showing police officers how they are expected to behave and react is critical;
3. Require community involvement from police officers so they know the districts and the individuals they are policing. This will encourage empathy and understanding;
4. Enforce the laws against everyone, including police officers. When police officers do wrong, use those individuals as examples of what not to do – so that others know that this behavior will not be tolerated. And tell the police unions and detective endowment associations they need to keep their noses out of the justice system;
5. Support the good guys. Honest cops who tell the truth and behave in exemplary fashion should be honored, promoted and held up as strong positive examples of what it means to be a cop;
6. Last but not least, police cannot police themselves. Develop permanent, independent boards to review incidents of police corruption and brutality—and then fund them well and support them publicly. Only this can change a culture that has existed since the beginnings of the modern police department.

If Number One of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in Cleveland, Timothy Loehmann might have remained a washed-out small-town cop and never moved on to become a big-city cop and Tamir Rice might still be alive instead of shot down in less than three seconds when Loehmann encountered him.

police-brutality

If Number Two of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in New York, Peter Liang might have been paired off with a more experienced veteran officer instead of another rookie like himself.

If Number Six of Serpico’s reforms had been in place in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, the grand jury decisions not to indict Pantaleno and Wilson might be less subject to suspicions of prosecutors manipulating the results.

There will never be a solution to the problem of police brutality and community hostility until all sides involved own up to their own vested interests, sacred cows and protected turf. Any meaningful progress means giving up, compromising, hammering out and forging a new deal between polarized enemies.

I don’t want to view the police as an occupying force. I need them to tell my noisy neighbors to turn that racket down as much as anyone else does. At the current state of things, I’m far less concerned about ISIS or Ebola taking me out than I am Officer Friendly doing me in because he didn’t like a gesture I made during a traffic stop.

Don’t tell me being a cop is a tough, thankless gig. Who doesn’t know that? Any cop who was expecting applause should have never cut their hair, formed a rock band and learned how to play Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Most cops never pull their guns to shoot anybody. When they do most times they’re justified and every time they have to kill someone they don’t have to be probed like a visit to the proctologist.

That doesn’t give cops a license to kill and a badge does not bestow extra rights the rest of us don’t get.

It is not playing the Race Card to wonder why there are so many encounters between unarmed Black men and armed White cops end up fatal for the Black men. If the shoe were on the other foot and White cops were being mowed down by Black assailants would there any puzzlement of what the hell is going on?

The agitation of a New Black Panthers plotting acts of murder and revenge against persons and property deserves condemnation by any responsible citizen, but so does Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association when he calls Pantaleo “a model police officer.”

The demagoguery has to end. The distrust has to end. The polarization and politicking has to end. I want to say it can end if all sides resolve to find a way to come together and force it to end. Yet while I try to be hopeful because it doesn’t make much sense to be anything else or you might as well not get up out of bed, I can’t say I’m optimistic.

Reconciliation is possible but not if our differences remain irreconcilable. We can wait for the next Akai Gurley or Eric Garner or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice to come along and do this now familiar dance over again; five steps back and no steps forward, but if police reform is impossible a  revolution against the police is inevitable.

The odds are excellent we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

oscar wilde

Ijeoma Oluo’s 25 Activities Black People Should Avoid Around Cops.

Sometimes it isn’t so much that I’m at a loss for words than it is the words of somebody else says it so much better.

Not everyone reads New York magazine, but then not many people read magazines at all anymore.  I’m one of the holdouts.   I still subscribe, buy and read magazines and probably will as long as they keep featuring excellent writing such as this.

Following a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner the reaction of many Americans has run the gamut from shock, confusion, anger, apathy and resignation.   Ijeoma Oluo, a marketing manager, writer and mother of two boys added another emotion:  righteous rage.

Here are a series of Tweets published in New  York (along with links) by Ms. Oluo of the 25 Activities Black People Should Avoid Around Cops:

Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo

Don’t play in the park with toy guns and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t ask for help after a car accident and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t wear a hoodie and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t cosplay with a toy sword and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t shop at Walmart and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t take the BART and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t ride your bike and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t reach for your cell phone and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t go to your friend’s birthday party and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t sit on your front stoop and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t “startle” them and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t “look around suspiciously” and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t walk on a bridge with your family and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t play “cops and robbers” with your buddies and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t work in a warehouse repairing instruments and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t stand in your grandma’s bathroom and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t pray with your daughters in public and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t go to your bachelor party and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t have an ex boyfriend who might be a suspect and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t call for medical help for your sister and maybe they won’t kill her. Don’t hang out in the park with your friends and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t get a flat tire and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t park in a fire lane and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t reach for your wallet and maybe they won’t kill you. Don’t let your medical alert device go off and maybe they won’t kill you. I’m done for today. My heart can’t handle any more.

Ijeoma Oluo writings can be found as a contributor to xojane and her personal blog.