Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gun Control: A Matter of Perspective?

A lot of folks may wonder how a “black perspective” may differ from the “white” one.

[Note: I say “a” black perspective because there are of course many black perspectives. I say “the” white perspective to refer specifically to what often appears the dominant perspective of the larger society, which does not mean of course, that all white people share that dominant perspective. One might say with some accuracy — and perhaps a trace of irony — that this Note to Readers is a widely held black perspective.]

1. A black man kills, he’s a menace to society… a foreign man kills, he’s a terrorist … a white man kills, he’s psychologically unstable. SMH [shaking my head]

2. Gun control?
Black People kill Black People every day, but there is no public outcry for gun control…
It is only when white people get in on the act that it is now a matter of Public Urgency… Hmmm.

These observations were posted on Facebook by a couple of very large mild-mannered black men who grew up in different parts of this country [Ohio,  Texas]. They are both middle age or better, professionals with graduate degrees.

I have always thought that gun control was a no-brainer. We in America kill people in all kinds of situations, abetted by the fact that we pretty much have more guns than people. Our free society is more “jeopardized” by marginal people heavily armed with assault weapons than it is “protected” by armed law-abiding citizens. The US Supreme Court, as it has done in too many instances, has followed prevailing political will rather than a fair reading of the Constitution in such matters. Thus, after many years of a contrary interpretation, it now holds that the Second Amendment should be interpreted to read that individual citizens pretty much have a “right to bear arms” that extends to weapons of mass destruction.

Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle
In his “Weekend Reflections on Events in Newtown, Connecticut”, our good friend the Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle[1] considered the recurring tragedies encompassed by these places where public officials and innocent bystanders were shot and killed: Oklahoma City, Columbine, Aurora, Ft. Hood, Virginia Tech, a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and a mall in Tucson. 

As he observed, save in the case of Oklahoma City:

In every case the weapons of choice were high-powered, automatic and semi-automatic weapons more suited for a battlefield than as part of the culture of a 21st century industrialized society. Without easy access to such guns it is possible to imagine that none of these horrific events would ever have occurred. Crazed and/or cowardly people do not become mass killers without access to such weapons.”

Canada Lee as Bigger Thomas
in Orson Welles'
1941 Broadway production
Could it be that those who proclaim that arming our teachers and legislators[2] is essential to preserving our safety are actually more concerned with protecting themselves from the Bigger Thomases of the world than the Adam Lanzas?
Adam Lanza

[1] President and Professor of Church Leadership, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rochester, NY.  Former pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland OH [1987-2011]. Past president, Cleveland NAACP.

[2] Ohio Gov. John Kasich is about to sign House Bill 495, allowing for the first time guns to be legally brought into the parking garages under the Ohio Statehouse and the nearby state tower containing his and legislators' offices. … In one of their last acts before ending the current two-year session before the holidays, the Ohio Senate voted 26-7 to approve House Bill 495. The House then voted 66-23 to accept the changes made by the upper chamber and forward the bill on to Mr. Kasich. Source

Monday, December 17, 2012

Moment of Truth awaits County Prosecutor in Police Chase Aftermath

While not directly addressing the ACLU request, McGinty’s emailed reply said that he had “asked Attorney General Mike DeWine and Sheriff Bob Reid to thoroughly investigate this matter. I have great confidence in their ability and professionalism.”

The part of the statement that really caught our eye, however, was the first line of the email from his office: “I have never been one to dodge hard work.”

This was a clear signal that the prosecutor intends to take this case head on and that he will be resistant to calls to any calls for a special prosecutor.

Of course, such calls are likely to come from those who suspect the former county judge and one-time assistant county prosecutor possesses neither the temperament nor the requisite degree of probity to seek justice in this case.

McGinty has demonstrated throughout his career, in whatever position he was serving, a bulldog’s devotion to his view of the requirements of justice. He cannot be unaware that his conduct and decisions in this matter will be more closely scrutinized than anything he has experienced in his public life. 

No matter how he is viewed today, by his many admirers and detractors, this case will forever shape his legacy as the people’s lawyer. 

Will he ensure the full, fair and impartial investigation that all parties and the public deserve? Can he set aside whatever personal sympathies he may have for police officers to determine whether they acted within the bounds of the law and their oaths? Will he excuse or seek to justify the behavior of any officers found to have acted outside the scope of law, regulation, or policy?

And if he finds that one or more or even all of the involved officers went rogue in any manner that violated their duty or the public trust, will he strive with every resource at his command to see that they are brought to justice with the same vigor and lack of equivocation that he would pursue the alleged murderer of twenty-six innocents in Newtown, Connecticut?

It will likely take a year or more, but we are going to find out just what kind of prosecutor we elected last month.

[1] We generally avoid such loaded language where there are undetermined issues of fact under investigation. But given what is undisputed — thirteen policemen fired 137 shots into a stopped motor vehicle whose occupants were apparently unarmed and without any avenue of escape — “gangland slaying” seems pretty apt.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Special Prosecutor Called for in Deadly Police Pursuit Case

Ohio ACLU Says State's Attorney General Should Remove County Sheriff and East Cleveland Police from Investigating Nov. 29 chase that ended in 137 Bullet Fusillade

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called yesterday called upon Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into the 25 minute police chase involving 30 police vehicles that ended with 13 police officers firing 137 rounds and killing two unarmed people.

The ACLU’s letter also asked DeWine to remove the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and the East Cleveland Police Department from the investigation because their personnel were involved in the pursuit. Currently the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation [BCI] is conducting a joint investigation with the county sheriff and the East Cleveland police. The results are slated to be turned over to Timothy McGinty, the county's newly elected county prosecutor.

While not criticizing the agencies already involved in the investigation, the letter from ACLU Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman said, “putting local law enforcement in charge of investigating themselves is clearly not the best way to conduct an independent, impartial inquiry.”

This would undoubtedly be a case that could in large measure define McGinty’s tenure almost from its inception. The ACLU thinks that is too large a burden to place upon an office — McGinty’s — that works with local law enforcement everyday.

Citing as precedent Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson’s appointment of retired judge [now County Council president] C. Ellen Connally as special prosecutor to investigate five cases that resulted in fatalities, including the shooting of 15-year old Brandon McCloud, Hardiman said the appointment of a special prosecutor would give “this investigation the weight it deserves.”

The ACLU of Ohio has weighed in on the side of several local officials and organizations that have called for special scrutiny in this investigation. Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, within whose district the chase occurred, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights, asking for an independent investigation by the FBI. The mayors of Cleveland and East Cleveland, in whose respective cities the chase began and ended, have urged similar action, as have local civil rights organizations.

*A spokesman for Attorney General is expected to get back to us this afternoon with a response to our query as to when the A.G. might respond to the ACLU’s call for the appointment of a special prosecutor and the removal of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff and East Cleveland police from the investigation. We will update this post at that time.