THINKING FOR OURSELVES
Behind the violence
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, May 30-June 5, 2010
Mayor Bing is out of touch with the city he seems bent on destroying. He does not recognize the anguish gripping us as we go to funerals that never should have been.
The mainstream media is finally acknowledging that the Mayor is not the "bold leader" they've been proclaiming him to be. It is not only that he did not respond with compassion to the death of Aiyana Jones. It is that he fails to grasp the human and institutional dimensions of this tragedy. He has refused to see it as an opportunity for us to change how we have been living.
Instead the Mayor decided to attack the motivations of those who stood by the family in their pain. He lashed out at Ron Scott of the Coalition Against Police Brutality, Al Sharpton and Geoffrey Fieger. His attacks reveal an inability to acknowledge his own failings or to recognize the importance of human connection in moments of despair.
This failure of leadership is more than callousness. It is administrative incompetence on a grand scale. The Mayor is well aware that the Detroit Police Department operates with license to kill. Barely mentioned in the mainstream media is the harsh reality that the DPD is operating under two consent agreements emphasizing the misuse of force.
Mayor Bing says he doesn't know what to do about the violence. But the U.S. Department of Justice told him what to do. The Federal Court gave the city very specific directives on how to reduce police violence. Under the leadership of the Mayor the DPD is only 39% compliant with the agreement. Nor has the Mayor made fulfilling this agreement a priority. He has not insisted on an active monitoring process. He has made no public statements on controlling the police.
Many of the problems we face, including in the schools, are because of an abusive, out of control, police force that is straining the nerves of this city to the breaking point. They are the tensions that come from officials who act without listening, who see neither the pain nor potential of the people of Detroit.
Mayor Bing chose to ignore police misconduct. Instead he decided to launch a public attack on those seeking to prevent and heal violence and to control the institutions that foster it.
The poor management of the Detroit Police Department is well documented. In early 2000 the Department of Justice launched an investigation into allegations that Detroit Police subjected suspects and witnesses to "excessive force, false arrests, illegal detentions and unconstitutional conditions of confinement." After 30 months of fact- finding the city agreed to two consent agreements that included quarterly reporting on progress.
Nearly a year ago, the Detroit News noted. "The city has never come close to complying with even half of the requirements, and the department has suffered frequent backsliding."
In July 2009, Judge Julian Cook called the Detroit Police Department into his courtroom to express his criticism of the department non-compliance with two consent decrees. He stated: "I have called this open session of the court because of my extreme displeasure with the progress that has been made." The Mayor pledged to do better. But he hasn't. Mayor Bing needs to apologize to the citizens of Detroit. He needs to acknowledge that police violence has been a costly burden in human pain and economic realities. One estimate is that we are paying as much $400 million for prior violations. The fees for monitoring alone have cost the city $10 million since 2003.
At a rally last Sunday Ron Scott challenged us to move beyond violence to creating peace by loving our children. It is advice that the Mayor needs to take to heart.