image_pdfimage_print

Remembering Michael Brown: Policing Alone Doesn’t Create Safety in Our Communities

Today we reflect on the memory of Mike Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed black youth fatally shot six times, twice in the head, by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. The 2014 shooting prompted protests across the nation for weeks. The gripping images of a blood-covered white sheet lying over his motionless body for hours will forever be etched in our memories. As will the image of another black mother with tears streaming down her face, grieving the loss of her son to this senseless yet all too common scenario.

Three years and many more police-involved shootings later, we ask ourselves, is this what public safety looks like in our communities?

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Akiel Denkins, Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray are just some of the names of unarmed black boys and men who have lost their lives since Mike Brown’s death. Over and over, we are confronted by the horrifying images of black men killed by the police.

According to The Guardian’s “The Counted" initiative, in 2016 black males aged 15-34 were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by law enforcement officers. They were killed at four times the rate of young white men. This trend should have us all on edge given the call for more “tough on crime” responses from national and local policymakers.

Just two weeks ago, President Donald Trump encouraged a room of law enforcement authorities to not be “too nice” while transporting suspects. This quip drew laughter and cheers from officers in attendance. However, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and several local police departments quickly rebuked the statement. The Campaign For Youth Justice and 25 other organizations released a joint statement calling on police to commit to clear protocols and policies against the use of force in our communities.

Additionally, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been an ardent defender of “get tough” practices from the 1990s. Sessions recently ordered federal prosecutors to seek the harshest possible penalty in all cases, no matter how minor, a practice that will send more Americans to prison without good reason.

These rollbacks are occurring on the state level as well, including in Michael Brown’s home state of Missouri.

In the same week that the NAACP issued a travel advisory, warning people of color that their civil rights could be violated in the state of Missouri, Republican Gov. Eric Greitens implemented a new anti-violence plan. The plan calls on highway patrol troopers to ramp up policing to combat urban crime, reopening historical tensions.

“We are looking for anything,” a Missouri state trooper recently told a Washington Post reporter, before pulling over a motorist for an expired license plate near downtown. “I don’t see how it can be detrimental having more law enforcement in an area that really needs more policing.”

As we reflect on the anniversary of Mike Brown's death and the subsequent deaths, the current climate in our country toward crime signals that we are headed in the wrong direction. Young men of color are much more likely to be profiled — and then subsequently, prosecuted, sentenced and incarcerated as adults in their communities than their white counterparts. Federal, state and local officials are calling on the police, those entrusted to protect and serve, to lead the charge against crime.

But is policing alone what public safety looks like in our communities? Many chiefs of police are calling for evidence-based practices, which include community policing strategies, a focus on prevention and referrals to other agencies and community organizations that are experts in mental health, substance abuse and defusing crises. Our caution is against embracing law enforcement as the only solution to crime; and in adopting a more militarized police force, particularly focused on low-income communities and communities of color.

We don’t want police in schools, driving our children to the courts for typical adolescent behavior. We don’t want police threatening to deport and separate immigrant families trying to live their lives in the United States. We don’t want all our resources poured into enforcement of the law at the cost of access to quality schools, career opportunities and access to public and mental health.

We recognize that law enforcement agencies are among the largest and most powerful bureaucracies in most localities. They intersect daily with our lives, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. They may be who we call first when trouble arises, but they are also armed and evoke fear in many communities across the country. At some point, we must question whether all this law enforcement is necessary. There is a significant imbalance in our current policing model, with far too much emphasis on law enforcement and not nearly enough on crime prevention.

We remember Mike Brown because his death should serve as a daily reminder of the very real work left undone. His memory serves as our invitation to help fix a broken system.

Aprill O. Turner is communications director for the Campaign for Youth Justice, a national initiative focused entirely on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system.

Meridian Struggles with School-to-Prison Allegations

This story was produced in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity

Lionel Townsend will turn 14 in September and a few months after that he will be able to return to school, ending a year of exile.

Lionel admits he got into fights multiple times at Magnolia Middle School. When he was charged with vandalizing a school bus security camera, he was booted from school. He fought again in a community day program. The county Youth Court eventually put him on probation and an order to stay at home with an ankle monitor.

But the federal Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is alleging the juvenile justice system is so faulty it amounts to a “school-to-prison pipeline” in the Townsends’ home of Meridian.

“If you do wrong, you got to pay,” insisted Lionel’s mother, Ella Townsend, speaking in the living room of the home she shares with her mother, Lionel and four of the boy’s siblings. Lionel listens quietly, a skinny boy, who grins when attention is turned to him, or he’s teased about the sparkly blue earring studded in his ear. “But “that was harsh punishment,” she said, “I feel like they were sort of out of order.”

Townsend says her son’s ankle monitor was so sensitive it went off if he went in the back yard.  The young man is rid of it now, but not before he gouged off the speaker, causing what Townsend said the court assessed as $1,500 in damage.

She worries if Lionel makes another mistake, he will end up in prison with adults, where he will learn the criminal trade.

The Justice Department says it has probable cause to believe the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County routinely and repeatedly incarcerate children for school disciplinary infractions, as outlined in an Aug. 10 open letter, at the end of an eight-month investigation. Their letter is addressed to the city and county, the county's two Youth Court judges, as well as the state Division of Youth Services, but not the Meridian school system.

The letter said infractions such as defiance, disrespect, dress code violations or cursing led to a police ride to the county Youth Court. City police in closed-door interviews called themselves a “taxi service” from school to jail, the DOJ writes. “MPD officers may subjectively believe that they are acting appropriately,” reads the letter, but the DOJ argues the police are wrong to automatically arrest children referred by the schools, instead of investigating and determining probable cause themselves. The police, they charge, do not assess “whether the alleged conduct qualifies as an arrestable offense.”

Once in custody, the Youth Court fails to give children speedy hearings, the DOJ says, by holding court only two days per week, thus on weekends and holidays pushing some children over a 48-hour threshold. Furthermore, “children and their guardians consistently report that they are not always appointed an attorney for detention or adjuration hearings,” reads the letter, adding an allegation that the public defender in the court does not provide “meaningful or effective representation.”

In cases of probation, children are inappropriately signing probation contracts that they do not comprehend, says the DOJ, and there “is no evidence that Lauderdale County and DYS [Mississippi Division of Youth Services] ever provide constitutionally required probable cause hearings.”  DYS youth counselors — the DOJ calls them “probation officers” — in practice have “absolute discretion” to determine if there is a probation violation and what the consequence will be, according to allegations.

The federal agency also claims that African-American children are disproportionately suspended or expelled and that Meridian children who have disabilities are expelled or given long suspensions at a rate almost seven times higher than the state as a whole, though it does not quote detailed statistics.

The DOJ said it sought Youth Court records to supplement site visits, and interviews with police, DYS staff and community members. They were denied access locally on privacy grounds. In a written comment, a Mississippi attorney general spokesperson explained, “we have said that the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) will cooperate in any lawful manner with the DOJ investigation.  However, state law, including Mississippi Code Section 43-21-261, prohibits the AOC from providing to DOJ copies of confidential youth court records without a court order.”

But the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County reject the charges, accusing the federal agency of basing their allegations on only “a few” cases and “unsubstantiated” claims, in a letter they wrote to the DOJ, which was released in response to media queries to the police and the Youth Court.

The findings of the DOJ are “one-sided and reflect, in our opinion, the inexperience and unprofessionalism of your investigating representatives as to basic criminal procedure,” write Meridian City Attorney Ronnie Walton and attorney for Lauderdale County, J. Richard Barry.

Youth Court judges Veldore Young and Frank Coleman “categorically deny any systematic violation of any child’s constitutional rights and have faithfully followed the laws of this State and will continue to protect the confidentiality of our children’s youth court records,” reads the attorneys’ Aug. 23 response.

They suggest the DOJ’s head civil rights lawyer is already biased against Meridian, accusing Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez of running to the media instead of talking with judges; and of publicly criticizing Meridian schools.

They say the DOJ letter contains “outright untruths where it is stated that those judges would not cooperate” with the investigation by turning over juvenile court records. The attorneys say the judges do not have the legal right to hand over those papers.

After numerous requests for comment, a spokesperson from the Department of Justice wrote in an email that, “protecting the constitutional rights of youth is a top priority of the Justice Department. The department’s Civil Rights Division is tasked with ensuring and acting to protect the civil rights of children. If we find that a school district or juvenile justice system is depriving youth of their rights, we will not hesitate to act.

New School Year

Last year, Alvin Taylor was hired as Meridian school superintendent after several rapid changes of leadership. Much of the top administration turned over at the same time, he said, and his new team brought in new policies and procedures.

“I can’t speak on what happened before June 1, 2011,” said Taylor, referring to the day his work started.

Taylor’s 2011-2012 school year student handbooks lay out dozens of rule infractions and the punishments. Police only get involved, Taylor said, for three infractions named by Mississippi state law: weapons, drugs or serious violent acts.

A schoolyard fight is not considered a serious violent act, Taylor said, but gang fights or assaulting a teacher for example, is.

When school staff determine one of those three infractions has happened, said Taylor, a call to police must first be approved by himself or the assistant superintendent of student services.

He said less than 1 percent of youth get arrested in a given year in his roughly 6,200-student system. There are also around 60 or so expulsions every year, he said. Taylor said that expulsion rate is lower than average, according to his research.

As for the DOJ allegations that children who have disabilities — including learning disabilities — are disproportionally ousted from school, Taylor said, “all those accusations stem from 2009. And I can’t speak on what they did back then. I can tell you that’s not the situation now.”

In 2009, Meridian High School enrolled 1,625 students, according to the latest figures available in a federal Department of Education database. The same database says that among 205 Meridian High School students who have disabilities, there were 145 instances of children getting more than one out-of-school suspension.  The student population overall was 86.8 percent African-American, and black students represented 96 percent of all out-of-school suspensions and 100 percent of the 10 reported expulsions.

Long-Smoldering Fire

The DOJ received the very first complaints about Meridian in 2005 from NAACP activist Randle Jennings. He was surprised when the city cut funding to a baseball program for at-risk youth he ran and considered very successful. He started looking at schools and asked why more than 90 percent of the teachers were white, given that there were five historically black colleges or universities within one hundred miles, and more than 90 percent of Meridian's students were black?

“We realized something was going on,” said Jennings, now the county NAACP education chair.  “We smelled smoke,” but did not have an explanation for it. He sent the data about teacher and student demographics to the DOJ, and admits he did not know what they might find.

Five years later, in May 2010, the federal Department of Justice sent a letter to Lauderdale County’s and Meridians’ official attorneys. They were asking for records about school discipline and police involvement in schools. In the following months, the DOJ also participated in at least two public meetings where they asked area residents to come lodge their complaints about school discipline and the law.

Jennings is sure a pipeline runs through Meridian. “We have a concern for our children, especially the next generation because we have seen two generations be destroyed … [we] systematically need a plan so our children aren’t shoved in that pipeline.”

Lauderdale County juvenile inmates used to land in a detention center on the edge of town. However, it’s closed now and since the beginning of 2012, minors have been bused to a center some 70 miles away in Rankin County. Lauderdale’s center had been the subject of a federal lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center over conditions of incarceration.

Get Rid of the Problem

The Love City Fellowship, a church in Meridian, hosted a public meeting on school discipline and the law in August 2010. The church, the DOJ and the Southern Poverty Law Center invited parents to come to the afternoon meeting to talk about suspensions and arrests from city schools. Some church members are still collecting stories from friends and neighbors and urging parents to talk to the DOJ.

“Some of the rules that are in place do not put the child in mind first,” said Senior Pastor Lamorris Richardson. “Instead of having to deal with the problem and find a solution, it’s more ’get rid of the problem.’”

The city school system is separately in a dispute with the DOJ that is very closely related to the newly-announced allegations against the city and county. The school system is a party in a 1960s-era federal desegregation order. The DOJ reopened that case in 2010 in an effort to investigate the discipline complaints and other complaints that the district was allegedly unfairly terminating African-American educators.

In that case, besides asking for data, the DOJ asked for access to visit schools and interview staff in 2010. The school district initially rejected those DOJ requests, and the DOJ responded by asking the federal court to order access and document release. According to court filings, the school argued the demand to visit and interview staff and law enforcement officers is too broad and amounts to “fishing” for information, as does a DOJ request to inspect databases and documents on site at schools. That battle over visits, interviews and inspections is ongoing in court and forms the background to the DOJ’s August letter and threat to sue the city and county.

Pastor Richardson said his city needs a school board picked by the community. Now it is named by the mayor and confirmed by city council. Though, according to Elizabeth McDonald, spokeswoman for the school district, the board members each represent different areas of the city.

The board is currently made up of three whites and two blacks.

“This city has not moved in how many decades? … Five decades?” asked pastor Betty Alford, also of Love City Fellowship, comparing treatment of African-Americans now to the 1960s.

Richardson added, “No community, in 2012, should be still dealing with practices that applies [only] to a certain group, a certain community where kids rights are not being protected in school. We should be way past this kind of bias.”

But Meridian children like Lionel are out of Superintendent Taylor’s hands. Once a child is expelled, the child is not a “student” and the school board is not obligated to instruct him.

That being said, the schools, in partnership with the city and local groups, will this year start a pilot program for expelled students that provides character and academic education, as well as technical options. It will have 18 slots and is set to start in September. That will be the only full-time educational opportunity for students expelled from school.

As for Lionel, Ella is teaching him at home until he goes back to school, though she said it is not enough. “I can do stuff from what I know, but I’m not a trained teacher,” she said. “He needs to eat his material, he needs to study and learn.”

Click here for other examples of the school to prison pipeline around the country.

NAACP Blasts Mace in Birmingham Schools

The NAACP launched an online petition this week, inviting people to lend their names to a campaign to end the use of pepper spray on students in Birmingham, Al. public schools.

“As long as we continue to treat students like criminals, they will grow up to become criminals,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, in a written statement.

The NAACP argues that Mace and pepper spray may be legitimate parts of an adult or crowd policing strategy, but are not acceptable for use on school children. Birmingham’s public school population is overwhelmingly African-American.

The petition comes as wrangling in U.S. District Court over the practice reaches nearly the two-year mark. In December, 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit for damages on behalf of six defendants, and also asked for pepper sprays to be banned. They alleged that Birmingham police officers in the school used the chemical as a first resort and as punishment, among other charges.

“Mace is used so frequently and so indiscriminately in Birmingham’s public high schools that each Class Representative [defendant] — and all BCS students — faces a real and substantial risk of future and repeated injury,” the original complaint read.

Birmingham’s Board of Education and schools superintendent have been dismissed from the case, though six city police officers, the police chief and a high school assistant principal are still on the docket.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Schools declined comment.

Police carry the mace because it its part of their “daily equipment,” a police spokesman is quoted in Birmingham media.

The Birmingham police spokesman could not immediately be reached for any further comment.

In a written statement, Hezekiah Jackson IV, Metro Birmingham Branch NAACP president said, “we as a community must end this form of archaic police disciplinary response, implement alternative strategies and create an atmosphere in which all children of Birmingham can feel protected and comfortable.”

Photo source: http://justmytruth.wordpress.com/

One Kid’s View of Corporate Irresponsibility

Urban Outfitters Inc. owns the popular indie stores Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters. The company runs roughly 2,000 of these stores around the globe, employs thousands of people and has received several awards for efforts to preserve history through their products.

Who could have a problem with such a great corporation? Well, many people could, and many people do. Urban Outfitters managed to upset the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, LGBT advocacy groups and women advocacy groups.

The earliest social upset occurred in 2003, when Urban Outfitters started selling Ghettopoly, a parody of the popular family board game, Monopoly. The parody board game replaces the four railroads on the original Monopoly board with four liquor stores, while “Ghetto Stash” and “Hustle” substitute for the original “Community Treasure” and “Chance” squares.

The game pieces include a block of crack cocaine, a pimp, a basketball, and a 40-oz.bottle of beer. In the center of the board, Ghettopoly is printed in large red letters with a large African American male wearing a red doorag emerging out of the “O” wielding a gun in his left hand and a large bottle of alcohol in his right. The Associated Press reported the game includes “Ghetto Stash” and “Hustle” cards reading, “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50 from each playa,” and, “You’re a little short on loot, so you decided to stick up a bank. Collect $75.” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was outraged. During an interview with The Baltimore Sun, http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2003-10-11/news/0310110153_1_urban-outfitters-hasbro-games-monopoly  Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP announced he wrote to the original designer of the product regarding the racism present in the game and received a half-hearted response stating that the creator did not mean to offend anyone, but regardless will not change or stop selling the board game.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an international organization that has attempted to prevent anti-Semitism since it’s formation in 1913. The ADL Press Center reported that they had their first dispute with Urban Outfitters in 2004 when the store released a T-Shirt that the ADL thought was promoting the stereotype of the so-called Jewish American Princess (JAP) and the other extremely popular stereotype that Jews are infatuated with money. The ADL Press Center described the shirt, reporting it originally contained graphics such as shopping bags and dollar signs surrounding the words “Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl.” ADL announced that they were very happy with Urban Outfitters' decision to adjust the shirt to only include the words without the graphics. http://www.adl.org/PresRele/DiRaB_41/4438_41.htm

Urban Outfitters and ADL had no further controversy until April of 2012 when Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/adl-slams-urban-outfitters-over-holocaust-t-shirt-1.425695  reported that Urban Outfitters released a yellow shirt with a light blue emblem resembling the Star of David on the left breast pocket. ADL Press Center reported that ADL Regional Director Barry Morrison believed that Urban Outfitters had reached a new low. He claimed that the company was making a mockery of the Holocaust by retailing a shirt that used the identical yellow color of the Jewish Star which Jewish people were forced to wear in World War II.

In June of 2010, Urban Outfitters released a women’s shirt that had the words “Eat Less” scrawled in cursive on the torso, The Tampa Bay Times reported. Women advocacy groups were outraged, ordering Urban Outfitters to pull the shirt from shelves and take it off of their website. Urban removed the product from their website but not from their shelves. Reporters at The Huffington Post called stores in New York, one of which said that the shirt was in stock, but only large sizes were available. http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2010/06/urban_outfitters_stopped_selli.html

In February of this year Urban Outfitters released a line of St. Patrick’s Day themed apparel, which almost immediately grabbed the attention of the media. The collection included a women’s shirt with “Kiss Me. I’m Drunk Or Irish, Or Whatever” printed on the torso, a white women’s t-shirt with green lettering which spelled, “I’m a F[clover leaf]cking Leprechaun” on the torso, another women’s tank top which had “IRISH I Were DRUNK” printed on the torso, and a truckers hat with green mesh and a white front which had a graphic of a man on his hands and knees throwing up with the words “Irish Yoga” above and “downward facing upchuck” under the graphic according to an article in the Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2108948/St-Patricks-Day-Urban-Outfitters-T-shirts-Irish-Americans-fury-disrespectful-slogans.html.

Abolishing the word “tranny” from the public’s vocabulary --  a word with a typically negative connotation when used in conversation at present -- has been a goal of the gay community for years. LGBT activists have found numerous ways to inform society of how hurtful the word can be and have made progress in removing it from most of the population’s vocabulary. However, earlier this year, Urban Outfitters released a transphobic, or homophobic, greeting card imitating the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill, which made an exceptionally offensive slur about closeted transgenders, as reported by The Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/urban-outfitters-all-its-recent-controversies-explained/2012/03/29/gIQAP2lDjS_blog.html  Jill had gone up the hill and Jack followed to look up her skirt, but Jack is surprised to notice that “Jill was a closet tranny.”

In the past seven years Urban Outfitters Inc. has offended African Americans with their racist board games, Irish Americans, the Jewish population and women advocacy groups with their offensive apparel, and homosexuals with their unsuitable greeting cards.

They’ve not only offended homosexuals but also angered some who are offended by homosexuality, including One Million Moms. A picture of two girls kissing on a catalog was seen by the group as “promoting lesbianism," according to its website onemillionmoms.com.

The Washington Post reported that Navajo Nation has sued the company for stealing patented designs.

So when will we put a stop to Urban Outfitter’s immaturity? We have to, because the company obviously won’t learn a lesson.

We must put a stop to corporate irresponsibility and this should start with Urban Outfitters. Their clothes are cheaply made and cost you a lot of money. If you wish to start boycotting Urban Outfitters, why not turn to a few of these clothing companies with the same urban style that don’t feel a need to offend:

Levi’s (www.levi.com), Shop Robertson (shoprobertson.com), Bad Joan (www.badjoan.com), ASOS (asos.com), All Saints (us.allsaints.com)

 

 

Students, Community Members Gather in Atlanta to Protest Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012

ATLANTA -- Hundreds of Trayvon Martin supporters gathered to chants of “I am Trayvon” in Downtown Atlanta on Monday, exactly one month after the Florida teen was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in an Orlando suburb.

Bands of student demonstrators, mainly organized by student groups from nearby universities, joined activists, community members and a long list of organizers on the steps of the state capital to call for the arrest of George Zimmerman – the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who claimed to have shot the 17-year-old in self-defense.

“It’s a general issue of justice,” said Richard Hunter, 42, who attended the rally with his nine-year-old son, Matt.

“I think we’ve seen that when we get involved things can change,” Hunter said about the importance of getting young people involved in justice issues. “A lot of people sit back and act like nothing is going to happen instead of showing up. So I decided to show up.”

The hodge-podge of protestors also challenged Georgia’s own “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly-force if you fear your life is in danger.

Zimmerman admitted to shooting the teen, but claimed self-defense under a similar Florida law and has not been arrested.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Morehouse student Jonathon Howard said to a cheering crowd, delivering a still powerful quote more than half a century after it was first penned by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012 KIPP Atlanta Collegiate
Students from KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, a local school, join the protests at the Ga. State Capital. March 26, 2012.

Many protestors carried bags of Skittles and wore hooded sweatshirts adorned with the “I am Trayvon” slogan despite temperatures in the 80s. Martin was wearing a hoody and carrying a bag of Skittles when he was shot and killed returning from a local 7-Eleven in Sanford, Fla. He was unarmed.

Demonstrations in more than half a dozen major cities around the country marked the anniversary. Seventy-three percent of Americans said they felt Zimmerman should be arrested and face charges for the death, according to a recent CNN poll.

In Florida, a special prosecutor has been assigned to investigate the case. A grand jury is scheduled to begin deliberation on the case April 10.

Earlier in the day, Sanford officials confirmed an altercation ensued between Martin and Zimmerman prior to the fatal shot. Signs of the scuffle appeared in the original police reports, but had not been confirmed by law enforcement. City officials also announced a replacement for the Sanford Police Chief who stepped down, at least temporarily, last week amid community outrage over the department’s handling of the case.

Longtime civil rights activists Rev Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson joined Martin’s parents and supporters for a rally in Sanford.

“It’s justice for someone who hasn’t gotten any,” Joanna Carter, 23, said back in Atlanta. “If you let it continue this just ain’t right, no matter the color.”

Photo credit: Clay Duda/JJIE

Trayvon Martin Rally Georgia State Capital March 26 2012

April 29, 2011

Read up:

Newt Gingrich Among Conservatives Backing NAACP Prison Reform Report:
http://bit.ly/NAACPreports

Want to Ask the Nation a Couple of Questions?:
http://bit.ly/juvypoll

Georgia Foster Kids' Psych Drug Use Under Review:
http://bit.ly/fostermeds

Host: Ryan Schill
Multimedia: Clay Duda

Four Teens Charged with Murder in Beating Death

An 18-year-old boy was killed at a house party in Douglasville, Ga Saturday night, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Four other teenagers, ages 18-19, were arrested for the death of Bobby Tillman. They have been charged with murder.

More than 70 kids turned up at what was supposed to be a small house party. After parents ended the party a fight broke out outside the home between two girls.

According an account from the Douglas County Sherriff, one of the girls hit a boy. The boy allegedly said he wouldn’t hit a girl but would hit the next guy that walked by. Five-foot-6-inch, 124-pount Tillman turned out to be the next boy to walk by. He was stomped and beaten and died of blunt force trauma to the head and chest.

The NAACP launched an investigation into how the sheriff’s department questioned party-goers. Fifty-seven kids were rounded up and taken to the sheriff’s department on a bus. Some of them were actually questioned on the bus. Some kids complained they weren’t allowed to call their parents. The sheriff’s department maintains they handled everything correctly.

Cop punches teen jaywalker

Across the nation people are talking about this video of a police officer punching a teenage girl in the face during an altercation in Seattle.

What lead to this moment, captured by a witness with a cell phone, may well be a case study in police reaction and teenage judgment.  It started when Officer Ian Walsh spotted four girls jaywalking.  He asked them to step over to his patrol car.  According to police officials, the girls were “verbally antagonistic. “

The officer was alone on the street.  One of the teens allegedly touched his arm.  Pushing and shoving escalated into a struggle, and things quickly got out of hand.

The police department at first defended the officer and blamed the girls for resisting arrest. But now the police chief is reviewing procedures and conducting an internal investigation.   The police union says the officer was justified and followed his training.

The NAACP and the Urban League are critical of the teens, but condemning the officer’s violent reaction.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in comments below.

Click on the following sources for analysis:

KOMO TV

The Seattle Times

Fox News

USA Today

KIRO TV

Sexual Abuse in Juvenile Facilities

Some alarming numbers about children who are sexually abused while in custody are contained in a letter sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on May 10, 2010 from seven national advocacy groups.  The Children’s Defense Fund,  Campaign for Youth Justice,  Youth Law Center  and other groups created a report called Preventing the Sexual Abuse of Youth in Correctional Settings. Some of their recommendations:

  • Training in adolescent development for people who work or volunteer in youth facilities.
  • More direct supervision by trained adults instead of video surveillance.
  • Assessment standards and safety plans to keep vulnerable children safe.
  • Limiting harsh responses to consensual sex between residents, where it may not be abusive

The report contains current federal laws, plus information about the new Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act currently under review in Congress.  It also features research, questionnaires, and resolutions from the PTA, the American Bar Association, the NAACP and other organizations concerned about the risks of placing juveniles under 18 in adult prisons.

See more numbers here.