Time to get rid of racist policing in America

It’s time to get rid of America’s racist policing double-standards. Earlier this summer, Kalamazoo, Michigan police officers were called to respond to reports of man, possibly drunk, acting belligerently and waving around a rifle. When they arrived on the scene, the Kalamazoo officers found 63-year-old Joseph Houseman, a white man, who appeared to be intoxicated, and who was indeed waving around what looked to be an AK-47 assault rifle.

According to police reports of the incident, as well as dash cam footage and body microphones that were on the officers, it took nearly 40 minutes to get Houseman to peacefully surrender his weapon. That same video and audio footage reveals how the police officers on the scene deliberated for some time over how to protect the public from Houseman, while protecting his right to openly carry a gun at the same time, under Michigan law.

The officers can be seen and heard talking with Houseman, trying to de-escalate the situation without resorting to violence. In fact, when Houseman at one point told the officers to shoot him, one of them responded saying, “I don’t want to shoot you; I’m not here to do that.” Eventually, the officers were able to subdue Houseman and take his gun, but decided against charging him.

So, in this case, when confronted with a white man who was acting belligerently and waving around a deadly assault rifle in the air, police officers talked the man down, didn’t resort to violence or brutality, and were able to bring the situation to a close. This is how a white guy is treated by police in America.

Now, let’s take a look at another situation that played out in St. Paul, Minnesota. A cell phone video that was recently posted to YouTube shows a St. Paul police officer using excessive force against a black man, who was in a skyway, apparently just waiting to pick up his kids from school. Initially, the officers ask the man his name and ask him why he’s waiting in the skyway.

After he explains to one officer that he has the right to be waiting in a public area, and says that he’s only be questioned because he’s black, another St. Paul officer shows up. After a brief discussion with the new police officer, the man is forcefully restrained and even tased. He can be heard screaming for help. He’s then heard saying that, “I didn’t do anything wrong, I didn’t break any laws and you tase me? That’s assault.”

This is a clear example of how the rules are different if you’re black, and of the racist policing double-standards in America today. Fortunately, more and more people are realizing this, and are using video cameras to record their interactions with police, because they want to get anything that might be illegal on tape.

In a video uploaded to YouTube this past week, a man can be seen talking to police officers, who were looking for a wanted felon. The officers repeatedly ask the man to turn off his cell phone video camera, but knowing his rights, the man does not. They also ask to enter the man’s house because they think he might be “harboring a fugitive” but since they don’t have a warrant, the man tells them they cannot.

After a three minute exchange, the officers eventually leave. But here’s the thing. We shouldn’t live in a country where you need to worry about your race, or where you live, or whether or not you have a cell phone to record police actions.

This is the 21st century and the "land of the free and the home of the brave," and it’s time our policing reflected that. That can be accomplished by introducing national standards for policing, so that officers are behaving well in New York City and in Ferguson, Missouri.

We also need to pay our police officers better, and raise hiring standards. They put their lives on the line each and every day, yet all across the country, they’re drastically underpaid and poorly trained or supervised. That needs to change.

Finally, we need to provide more funding for community policing programs that encourage police officers to become members of the community, instead of feared figures.

It’s time to get rid of the racist double-standards, and bring sensible policing back to America


anniejogirly33's picture
anniejogirly33 8 years 28 weeks ago

What harm were rthe policemen doing when they were just trying to find a fugitive, and had been told the pe rson was in this man's apartment?

JC Miller's picture
JC Miller 8 years 28 weeks ago

I think you don't get this. Here's why. The police were lying. They weren't looking for a fugitive. And nobody told them the fugitive was in the man's apartment. They just wanted to get access because he didn't comply with their demand that he turn off his camera. They were angry at him for not "recognizing" their authority. If there was really evidence even hearsay that the fugitive was in the man's apartment they would have left one officer at the scene while the other went back for the warrant.

Frosty46's picture
Frosty46 8 years 28 weeks ago

There is a clear double standard for gun fruits and other citizens in America. We protect our gun fruits and let them freely murder openly and give them good jobs after they kill. The NRA is filled with killers who got away with murder at it's very top. There is a sickness upon our land and it's called the NRA! Not since NAZI Germany has so much hate been openly spewed by so many--------

historywriter's picture
historywriter 8 years 28 weeks ago

And you believe the police? This guy didn't and with good reason. He had just defied the police because they were giving him an order and it prudent of him to refuse. What do you think would have happened to him if he had taken them into his house away from the eyes of the neighbors?

We are -- or were -- protected by rights in our Constitution for this very thing. This exact situation. If they thought there was a fugitive in his house, they could have gotten a warrant. No time? There was time. they could have posted a cop outside to prevent the "fugitive" from "fleeing" and gotten a search warrant based on evidence that a judge would have to approve.

You reall need to go back and read (or perhaps read for the very first time) the Constitution. You need to read some American history -- real American history. You need to read some world history and how other countries have been taken over by dictators and the military and the police.

It's shameful that a (grown? -- or are you a "girl") has reached adulthood and does not know any of this. This is why our country is in peril -- it's not outside terrorists. It's those inside our country who are pushing to double down on the police state and people like who who think that's OK.

And I am very sure you are not Black.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 28 weeks ago

No doubt the police have been in the news a lot . Some stories good and some bad. The incident with Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO. morphed into an ugly confrontation. It ran it's course and has settled down, but there's one detail that seems to have gotten left out by the news media. Anybody know how Officer Wilson got his eye socket fractured that day? That detail was mentioned once or twice during the first couple of weeks, and then, nothing. What am I missing here?

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 28 weeks ago

The Chicago Police, in my opinion, are close to being a model of professionalism. Say what you would about Mayor Richard M. Daley but he did professionalize the police department. He raised their pay and required four years of college to get on the force. Dealing with them now is like dealing with uniformed social workers.

Of course, I'm white and some African American friends of mine have experienced something opposite to that. Nevertheless, Mayor R. M. Daley tried, in various ways, to show that he was "not your father's Mayor Daley" and one of them was to proffessionalize the police. Thus, when the Democratic National Convention came back to town in 1996, Daley showcased his new police department and the cops were walking around like they had their hands tied behind their backs when some demonstrators pulled some theatrical stunts.

That was also the first time, I believe, the "Free Speech Zone" was implemented. A fenced off section, remote from any happenings of the convention and hidden from the view of the general public. Some small park in a residential area at least a half a mile away from the United Center, where the convention was held - was designated as a place where demonstrators can assemble peacefully (or we could've been violent, there was nobody and nothing there within those fences that we could harm with any violence) and bring their grievances - to no one. Where they could freely speak - and not be heard, as appeared to be a precondition for freedom of speech.

The Chicago Police also initially strongly supported the Occupy Movement in Chicago (until some very immature, adolescent elements within it, with very infantile foolishness, initiated an FTP (Fuck The Police) campaign just because, just because of their adolescent rebellion against surrogate parents and all forms of discipline. It was a constant fight to keep that element (Black Block et al.) from running the movement into a ditch.

The Chicago Police were also very supportive of the labor protests that were going on at the time, including the prototype for the "Fight for Fifteen" demonstrations that were going on then, in the Fall of 2011, which I got a chance to participate in. I didn't participate in last week's demonstrations but I'm sure the police were very supportive of those in Chicago (I mean, they make arrests even when they support you - and when you're intentionally engaging in civil disobedience you want to be arrested, it's part of the theater - but instead of taking you to the station and booking you they take the paddy wagon around the corner, write you citations or tickets and let you go, allthewhile giving you words of praise and encouragement).

Thus the Chicago Police are getting close to being something of an example of what a police department should be. I mean, the system still sucks and their function is to enforce the system and the status quo but if there's an optimum way of doing that they're getting close to it.

Then again, they sometimes seem to be in favor of some change, at least in a limited degree.

historywriter's picture
historywriter 8 years 28 weeks ago

I am thrilled to hear this -- and will find out more when I return to Chicago in 3 weeks. I not only used to live there, but worked for the Chicago Police Dept. during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. as editor of their publication, the Chicago Police (what else?) Star. I was so disheartened by what I saw and learned, some of it firsthand, I returned to Minnesota as soon as I could. There is a long story here, and I'm eager to learn more about it -- and I will. I am doing a tour but also spending time with a friend who actually worked for me at CPD and then married a smart, wonderful police officer, a sergeant when she married him, eventually a lieutenant and a director.

To be honest, I'm skeptical of what you say, but it sounds like this is firsthand information. I couldn't be happier about it. Maybe they should send someone to Minnesota, esp. Minneapolis, to give them a few lessons. (I live in St. Paul; I believe the police here are pretty good--a cut above Minneapolis's--but I'm much more wary than I used to be in MN.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 28 weeks ago

Thom, the massacre at the southern black college I was referring to when I called your show today was the Orangeburg massacre of February 8, 1968 in which two students of South Carolina State University and a local high school student were killed and 28 demonstrators were wounded when eight South Carolina Highway Patrol officers fired carbines, shotguns and revolvers into a crowd of about 150 demonstrators for 10-15 seconds, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orangeburg_massacre.  I apparently remembered it wrongly as having a death toll that was much higher.

WaltB31's picture
WaltB31 8 years 28 weeks ago

The "Eye Socket Fracture" claim has proven to be a bogus malicious lie to smear Michael Brown:


The reason why no one is mentionig it was because it never happened.

RFord's picture
RFord 8 years 28 weeks ago

Willie W, the fractured eye socket story was a lie. The x-ray that was shown to support that story had Univ of Iowa on it and it was an x-ray of a child with a fractured eye socket. Michael Brown may have punched Officer Wilson in the eye. There was a story that he had an x-ray that came back negative. The truth? I don't know and don't know if we will ever get the whole truth. My Dad told me there's three sides to every story, one side, the other side, and the truth. I did notice in the vidio of Officer Wilson at the scene, he was pacing, hands on his hips, not touching or rubbing his eye.

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 28 weeks ago

Historywriter, notice I said the CPD are "close to" or approaching a model of proffesionalism. There still are some abuses as I noted of my African American friends and even I recently experienced and as occasionally still occurs - as with a friend at Occupy who got it pretty bad although he needs to learn to be less of a hothead and not piss people off so much spitting venom in their faces - but now it's much more a case of "some bad apples" and not so systemic as it was before and the old fashioned thuggish cop is someone the department seems to be trying to root out..

historywriter's picture
historywriter 8 years 28 weeks ago

Mark: I did note your caveat. I didn't expect perfection. Thanks for responding. (Do you mind if I mention that profesionalism has one "f"?)

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 28 weeks ago

Historywriter, I wasn't sure about the "f". I think maybe it should have two "f"s >;^)).

Mark J. Saulys's picture
Mark J. Saulys 8 years 28 weeks ago

What harm was the man doing requiring a warrant to search his home? It serves us all better that he does this than to have the police set a tone where they search anyone's home at will.

What people forget is that the constitutional "rights of the accused" and of the suspected are to protect the innocent from harassment and maltreatment by the authorities. They are not to privilege the guilty or help them to get away with crimes.

This business of "if you're not guilty of anything you have nothing to worry about" is completely fallacious. The innocent are precisely the people those constitutional rights exist to protect. Anyone who makes that former quoted statement doesn't believe that people should have constitutional rights and doesn't understand that a system where innocent people have to fear uncontrolled and unchecked harrassment by the police is, by definition, a tyranny.

Willie W's picture
Willie W 8 years 28 weeks ago

WaltB31 and RFord. Thanks for the info on the head injury. A strike in the face hard enough to crack your skull would leave your face swollen and bleeding. Photos of that would have gone viral. What were they thinking when they made those false claims of injury, so easy to disprove? Probably haven't heard the last of that.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 28 weeks ago

WaltB31(Post#9) ~ Thank you so much for that link. That video of Wilson pacing around Browns body says it all. No blood, no dizziness, and not once does he grab his skull, hold his head, rub his eye, lose his balance, or even shake his head. No wonder why photos of his injuries were never posted--he was never injured. He wasn't even touched!! We have all been suckered and jived by a bunch of lying racist, right wing clowns; and, I for one am PISSED!! I hate being lied to and deliberately mislead! Now I know just how those protesters felt! Since that falsified x ray originated from the University of Iowa archives and the DA's office it seems obvious that the entire story is an elaborate official coverup. In that case the hand of guilt behind this heinous crime goes far beyond Wilson himself. I certainly hope to see justice met out in this case! This cities law enforcement department needs to be made a national example of and taken to the cleaners!!

stopgap's picture
stopgap 8 years 28 weeks ago

Surprise! Surprise! The cops lie again. News Flash! The cops have become a cult of jack-booted thugs protecting only the corporatist billionaires intrests.

Hermetically isolated in their patrol cars, militarized vehicles, camouflage uniforms, etc. from the people they are sworn to protect; and only associating in the closed circle of fellow cops and the families of cops - ala mafia style. Is it surprising that they have lost touch with their mission to protect and serve the very people that really pay their wages… instead representing only the interests of the rich that provide them with the hi-tech toys they seem to be so fond of?

Whitey! You may be next, especially if you can't pay the mortgage!

RichardofJeffersonCity's picture
RichardofJeffer... 8 years 28 weeks ago

The solution could be making it mandatory for law enforcement officials to wear audio and camera mounted equipment on their heads or bodies at all times. This would curve some of the violent tendency of some law enforcement officials. With the technology that exist today that could be a 24/7 recording of the officer on the job. I would consent to paying for that instead of using tax dollars to buy law enforcement armed vehicles with mounted weapons, to intimidate the public.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 28 weeks ago

A cartoon (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal #3438) that concerns Thom's feelings about dairy food: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3438#comic

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 28 weeks ago

"Heroin" was named for the German word for "heroine", which does then come from Greek. Some confusion seems to have occurred among English speakers and today the word "heroine" is pronounced the same as the drug (hehr-o-in), rather than as if it were the feminine of "hero" (heer-o-in).

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 28 weeks ago

Someone on Facebook posted a complaint about Teabaggers saying they want theyir contry back, and asked "Back from what?"

I decided to provide an answer to "Back to what?" They want to take their country back to the antebellum era.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 8 years 28 weeks ago

Filibusters arose as a way to protect every state as a minority. But the inspiration behind it must be the rule of the Roman Senate, in which every issue had to be decided by sunset, but every one of their 100 senators had the right to speak as long as he wanted. Therefore, if a senator spoke until sunset, he could kill a bill without letting it come to a vote.

But that's not the last eerie similarity between the United States and the Roman Kingdom (yes, the kingdom, not the republic). Despite the modern use of the title, Roman kings were elected (albeit for life). Part of the process involved having the 30 curiae of the city (equivalent to our House of Representatives) choose the king by majority vote, each curia having one vote regardless of population. This compares to our backup plan of having the House elect the President, with each state having one vote, regardless of population.

I can't help feeling like there was a benign conspiracy to get the U.S. to have 50 states, just so we could have the same number of senators as Rome.

sacredori's picture
sacredori 8 years 28 weeks ago

Thom, I think you picked a poor example. The phenomena that you mention is true. However, I spent some time reviewing that video, and things are not exactly as you state them. The black gentleman had had words with the people at a bank who had apparently asked him to leave the bank building, and called the police on him. It seems he was sitting on a bench waiting when he was asked to leave. The first officer tells him she just needs his personal info so she can sort out what happened, and then he can be on his way. He refuses to give his info, and from that point she has legitimate reason to arrest him. Right then a colleague shows up, tells him he's going to arrest him. The camera goes black and we can hear the man gets tased. It sounds like he acted with excessive force. However, it wasn't a case of police stopping a guy waiting for his kids, it was police stopping a guy after receiving a complaint, and arresting him after he repeatedly refused to identify himself. It was a legitimate stop that ended in excessive force, and not an illegitimate stop and force as you make it out to be. Bending those sorts of details makes me question the veracity of the rest of your content.

ProfDocSJTpese's picture
ProfDocSJTpese 8 years 28 weeks ago

Frosty, your vicious comments exemplify the ignorance shared by so many in this country. I am referring to the significant segment of people who, like yourself, are not capable of distinguishing what is factual and can be proven from what is simply believed. It is beyond absurd to suggest that anyone is allowed to commit murder “freely and openly” and then rewarded for their heinous act with a good job. If there were any truth in your remarkably bizarre statement I should think that this country would be run by homicidal maniacs. Equally ridiculous is your assertion that the National Rifle Association is staffed by murderers. The sickness that is rapidly growing in my country does not come from the NRA. And the hatred that is being “openly spewed” is rooted in the alarming numbers of ignorant hateful people like you. I must admit that I have never heard the term “gun fruits” before. At first I thought it was a little Archie ‘Bunker-ish’. But upon further reflection it doesn’t sound like a term that a typical American would coin.

ProfDocSJTpese's picture
ProfDocSJTpese 8 years 28 weeks ago

Thank you for your enlightening comments Mr. Sacredori. I too researched these reports and like you I found that things weren't quite as reported. I would not deny that there often appears to be a racial aspect to the character of police response. However, my scientific education sometimes brings into question the value of anecdotal information such as this. It often seems that the evidence paints a clear picture. But we live in a vast land filled with thousands of towns and cities of all sizes. The "data" points that we recieve from the news media and Thom Hartmann's of the world represent only a small fraction of the total. I frequently wonder if Mr. Hartmann is not willing to sacrifice factual reporting in favor of a political agenda. Our ailing country needs more men like you that prefer facts to heresay and are willing to put forth some effort to get them. S.J.Thomas, Disabled American Veteran

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 28 weeks ago

ProfDoc, why are you so defensive in behalf of the NRA? I read Frosty's post and saw nothing to warrant such an aggressively hostile response. If there was anything to criticize in that post, it was that he didn't highlight any examples to illustrate what he was describing (people allowed to "commit murder freely & openly and then rewarded...").

I think the NRA, via lobbying and so forth, has done much harm to our society. I for one am tired of all the obsession with GUNS. I don't want to see people parading them around in the streets as if this were a goddam war zone. In light of all the carnage we've seen around this country in recent years, I'd say "gun fruits" isn't such an outrageous characterization. Remember that Bundy Ranch scenario? To call those guys 'gun fruits" is putting it mildly.

Having read a number of Frosty's posts, I find his input in general to be neither vicious nor hateful. I'd be more inclined to use those words to characterize your response to him. - AIW

P.S. judging from U.S. foreign policy over the past fifty years or more, I think it a strong argument could be made that this country is indeed run by "homicidal maniacs".

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 28 weeks ago

WaltB says "The 'eye socket fracture' claim has proven to be a bogus malicious lie to smear Michael Brown" and provides a link to prove it.

Thank you Walt!! I never believed that part of the story; ditto that convenience store robbery Mr. Brown supposedly committed, that allegedly took place right before the jaywalking incident culminating in his death.

I don't believe ANYTHING from corporate fascist media anymore. Their pundits are liars-for-hire. It gets sleazier each year. I'm so glad not to be paying for the "privilege" of hearing their bullshit crap anymore. - AIW

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 28 weeks ago

Just another example of why you should keep your mouth shut and follow orders by the police. Bad things happen unless you do. This guy was lucky that he only got tased. Others have been beaten or shot. But I get the impression that this was a setup by the Black guy to get this kind of thing on video. There are people who will, knowing that they will be challenged by police, do things to provoke issues in order to show how the police can be wrong...and it may be good that they do this... but it is dangerous to do so. I believe that he had every right to be sitting where he was and shouldn't have been ordered to move. But my point is that if you argue with the police and don't immediately follow their orders...you are looking for trouble...and you will get it. And if you are willing to risk being jailed, beaten, or shot then it is either a very brave thing to do ...or a very stupid thing to do.

I wonder, was he really waiting for his kids? And, was that the most convenient or closest place to have been waiting for his kids? I've not seen any confirmation that that was true. Not that it should really make any difference. According to this article, this happened back in January and since then, the guy has won his case.


Tom1945 8 years 28 weeks ago

I agree 100% with the first sentence in Thom's post. I would like to relate a two-part incident that I witnessed in Chicago in January, 1976. I was a 30-year-old white male then.

I had been a passenger in a car driven by somebody that accidentally drove north in the southbound (reversible) lane of the Lake Shore Drive. Although a head-on collision resulted, nobody was hurt worse than a few bumps. While waiting for an ambulance to take me to the hospital for X-rays, the Chicago policeman treated the driver of the car I was in--a white woman a few years younger than me--with polite deference.

He seemed angry, however, with the black man driving the vehicle that we collided with and, in fact, gave him a ticket for some minor flaw he found with his car.

Sometime later I was sitting in the waiting room of the OR waiting for an X-ray. As my injury was very minor, it was a rather long wait. During that time I witnessed the following incident:
Two Chicago policemen, whom I would describe as "barrel-chested" and "ham fisted" (and white) came in with a middle-aged black man. This man was crying--saying things like he had nothing to live for, that nobody loved him, and other things that showed that he was really, really down. Perhaps he had attempted suicide.

Both of these tough Chicago cops were talking to him in extremely kind, measured voices, that he had lots to live for, that they would try to find his wife (I guess that was part of the problem), etc. I was awed at the kindness and patience they showed him.

The cop that was rude to the hapless black driver who was in an accident that was somebody else's fault was probably more typical of Chicago cops in 1976. This was just about a month after Mayor Richard J Daley died. But the other two showed how it should be done in situations like those that do not involve split-second life or death situations--which must be the large majority of encounters between police and the people they are sworn to serve.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 28 weeks ago

Good story, Tom1945!

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 28 weeks ago

Palindromedary ~ What happened to your little Devil?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 28 weeks ago

Tom1945 ~ Your car caused a head on collision and the Cop yelled and gave a ticket to the black victim YOU ran into? You have got to be kidding me. Only in America!

Tom1945 8 years 28 weeks ago

Well, Marc, it wasn't quite that bad. I think the woman driving the car--she was a student of mine giving me a needed ride after class--also received a ticket for driving the wrong way. I don't remember just why the other driver was cited--some minor thing wrong with his vehicle--but the cop's attitude toward my (white, young, female) student was almost apologetic and toward the black driver just the opposite.

The reason I made that post was to show that there have been and are good cops even when working in high crime cities and with associates like cop 1 in my story. As more and more police are going to be dealing with unlike races, we need many more cops like the second part of my story and fewer (or none) like the other one.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 8 years 28 weeks ago

DAnneMarc: the little red devil had business in hell...again...lots and lots of business. ;-}

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 28 weeks ago

Tom1945 ~ One thing I have to say about that second part of your story is how it reminds me so much of that scene in Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little announces he is the new black Sheriff of Rockridge and all the white people in town draw their guns to kill him. He gets out of the situation by drawing his gun and threatening to kill himself. The white people believe it and lower their guns to protect him. (For anyone who missed it, here is a link to that scene)


I think Mel Brooks might have been trying to imply that white people don't have a problem killing black people as long as they are the ones doing it. The idea of a black man killing himself is somehow taboo. Perhaps that is true for some reason and Mel hit that little phenomenon out of the park with his movie. Certainly something to consider in light of your experience. Like Sheriff Bart says at the end of the scene, "They are so dumb!"

Thanks for sharing! Great story.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 28 weeks ago

Palindromedary ~ I can't say I'm surprised about the fate of your little friend. I could have told you that would happen. Oh, well! Time for a new little friend. Looks like he's related to the other one.

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