Tuesday, May 09, 2006

SPD: Black White & Blue*

The latest installment of the SJ-R’s riveting newspaper serial, SPD: Black White & Blue, appeared this morning. Things are really heating up. It must be sweeps week.

In case you missed it, they’re starting to reveal more about the mysterious ex-mistress of our hero/villain (the writers are cleverly concealing their hand on this.) It turns out she’s not the innocent that we suspected. A plot has been exposed that reveals a contemptuous side to our would-be damsel.

But the real bombshell this week is the introduction of a new character. Hold on to your hats because not only is she the niece of the mistress, she is also the wife of one of the beleaguered detectives, who may be, along with the aunt, using the race scandal the department is in embroiled in to advance the niece’s career. How deliciously ribald! I suspected that eventually these two story arcs would collide, but who knew they would pull it off with such intrigue. All we need now is a shocking discovery of parentage, an evil twin, and an extended dream sequence and we’re talking Daytime Pulitzer (I’m assuming that there is such a thing, the equivalent of the Daytime Emmy?)

What’s that you say? This isn’t a fictional serial concocted by creative minds at the SJ-R for the pure enjoyment of its readers? This is an actual, ongoing news story? Well, that can’t be good for anybody, especially the Springfield Police Department (SPD).

Someone down at the city should yank the plug on this melodrama. The public may enjoy contrived stories of scandal and salaciousness but they don’t want to fund its production, especially if they fear that it may be jeopardizing pubic safety, even if that fear is unfounded.

The SPD does a poor job of defending itself in the court of public opinion. It also doesn’t seem to have a good sense of the damaging effects of bad publicity and how sometimes it’s better to cut your losses rather than engage in a protracted dispute in clear view of the public. On the same day that they received a vote of support in the form of a positive editorial, the aforementioned story appeared on the front-page. They can run their advertisements showing a bicycled and biracial police force all they want, the message that’s coming across is still the one that is making headlines on the front page.

Not that the SPD should take the full brunt of the blame in the ongoing saga. I don’t know much about the lead plaintiff in the racial discrimination lawsuit. I don’t know if he’s a good person or a good cop, nor do I know the merits of his complaints. But I will say that on the scale that charts the victims of social injustice, based on what I’ve read he probably falls slightly more towards the side of Rodney King than the side of Rosa Parks. As for Courtney Cox, I’m sure that the Black Guardians aren’t paying him by the hour, so he’s not likely go away without a settlement or a judicial decision. For the good of the department, however, he does need to go away, and not in a “sleeps with the fishes” sort of way.

The SPD should quit with the soap opera and return to those thrilling adventures of yesteryear, when virtuous crime fighters, free from the defects of prejudice, would overcome all obstacles to achieve justice for all while never disturbing the rakish tilt on their shiny-brimmed caps. The concept may sound hokey, but it would definitely play well in the real world.

*After writing this post, I realized that the first several paragraphs sound as if they were ripped from a transcript of The Shooting Sport. I assure you that this was not my intention and that no one is more disturbed by it than I am.

10 comments:

Monkey Boy said...

Let me enlighten you a little in regard to the lead "hero/villain."

He is widely regarded as one of the laziest officers ever to work at the SPD. He is a supervisor who does everything he can NOT to make a decision. He is an egotistical monster, thus his delusion that he is worthy of leading an entire division. He is a huge part of why the Investigations Division is in the trouble it is in now. Does he really think that his lackadaisical supervision had no part in that? If anyone believes that they are seriously stupid.

When his brother was named Chief years ago my jaw hit the ground when I learned of the news. Harvey was a nice guy but not very bright, nor inspiring. When I read that Libri entertained thoughts of our villain as Chief I envisioned what my jaw would have done had that come to pass.....a meteor sized crater. That would have been a public relations and Departmental disaster of major proportions

The SJ-R's, and your, suggestion to "cut losses" is seriously misguided. Settle with a criminal? Never. If you think the morale within the SPD is low now just wait and see what it would be should the city settle and give in to this ridiculous lawsuit. Where was the SJ-R's plea to settle when the "Office Tavern" case was on-going? Where was their call to settle when Ofc. Fleck's name was being dragged through the mud along with the entire Department's integrity? Settle? Never.

There are black officers within the SPD who someday may be worthy of leading a division. Our villain certainly is not. I seem to recall that when Ofc. Walter Meek (black officer) was going through his trials and tribulations in the press the Department and City leaders were called racists back then. In his supporters' minds getting oral sex from a prostitute while on duty was OK. They fought for him to the bitter end because he played the part of the victim for them. Poor Walter. How happy those at the SPD were to learned mere months later after his firing that he was arrested for felony retail theft as he had pilfered thousands of dollars worth of clothing from the store he worked at. That is the type of person that you and the SJ-R now want the City to settle with. Those who work at the SPD know what he is and that is why you don't hear them supporting our villain.

Sometimes you just have to fight no matter how bloody it gets. Right is right and there are more important things at stake than just some bad publicity for the SPD. No matter what happens at the SPD, people, particularly the media, will be there to distort and sensationalize in order to create this soap opera. Our villain has not received promotions because he is incompetent. Not because he is black.

UMRBlog said...

I am a Human Rights Lawyer who represents both Employees and Employers. Being acquainted with none of the principals in this psychodrama beyond a few chance meetings, I can't comment on the merits.

I preach and preach to my Employer Clients that one mistake in the area of Human Rights is one too many. It is easier for the claimant to make this charge because of some unfortunate dealings SPD had with at least one minority officer in the past.

It is quintessentially easy to make a charge of racism anytime. It is pretty easy to have it gain some traction when the Respondent has transgressed before.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Monkey Boy,

You obviously bring a perspective to this, and I suspect some inside knowledge, that I’m not privy to since my knowledge of the situation is limited to what I read or hear in the media. And that’s the point I was trying to make. I’m not saying the department is wrong and Davis is right, I’m just saying that publicity-wise, the department will continue to be damaged the longer this drags out. If your analysis of the situation is correct, then I can see how morale would take a serious hit if Davis were to receive some sort of settlement. Maybe it is better to fight this lawsuit to the very end, but Courtney Cox will make sure they pay, if by no other way than by dragging as many other officers as possible through the mud. That’s something that the department has to consider. Of course one could take an optimist’s view and conclude that the entire process will eventually flush out bad officers throughout the department and we’ll be left with a better police force. Either way, it’s an ugly situation today and looks as if it will be for some time to come.

Tony,

Although I'm looking at it from a PR perspective and you're looking at it from a legal perspective, I think that your point applies to either. A lot of people will believe Davis only because of what happened to Renatta Frazier. It may be intellectually lazy to base presumptions soley on that reason, but it's also human nature. I would hope, however, that a court of law would judge the Davis suit on its own merit and not on what was decided on previous cases.

Thanks for commenting,
Dan

UMRBlog said...

Dan,

That's exactly my point. It is human nature to believe "Dog suck eggs once, he'll suck 'em again."

I've never been sure RF's deal was a Human Rights violation but it sure wasn't the way to run a railroad.

BTW, I've never been real sure about the mechanics of a dog sucking eggs but the old, southern guys I grew up around used to say it so maybe only the condfederacy dogs had that suction thing going on.

Monkey Boy said...

Lets get something clear about Rennatta Fraizer. She was not treated the way she was because she was black. She was treated the way she was in the press because of very poor decisions made by the SPD chiefs and legal advisor. She was also an incompetent police officer. Case in point;

She was assigned to block a railroad crossing on a hot day. She felt ill. Instead of notifying her supervisor and requesting to go home sick she called a relative to come pick her up and went home......leaving her squad car abandoned in the middle of the street without notifying anyone. Is that a racial problem or an incompetence problem? There are many other instances not quite as blatant that led to the decision to fire her. The Department went out of their way to hire her BECAUSE she was black. Why would they then turn around and fire her because she is black?

Although public perception, which we all know equates to the media playing up to the Wal-Mart crowd, may try to connect Fraizer's situation to Davis' it is totally different. Neither was discriminated against. Both are incompetent. Period.

UMRBlog said...

MB,

If what you say is true, then SPD has deep, systemic problems. No one is more evaluated and gets more feedback than an urban patrol officer. If she was facially incompetent, she should not have made her probation. That's a serious training and HR problem. Accepting everything you say about her ability, for sake of argument, (and I know you are not arguing otherwise)it does not vaguely justify a trade defamation by a municipality.

Whether that was a race-based error or just horrible judgment substituting for good police evaluation and discipline, it does not dilute my point about one settled or successful Human Rights claim makes the next one more credible.

I'm not taking issue with any of your inside information, simply saying the City created a no win situation for itself by creating the Frazier predicate.

No matter how the Davis case comes out the ongoing impact on community policing in your considerable minority community will be long-lasting and probably profound.

Maybe it shouldn't be so, but count on it. Good policemen will have a harder job because of these events.

Anonymous said...

umrblog,

You are quite correct that the City created it's own problems with Fraizer and they paid dearly for it. However, none of their transgressions against her were because of her skin color. Which is what Davis' claim is.

The City has done nothing wrong in the Davis case and has no reason to settle or give-in in any manner to his baseless claims.

I understand your point in regard to how the common man (ie: idiot) would feel about the Davis case by reading the SJ-R. However, I expect more from those who portray theirselves (and have their own blogs) as intelligent. You can do better.

As far as Fraizer making through probation; that was a product of the overwhelming pressure from the media and minority groups to boost minority numbers within the SPD. Once again, the City bent it's rules to get her on the PD, finally recognized the problem, then got rid of her. Their only mistake was not going public with all the information they had in one particular instance (the rape case). In case you haven't noticed white police officers have been fired after making probation. The training and evaluation system is not perfect.

Good thing juries don't feel the way you do in regard to past transgressions. If the Davis case is tried on it's own merit it should be laughed out of court.

UMRBlog said...

MB,

I've been involved in community policing and opening channels with minorities for about 20 years. I'm sorry if you think I can "do better".

What I said was "Maybe it shouldn't be so, but count on it. Good policemen will have a harder job because of these events." Do you disagree with that?

I'm accepting all your premises and making that conclusion. Screw guilt or innocence for now. These combined events will make good SPD officers' jobs harder. I'm surprised we can't agree on that. The History of Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and even Decatur pretty much show how difficult it is for a PD to community-police when the community feels it doesn't have it's own diversity act together (rightly or wrongly, I might add.). I don't think we're as far apart as you think.

You might also find my yesterday's blog entry useful.

Anonymous said...

urmblog,

I don't disagree too much with your last post but let me throw this out to you. Do you or anyone else really think that the relationship between the SPD and the minority community of Springfield will change significantly in say the next 20-50 years? I don't. And I don't think the relationship is that much different than any other mid to large city in the U.S.

Someday I hope we will see a full understanding from the various minority communities that the majority really aren't as bad or oppressive as they have been originally portrayed. The delusion of "racial profiling" is a classic example. If I was a law enforcement officer and saw a black man in casual attire driving a Honda Accord at 9:30 p.m. I wouldn't think twice as to if he is a criminal or an upstanding citizen. He simply would not be on my radar screen. Counter that with a black man dressed in "thug wear" driving a 94 Caprice at 3:45 a.m. then I might want to take a closer look at that cat and see what he is all about. If that is racial profiling then every good cop in the U.S. is guilty.

How does this relate to what we are talking about? Until that final "moment of clarity" in the minority communities comes to pass, their relationship with the police will be strained. What one side sees as necessary to their existence the other sees as oppression or interference. Example; Minority leaders chose to believe the raw numbers in the recently released state-wide racial profiling data while police departments chose to believe the data after it has been explained by statisticians. The minority community in large has had the belief instilled in them from birth to death that they are being screwed by the majority. It will take decades if not centuries to reverse the damage. Will it help to reverse the damage by giving into them every time one of them feels even the littlest bit slighted in their workplace? Or will it help more to expose frauds like Davis and Meek? I understand that the recent dramas being played up by the SJ-R will make SPD officers' jobs harder. But what I am saying is that their jobs are already hard and their relationship with the minority community will not change much without drastic change in who the minorities choose to be their leaders or mouthpieces. Giving into to Davis coupled with hiring enough minorities to make the SPD 100% black will be spit in the ocean towards changing minorities' negative view of any majority establishment. What it will take in my view is honesty by all with an emphasis on common sense.

UMRBlog said...

Anon 821 and MB,

Experience in Chicago and Houston does suggest that when the Police Department had better internal race relations, the community (excluding knucklehaids and sociopaths) did respond better to community policing. At may be at the margins, but isn't that how all race relations in our country are improved.

I've gone back and looked at my posts here and I don't think I suggested settlement. A city has to draw a line in the sand somewhere. All I'm saying is that is a more dicey line in the sand because of the Frazier predicate--which (accepting what MB says) should have been handled through the field training and evaluation process of the dept.

A pity, in short. I suspect MB and I could have some great conversations over beverages.