Fraternal Greetings, Brothers & Sisters
As we approach the end of another year, I wish to take this opportunity to wish each of you, your families, and supporters of the Grand Council a fun filled, joyous holiday season and a prosperous and healthy new year for you and your family.
During the past year, the Grand Council has been working on a new vision and strategy to embolden the power and expertise that exists within its Chapters. We are looking forward to attracting the skills of our membership to push each organization forward, mainly focusing on increasing membership, implementing a public relations committee, increased social media presence, and community involvement, while streamlining organizational processes.
Our goal for the coming year is to meet with each member organization to brainstorm and ascertain the best way to assist your individual organizational needs to ensure progress, commitment, and engagement. We are a Council that must work together for the future success of our respective organizations.
Your vision and leadership are invaluable. Thank you for leading your organizations over the past year.
Please purchase your Grand Council Polos and tee-shirts at the link below. All proceeds are used for our yearly Scholarships.
Building Consciousness in Racial Truth and Reconciliation
Building Consciousness in Racial Truth and Reconciliation: SFJ’s Conscious Law Enforcement and Inclusive Practices
The topic of today is Building Consciousness in Racial Truth and Reconciliation!
Today’s symposium is uniquely designed to bring law enforcement, academic professionals, trauma experts, and social justice advocates together for a meaningful conversation, and to inspire change. This session is about what to do when you are stopped by the police, as presented by Charles Billups and John Nedd. Participants of this session will gain awareness and understanding of how racial generational trauma creates barriers and prevents healing. Participants will also learn about strategies to build paths toward racial healing.
Charles Billups has held the position of Chairperson of The Grand Council of Guardians (The Council) for the last 26 years. The Grand Council of Guardians Inc. was formed in 1974 as an umbrella organization that consists of six African Americans fraternal organizations in the field of law enforcement, uniforms, and civilians throughout New York City. Through Mr. Billups’ leadership, The Council became a tremendous source of support and a strong voice for bridging the gap between Black law enforcement and the African American and Latino communities by reinforcing our community base ties. Examples of these efforts include doing community outreach during the holidays, supporting gun legislation that takes guns out of our communities, working on legislation that made New York police agencies accountable for questionable shootings, and holding press conferences about the injustices in the African American communities.
John Nedd is the President and CEO of John Wesley Consulting, LLC, a branding firm that consults on Personal and Private, as well as Infrastructure Protection, Public Safety, and Emergency Management. His extensive career includes being a member of the Nassau County Police Department. John is also a Political Advocate for causes that revolves around members of the Minority Communities in terms of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and he is also a member of the Grand Council of Guardians. As a member of The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. John is devoted to his work full-time with over Twenty-Seven years as a law enforcement officer, with Local, State, and Federal Affiliations.
In 1994, John Coy and Charles Billups were members of the National Black Police Association of Detroit. At that time, Detroit was experiencing an excessive amount of police brutality, not only within the police department but in its communities as well. Mr. Coy decided to create a means of identifying police brutality and misconduct amongst council members, police officers, and their partners as well as coworkers. They achieved this by developing a pamphlet outlining the behavior taking place among the officers and how these problems could be resolved. Mr. Billups returned to New York and modified the pamphlet in order to help resolve problems within the New York police department, hoping to improve their interactions with their community members.
The pamphlet was designed to enhance awareness, improve the quality of life, and bring an end to police brutality within the African American community. Flyers containing the information as to how one would handle themselves when stopped by an officer were distributed throughout schools and community events. There were instructions on how and when to report incidents you witnessed to the proper authorities, notify families, contact an attorney, and/or how and when to get a community organization involved regarding victims of police brutality. Key issues discussed in this pamphlet were:
How to remain as calm and respectful as possible when interacting with a law enforcement officer.
What steps to follow when you are stopped and frisked.
Citizens’ rights when they are being stopped or detained.
The New York Police Department is known for its “Collars for Dollars” system sometimes referred to as the “Quota system” where officers are encouraged to harass, write summonses or falsely arrest Black and Hispanic men. White, Asian, and Jewish people were considered “soft targets” and were not to be harassed or cuffed. Officers who refused to follow the rules were harassed and threatened by their supervisors and officers who followed the “quota system” were awarded promotions and additional overtime, etc.
Unfortunately, these pamphlets created some pushback among their law enforcement colleagues when it was discovered they were being distributed within certain communities at certain times of the month. For example, on average each officer was expected to have at least thirty (30) summonses and one (1) arrest by the end of each month. Mr. Coy and Mr. Billups’ colleagues felt their program was interfering with the department’s way of running things, (i.e., falsely arresting citizens of color, etc). Community members were being educated as to how the legal system worked and how to interact with police officers in order to avoid confrontations.
As part of the truth and reconciliation, there were additional issues discussed such as reform and the racially biased recruiting methods used in the police department’s hiring process. Applicants of African descent, African Americans, and Hispanics were constantly being eliminated based on issues such as medical and psychological screenings. Racial disparities such as these are part of a systemic racist culture and are the reason young people of color have no interest in law enforcement. Reform, on the other hand, will call for numerous policy changes along with a younger more diverse-thinking generation familiar with the needs of their communities. Fortunately, younger officers with fresh ideas are moving into the higher-ranked positions within the police department and hopefully will make themselves a visible presence in their communities.
Each panelist was sent the following points that we were asking them to address during this forum.
Participants will gain awareness and understanding of how racial generational trauma creates barriers and prevents healing.
Participants will learn about strategies to build a path toward racial healing.
Op-ed | Time for NYPD to have a reckoning over equality within the ranks
Op-ed | Time for NYPD to have a reckoning over equality within the ranks
BY DERBY ST. FORT AND ERIC ADAMS
The recent revelations that a high ranking member of NYPD’s Equal Employment Opportunity Division (EEOD) was accused of posting racist, anti-muslim, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic comments on a secret NYPD message board using the pseudonym “Clouseau” was a shock to people inside and outside the department.
It stood in stark contrast to the NYPD’s consistent attempts to repair trust and improve relationships with the city’s Black and Brown communities.
For many officers of color, this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests put them physically on the side of the NYPD barricades but emotionally on the side of the mothers, fathers and children who took to the streets demanding better of those who take an oath to protect and serve their communities.
Black men and women who join the force often grow up in the very same communities where policing is the most aggressive. They join with an aspirational notion of what policing could become in their communities, and with insights born from experience that other officers don’t have. This summer’s protests reminded many of the gap between what the department is, and what it should be.
The unmasking of “Clouseau” set us back, not only in the relationship between the NYPD and the community but within the department itself. The NYPD is one of the most diverse police departments in the country, with over 50 percent of its members being non-white. It should come as no surprise that members of the NYPD experience racism and sexism, just like the citizens they protect.
We are at a time of reckoning. In the wake of the summer protests and the pall of COVID-19 which has made many communities feel trapped, helpless and unheard, the NYPD’s Black and Brown officers represent a vital resource for the department’s future. Their efforts to offer ideas for meaningful structural change should be welcomed.
Instead, they know that speaking out often leads to retaliation in the form of unfavored assignments, internal affairs monitoring and department discipline. For our best and brightest, they are often put on the “Black Track,” promotions that raise our rank but move us farther away from where the most important decisions are made.
The EEOD was supposed to prevent this from happening. The NYPD leadership must recognize that low morale among the rank and file stems partly from an increasingly diverse police force who are ready to effect positive change, but wonder how much longer they can go unheard themselves. Their perspective and experience can help the department modernize and evolve.
Our leadership has some soul searching to do if they are going to create a 21st century policing model that achieves equilibrium between the communities we protect and the diverse force of guardians that have been assigned to protect them.
To begin with, we need to reckon with the culture of a department that would allow someone who uses vile and derogatory language to be put in charge of the EEOD, and receive a discretionary promotion in 2020.
It’s time to re-imagine the NYPD’s EEOD with true leaders at the helm who have demonstrated a commitment to a cohesive, inclusive and equitable workplace.
Additionally, the office should strengthen its mandate to protect members of the department by developing protocols and protection clauses for officers to speak publicly and privately without fear of reprisal when addressing the systemic harms that plague communities of color in NYC.
We also must deepen accountability by elevating the case review process, ensuring that all complaints are fairly handled. Lastly, the EEOD, in partnership with an outside agency, should evaluate and audit the discretionary promotions and assignments of members of the department and create a new promotion matrix to ensure that they are fair and suited to the needs of the communities they serve.
The strongest signal to the community that the NYPD is serious about healing fractured relations is how they respond and pivot in this moment, confronting not only this incident but the power structure that allowed this to happen. A 21st century policing model starts by addressing the internal issues within the department.
Ultimately, ensuring EEOD lives up to its mandate will boost morale, as officers move towards greater connections with our communities.
Derby St. Fort is an active ranking member of the NYPD; Eric Adams is Brooklyn borough president.
George Floyd death: What US police officers think of protests
George Floyd death: What US police officers think of protests
When massive protests against police brutality broke out across the US in May 2020, Charles Billups was not at all surprised.
A black policeman in New York for decades before his retirement, the former officer, 60, tells the BBC: “It’s the chickens coming home to roost”.
“This is something that’s been mustering for a while,” says Mr Billups.
Not for the first time has anger against law enforcement in America spilt out into demands for change – national attempts to reform the country’s patchwork of nearly 18,000 police departments have periodically cropped up since the early 20th Century.
But outrage over a spate of deaths of black Americans at the hands of police, especially the death of George Floyd, a former club bouncer asphyxiated during an arrest, has spurred a clear bout of soul-searching within police departments themselves.
Officers are divided over if and how reforms should come about.
For Mr Billups, now chairman of the Grand Council of Guardians, an organisation for African-American law enforcement officers in New York state, the problems lie at the top.
A policy of tough policing put forward in the 1980s, the so-called “broken windows” theory, has long been destructive for relations between minorities and law enforcement, Mr Billups says.
Only recently have authorities begun to step away from more draconian principles, but Mr Billups thinks that a belief in the efficacy of tough tactics persists among the mostly white, and long-entrenched, leadership of many police departments.
“The head is the thinker. The body’s going to conform to the head. If the head is not healthy, the body’s not going to gain weight.
“You gotta change the top,” says Mr Billups. “It’s a large number of [people who believe in] old-school policing that’s still running a lot of these agencies, and the old-school way of thinking just doesn’t work no more.”
Black officers have always known and felt differently, says Terence Hopkins of the Dallas police department.
“We happen to be African-American people before we were law enforcement,” he says, “so that gives us a different view as opposed to our white counterparts.”
Surveys bear this out. A 2016 poll of nearly 8,000 US police oficers by the Pew Research think tank found that 69% of black officers believed that the country needed to “continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites”, compared to just 6% of white officers.
The survey, taken in the aftermath of another spate of fatal encounters between police and African-Americans, found that a majority of white and Latino officers believed such events were isolated incidents.
By contrast, 57% of black officers said they were signs of a broader problem with policing.
Polls of police in the wake of the recent fatal encounters have yet to emerge, but anecdotally, more officers today seem to agree that the problem goes beyond individuals and needs a systematic approach.
White as well as black officers have supported the protests and have publicly called for reforms.
Change v status quo
“What’s happening now is a movement for police reform in our country,” says Mr Hopkins, who has been a police officer for 30 years.
Some of the ideas that have become popular in the larger cultural conversation, such as diverting money and duties to fund mental health and social work, he agrees with wholeheartedly, he says.
More must be done to recruit minority officers. In Dallas, there is a conscious policy to make the force reflect the demographics of the city it serves.
But Mr Hopkins says he also understands why there is resistance to change.
“You tend to be protective of your industry. When individuals say, ‘you’re doing something wrong,’ we tend to go the other direction, or not admit our fault in it.”
Mr Billups agrees that “it’s a big split. You have one faction that’s saying there’s a need for change, and then you have another faction in these departments that want to keep it as status quo.”
Some officers have expressed anger over the backlash on policing and calls to defund or disband departments (though these are not always calls to abolish police, as some have taken them to mean).
A viral video circulated in recent weeks of members of the New York Benevolent Association, seen as a traditionally more conservative union for rank-and-file officers, venting at perceived mistreatment of police amid the protests.
“Stop treating us like ‘animals’ and ‘thugs’,” Mike O’Meara, head of the union, tells reporters. “I am not Derek Chauvin. They are not him,” he said referring to the police officer who killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Everybody’s trying to shame us. The legislators. The press. Everybody’s trying to shame us into being embarrassed of our profession,” he says. “We’ve been left out of the conversation. We’ve been vilified. It’s disgusting.”
On Facebook, Blue Lives Matter – a counter group to Black Lives Matter that advocates for police interest – has over 2.2m endorsers.
Supporters say police deserve sympathy for doing a difficult job, and that “radical” proposals to disband departments would lead to anarchy and lawlessness.
Indeed, such reforms can have mixed results. Camden, a working-class town in New Jersey, has been hailed as a model for success after disbanding its troubled police force in 2013, redirecting energies to neighbourhood patrolling.
However, in Vallejo, California, outside San Francisco, fatal encounters with police rose dramatically in the years after it disbanded force, in 2008.
“It’s just really tough,” says Robert McCormick, a retired police and parole officer. “Everybody wants a simple answer, but there isn’t one.”
There are many complexities even with reforms that sound reasonable, he points out.
For example, getting mental health specialists to deal with issues police are not equipped to deal with – a large chunk of calls Mr McCormick, 72, saw in his decades on the job in the Midwest and Colorado – would seem prudent.
But officers would have no way of knowing when they answer an emergency “911” call that mental illness is the issue at hand.
- Police kill Canadian man during mental health check
- Don’t shoot, I’m disabled – how to stop deaths involving police
With nearly one in three Americans owning a gun, risks for officers can be high.
Rather than reducing funds, Mr McCormick thinks, there should be supplemental funds for training and alternative resources for police.
He thinks protections for police do need to remain in place, such as preserving “qualified immunity” – another concept that has come under pressure amid the recent protests.
The doctrine shields officers from being held personally liable for violating the constitutional rights of people they arrest.
Critics argue that this thwarts attempts to hold officers accountable, but Mr McCormick says it is necessary to protect police who are trying to do their jobs. “It says you can’t sue me just for arresting you, just for doing my job,” he says.
“[The police] are being attacked,” he says. “But [on the other hand], it’s so damned hard to get rid of a cop who’s bad or not doing his job… it’s pretty damn near impossible to convict a cop. That’s ridiculous.”
Ultimately, it will be changes that take place within departments themselves that affect long-term results, thinks the Grand Council’s Mr Billups.
“The key thing now is that there’s changes in the department,” he says. “You’re talking about officers who are black or Latino. They go back to those same neighbourhoods where they’re policing. [So] a lot of the young black officers see it a different way.”
But more importantly, he says, it is that police departments as a whole need to “learn a new language” to evaluate the purpose and priorities of the job. “Departments need to evolve to the 21st Century”.
Cops Need a New Code
Jeremiah Johnson serves as a police sergeant in Connecticut and holds an appointment as a Practitioner in Residence at the University of New Haven
It took several days before I could bring myself to watch George Floyd’s life agonisingly extinguished beneath the unyielding knee of a Minneapolis police officer. As a sworn police officer, I believe it is my duty to watch and not look away; George Floyd’s humanity demands it.
His unconscionable death laid bare the deficiencies of American policing, a reality which resonated with cities and communities across the nation. Viral images and video clips documenting protests against racism and brutality have done little to disconfirm that the police are racist and brutal. Calls to re-imagine, defund, or even abolish the institution of policing are amplified through these encounters.
A friend from my undergraduate days recently lamented on Facebook that she did not know how to explain the police to her children. Rhetorical or not, I inquired whether she meant “police as they are” or “police as they should be?”
Policing is a social institution with an uncertain mandate and mismatched expectations invariably leads to conflict. Reductionist phrases such as “to serve and protect” are of little help as they are ambiguous and easily co-opted.
The field of policing desperately needs to do some soul-searching and reconsider what it stands for professionally. Rewriting its code of ethics is a good place to start.
The current Law Enforcement Code of Ethics is a product of the mid-20th Century’s professional era of policing. It was formally adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1957.
The document is more than symbolic; many police organisations (including the Minneapolis Police Department) have incorporated the Code of Ethics into their policy manuals and oath of office ceremonies. Police reform often takes place in a patchwork fashion.
Changing the Code of Ethics would be unprecedented and wide-reaching. To draft a new Code of Ethics worthy of a democratic society, policing should turn to Hippocrates.
Medicine’s Hippocratic Oath is commonly summarised as “do no harm”.
It is the physician’s job to examine the patient, diagnose the medical condition underlying presenting symptoms, and prescribe an effective course of treatment. A doctor who only attends to visible symptoms, provides ineffective medicine, or treats in a manner that is ultimately harmful has failed the patient.
By these standards, American policing may be guilty of malpractice.
A police code of ethics designed around the Hippocratic Oath should incorporate four key themes that are noticeably absent from the present document: evidence-based policing; crime prevention; professional identity; and the sanctity of life.;
In the decades following the code’s inception, a vast body of scientific evidence has emerged regarding what works in policing and, perhaps more importantly, what does not.
This is not an abstract intellectual issue since police interventions directly impact the lives of community members. Ignoring the evidence base in favour of tradition or personal opinion is more than irresponsible; unscientific policing is unethical policing.
Second, the Code of Ethics is a product of the crime-control era and is singularly focused on enforcement. The desire to apprehend is dominant in American policing’s DNA, yet this orientation must give way to crime prevention. It is the absence of crime and disorder that policing should seek to achieve.
Third, the Code of Ethics must repudiate the ideology of the “thin blue line”. It must clearly establish that police are first and foremost members of the community, not some separate caste standing in the gap between good and evil.
Finally, the Code of Ethics rightly speaks to protecting the weak and innocent while opposing unnecessary force and violence. This does not go far enough.
Policing must fundamentally acknowledge the sanctity of life and a duty to protect every person, even individuals who have placed themselves or others in jeopardy. If police must use force, they have an ethical duty to transition and render aid to prevent the loss of life.
As George Floyd lay dying, one of the bystanders in the crowd tried to reason with the officers declaring, “Bro, he’s human.” The appeal fell on deaf ears.
Hippocrates viewed the art of medicine as something fundamentally connected with the love of humanity. The very fabric of American policing must change before the same can be said about law enforcement. It’s time for a new code.
Breonna was one of us
‘Breonna was one of us’: Diverse group of FDNY firefighters, city officials show support for George Floyd protests, call for an end to systemic racism in all city agencies
By CATHERINA GIOINO and CLAYTON GUSE
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
JUN 07, 2020 | 7:39 PM
A coalition of FDNY fraternal organizations, elected officials and representatives from regional black firefighter organizations gathered in Brooklyn on Sunday to show their support for the George Floyd protest movement that has swept the country — and to remind city leaders that systemic racism isn’t just a problem for police departments.
The event was held against the backdrop of a week of protests against police brutality, part of a Black Lives Matter social justice movement that gained new urgency after the May 25 death of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man from Minneapolis killed by a white cop.
Dozens of firefighters from the Vulcan Society, the FDNY’s association of black Bravest, lined up behind the speakers as Regina Wilson, one of the department’s few women firefighters, announced that Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro had given permission for the active-duty smoke eaters to don their helmets for the demonstration.
Gary Tinney, northeast regional director for the International Association of Professional Black Firefighters, said his organization was donating $1,000 to the Black Lives Matter movement in Floyd’s name.
“Over the past 50 years, black men and women firefighters and paramedics have endured and fought against institutionalized government systems that perpetrate racism, discrimination, harassment, hostile work environments, or retaliation in fire departments throughout this country,” said Tinney. “Our work continues.”
The group also memorialized the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who in February was shot and killed in Georgia while jogging through a predominately white neighborhood; Breonna Taylor, a black EMT from Louisville, Kentucky, who in March was shot and killed by police in her own home; and countless other victims of racial injustice.
“The deaths of Breonna, Ahmaud and George feel so close to home for most of us, because we see ourselves in them. Breonna was one of us. Every day she made a conscious decision to put her life on the line for other people,” said Khalid Baylor, president of the 80-year-old Vulcan Society.
The Vulcans launched a landmark disparate treatment and discrimination lawsuit against the FDNY in 2007 and won after a bitter legal battle. As part of a court-ordered overhaul of its hiring practices, the FDNY had to change parts of its written exam and also upgrade its background and vetting practices. The city was also forced to pay $99 million to roughly 300 black and Latino applicants who were wrongfully denied employment in the past.
While the number of black and brown firefighters has climbed since the lawsuit, the FDNY remains one of the least diverse agencies in the city, noted Wilson.
“The Fire Department in New York is 70% white, and it’s 8% African-Americans and 1% women, despite the fact that whites make up less than half of the city’s population,” said Wilson, a former Vulcan president. “So we want everyone to know that we have these systemic problems here, and if there’s going to be true reform in the city it has to happen everywhere.”
The Vulcans were joined by the FDNY’s Hispanic Association and also the Pheonix Society, an association of firefighters of Asian heritage, as well as Councilman Daneek Miller (D-Queens) and Charles Billups of the Grand Council of Guardians.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, himself a former cop, said the Vulcan’s struggle for justice was emblematic of a larger problem within the civil service system.
Black Law Enforcement Officers Speak Out on the Death of George Floyd
DENOUCING THE RACIST REMARKS OF CORRECTION DERRICK LASCKO
'Embrace the change': Some Black officers sidestep unions to support police reform
‘Embrace the change’: Some Black officers sidestep unions to support police reform
After the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and other recent cases of fatal police encounters, the public clamor for changing the culture of policing is running up against powerful opposition in the form of police union leadership.
But in cities like St. Louis, Miami and New York, some of the calls for significant reform are coming from another place: within police departments themselves, among smaller pockets of officers who don’t necessarily feel heard by their police unions or the department brass, which are largely white.
While these mostly Black police officers’ organizations aren’t as big and so don’t wield the same influence as unions and fraternal orders with bargaining power and political pull, they do exist in dozens of communities and often share the same views as the residents they serve on issues of racial discrimination, inequality and overaggressive policing.
“This is a new era in America, and we have to embrace the change,” said Charles Billups, president of the Grand Council of Guardians, a Black law enforcement association in New York whose membership includes about 3,000 New York Police Department officers. “If you keep recycling those same people in leadership positions, you’ll never get real change. We have to get out of the past and move into the future.”
But that can prove to be difficult in places like Chicago, where John Catanzara, the newly elected president of the police union, the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, said last week that any officer in uniform seen kneeling alongside protesters would be subject to discipline, and in Minneapolis, where union boss Lt. Bob Kroll has defied demonstrators’ calls to resign over his divisive comments about the Floyd case.
While Billups said he doesn’t support efforts to completely abolish the law enforcement structure, he said the need for addressing racial injustice within policing and the militarization of policing in communities of color are issues that can no longer be ignored.
Until police departments more accurately reflect their communities and, in turn, union leadership represents the diversity of a department, Billups added, legislation that seeks to revamp police procedures will continue to be impeded by an “old guard.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed police reform bills that include banning the use of chokeholds and repeal of a law that has kept police disciplinary records secret for decades — legislation that had for years failed to budge under heavy pressure and strong tough-on-crime rhetoric from law enforcement lobbyists.
As mighty as police unions present themselves, they have historically veered away from the larger organized labor movement, which has been outspoken in recent years in support of investigations into fatal police shootings. The Fraternal Order of Police, the largest police union in the United States, for example, is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
In a statement Monday, the national FOP said it is optimistic about police reform efforts under President Donald Trump and the Senate GOP and has provided feedback to the House’s bill, which would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases.
“In our view, President Trump and Congressional leaders are working constructively with law enforcement and community stakeholders to undertake earnest law enforcement reforms that will make our officers and the public they protect safer,” the organization said.
The death of Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police has been a major catalyst for reform. A Black officers’ organization in Miami renewed its complaints about racism within the department and highlighted incendiary remarks by a former police chief in the 1960s — “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” — that were echoed by Trump in recent weeks.
“We’re talking about Black men dying. We’re talking about systemic racism in police work,” Ramon Carr, the vice president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, which has 300 members and represents about 60 sworn officers, said Friday.
The association has clashed with Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, a 30-year veteran of Florida’s largest municipal police department, and on Friday demanded he resign after he confirmed using racist language in 1997 during what he said was a training class.
“We believe Chief Colina harbors implicit biases and it reflects today on the department,” Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix, the association’s president, said. “Whenever we talk to him about our issues, he’s tone deaf.”
But Colina on Friday defended himself in a video, admitting to using “offensive” words, but as a teaching moment. According to internal documents shared by the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, Colina had used a racial epithet to describe Overtown, a historically Black neighborhood of Miami.
“In 1997, I was an undercover police officer … and I was teaching a class,” Colina said. “I started the class by saying that I was going to be using language that could be very offensive. And that was the point. When you’re working undercover, you may have to act and say things you may not normally say otherwise, whether they make you uncomfortable or not. And then I gave many examples of what they could be.”
Colina added that the police chief at the time did raise concerns to him about some of the language he used and he was issued a reprimand.
“Not because I’m a bigot or racist, but because they weren’t happy with some of the language I used,” Colina said.
He also touted the increased number of Black employees now working for the department during his tenure, and accused a “group of individuals” of using Floyd’s death for “self-severing purposes” to push their own agenda.
But members of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association said they would continue calling on city commissioners to dismiss Colina, saying they believe he has neglected to act sufficiently against officers known to have a pattern of racist complaints against them.
The demands for reform from within are playing out differently in other cities where the racial dynamics all depend on who holds power.
St. Louis’ police union, which represents about 1,300 rank-and-file members of the Metropolitan Police Department, has sparred with Police Chief John Hayden, who is Black, over his handling of protests this month related to Floyd’s death.
In a letter to Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association said that officers had lost confidence in Hayden for failing to squelch unrest, and that the state should deploy the highway patrol and the National Guard. Among the violence that roiled the city was the shooting of four police officers and the killing of David Dorn, a retired St. Louis police captain who was shot while responding to looting at a friend’s pawn shop.
But in a retort to the union, Hayden took a swipe at union business manager Jeffrey Roorda, saying in a tweet that Roorda “feels a need to thrive on crisis, attempts to invoke panic, and is accustomed to an environment wherein he can control the Chief of Police. A person who is as controversial and divisive as he is, through his words and actions, has no seat at my table, and I am not alone in this sentiment.”
Roorda did not immediately return a request for comment about how the union views calls for police reform.
Roorda, who is white, has been an outspoken proponent of officers’ rights and incited a controversy last year when he posted on Facebook “Happy Alive Day” to Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson, Missouri, police officer on the fifth anniversary of the day Wilson, who is white, fatally shot Michael Brown, a black teenager.
Roorda has also been at odds with Kim Gardner, the city’s first black chief prosecutor, who earlier this year grabbed headlines for suing the city, the police union and others for what she called a “racially motivated conspiracy” to prevent her from doing her job. Roorda has dismissed Gardner’s claims, saying that she wants to “persecute cops instead of prosecuting criminals.”
Hayden has found some support from the city’s mostly Black police organization, the Ethical Society of Police, which is not a traditional union like the Police Officers’ Association but does offer legal representation for its roughly 315 members.
Homicide Sgt. Heather Taylor, the society’s president and a 20-year St. Louis police veteran, said the Police Officers’ Association should be expected to defend officers in the face of disciplinary action or accusations of wrongdoing, but she believes that white officers, who make up about 65 percent of the department, are given preferential treatment over Black officers. The number of Black officers, she added, has fallen in recent years, from 36 percent to 30 percent of the department.
“The POA has never filed a lawsuit about discrimination when we know there’s systemic racism,” Taylor said. “If representation hasn’t been equal for all officers along racial lines, what do you think it’s going to be like for the community that encounters these bad officers?”
The Ethical Society of Police is supportive of legislation introduced last week by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to reform use-of-force policies, although Taylor said city leaders for years have lacked the conviction to act, particularly after the fatal police shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a Black man, in 2011 and the violent unrest that followed in 2017 after the white officer who killed him was acquitted of murder.
Marcia McCormick, a law professor at St. Louis University who has researched the police union’s role in the city, said St. Louis has a long, complicated history of people holding on to power to the benefit of their social circles — and to the detriment of Black citizens who have historically endured the effects of segregation and higher arrest rates.
Until change comes to these institutions, sweeping police reform will likely remain out of reach, McCormick added.
“That’s the challenge,” she said, “is that it doesn’t happen.”
The Grand Council of Guardians Inc. was formed in 1974 as an umbrella organization for local Law Enforcement chapters throughout New York State and to render effective service to the Community, to eliminate injustice, to actively promote accelerated entry of African Americans into law enforcement, to maintain the high standards of integrity, honor and courtesy of its members; to foster a spirit of brotherhood, benevolence, temperance and patriotism amongst them; to inculcate in them a high sense of loyalty to one another and to their duties and their government; and to accomplish this end, to conduct programs, conferences, gatherings and meetings for our members and the community we serve.
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