Baltimore government must be accountable to the people of Baltimore, not the rich!

The time is now to act for change. The wealthy persist in owning government and most of us citizens are unaware of how this results in continued hyper-segregation and race and class inequities. Locally we have a billionaire (Kevin Plank of Sagamore LLC) asking the city, state, and federal government to subsidize and guarantee his wealth-building campaign that would continue to segregate our city- a development aimed at constructing 14,000 housing units and amenities for those making more than $100,000 per year, Port Covington. Nationally we see this trend in private ownership of government (neoliberalism) in the form of Republican’s nomination of Donald Trump for presidency of the United States of America. The behavior of both these career capitalists relies on government to support their asset-accumulating trajectory in development. And “we the people” vote for who will be the “government” choosing to subsidize the wealthy. So when government fails to be accountable to the people of the city we have no recourse but to challenge it. It’s important that we recognize that in ignoring our responsibility in monitoring government spending we are nodding our heads in the way they currently spend our tax dollars. I suppose if we are okay with such corporate-welfare activities, then we can vote for Trump and let our city government pay for the infrastructure that would allow Sagamore LLC to gain more wealth. We have a say in all this if we decide we want to change business as usual.
Table. GovtsubsidyBaltimoreTable.footer

Sagamore’s request for government funding toward the development of Port Covington will be before the sub-committee this week. Councilman Carl Stokes will Chair a hearing on City Council Ordinance #16-0669 – the Port Covington Development District on Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 5 p.m. The televised hearing will be held in the War Memorial Assembly Hall 1 st floor, 101 N. Gay Street (Lexington Street Entrance). Come ask our city government to explain why continuing to fund segregated developments is a more equitable and sustainable path? How is this type of government subsidy for higher income, professional class, and majority white people in 2016 in a geographic region (redlining) any different from the FHA and VA loans to white people in the 1950s (redlining)? Show them the data and then ask how doing the same thing again and again will result in a different outcome. Ask them how these subsidies might be used to assure affordable housing is built and assure integration and not continued segregation, Ask them to do a racial, social, health, and environmental impact assessment/analysis before they vote on any amount of subsidies for this and any other development in our city.

On Tuesday July 26 join advocates at Red Emma’s to discuss strategies for the July 27 hearing and actions leading up to the city council vote, and after.

Contact your city council representative and president (Bernard Jack Young) to request that the date for the full council vote be delayed until the public is sufficiently knowledgeable about how government subsidies are being used for a hyper-segregated development. There should be a clear agreement on local hiring, living-wage compensation, small business entrepreneurship and micro-loans for small businesses, affordable housing (rental and ownership) and a range of amenities affordable to all. If our public dollars are subsidizing a private project then the public must advise and monitor the private project. Past development projects heavily subsidized by the government, such as the current Johns Hopkins/EBDI/Casey/Forest City in East Baltimore, promised affordable housing and local hiring. Fifteen years later neither city or state representatives of the area will respond to questions about the outcomes of these promises. Neither EBDI or the Annie E. Casey Foundation will respond to such questions. None of these parties who negotiated the development terms will assess the benefit to Hopkins and its powerful partners and the benefit to local residents. After development agreements are voted on by the government, in Baltimore city, there is no recourse to assure accountability and transparency of promised outcomes. Previously set for August 28 the city council meeting to vote on TIFs for Port Covington was moved up to August 8. Question: “why the rush”?

” My role has been to ask architects to use their skills to bring equity into society.”

While Dr. Mindy Fullilove is well known for her role in research on urban redevelopment and serial forced displacement and its public health impact, not many know of her role in the world of architecture. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Fullilove about her honorary membership award from the American Institute of Architecture (AIA). The question of “what does a social psychiatrist have to do with architecture” was on my mind at the award ceremony at the 2016 AIA convention in Philadelphia.

Mindy Fullilove: I was elected to AIA as a public director because of my research/publications and interest in public health and equity and society. After 3 years on the board I was nominated to be an honarary AIA. My role has been to ask architects to use their skills to bring equity into society.

Marisela B Gomez: Why are architects important for equitable and sustainable development?

MF: They are important because inequity has been designed into cities due to segregation and redlining. So everything is involved, infrastructure, landscape, land use …all involved in how people are knit together. Architects have skills in analyzing systems, thinking through how to solve spatial problems, are profoundly committed to ecology.

MBG: Why is ecology important for changing inequity?

MF: With inequity it’s impossible to create sustainability which is urgent. Inequity has organized the social landscape, implicates everything, all the systems. If we don’t understand how the ecosystems work, we make plans that undermine the functioning of the whole system.

MBG: Share with me how Redlining and segregation affected how people interacted with their environment, with the places they lived. And the role of architects in this

MF: Redlining is a policy instituted by the US government in the 1930s. It used race, racial exclusion clauses, and income to stratify neighborhoods then suggested that banks invest in the “best” places, and avoid the “worst” places. People acted in the same ways, and with the same assumptions about good and bad. This has meant that our environment has developed unevenly – some places have had the money and the “good” reputation to prosper, while others have suffered from lack of investment and the imposition of a “bad” reputation. We can walk around any American city and see this pattern. Architects have “participated” by not fighting this system and the inequity it creates. Civil rights leader Whitney Young told the AIA that they were “irrelevant” – and that remains all too true today.

MBG: As you move around the country talking about your books “Root Shock” and “Urban Alchemy” are you seeing any changes in the understanding and practice of ecology and development? If so can you share an example?

MF: My books challenge the ideas that places are interchangeable and disposable. The biggest impact this had had is to make people look at what they have and try to make it better. One of the people I interviewed for my book Root Shock is writing a forward for the second edition. He said that naming what had happened to him helped him to move forward emotionally and helped the neighborhood of the Hill District to fight to stay.

MBG: I noticed how many white people and men are present in this award ceremony. Besides you, there were two other persons who appeared to be black recipients, amongst the more than 40-individual and 25-firm. In my opinion part of changing the ecology of development toward sustainability will require including the people who bring a different experience-racially, class, etc- into the process. In your opinion is this important?

Award recipients at the AIA 2016 Conference.

Black Award recipients at the AIA 2016 Conference.(Left to right): Steven Lewis, http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2016/whitney-young/r-steven-lewis/, Dr. Mindy Fullilove,http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2016/honorary-membership/m-fullilove/, Denise Everson, http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2016/associates/everson/

MF: It’s very important to have many voices at the table. We each have a piece of the puzzle, so we can only solve it if we put our pieces together.

MBG: We just had the first verdict against one of the 6 police officers indicted in the death of Freddie Grey. He was found not guilty of all charges. Could you talk about how laws and policies enacted differently for white and black/brown communities is a legacy/outcome of inequitable community/neighborhood development?

MF: Inequity has been created and intensified by laws and policies, like segregation, redlining, urban renewal, planned shrinkage, deindustrialization, mass incarceration, and gentrification. Each of these policies has disrupted the political capital of minority and poor communities, making it harder for people to fight for equity. Inequity feeds inequity. What is essential for all people to understand is that inequity is a threat to health and to democracy. We are all implicated in the oppression of some.

Port Covington or Port Covet-a-ton

Wow, the drama of exploitation does not seem to end here in Baltimore. This most recent one shows billionaire developer Kevin Plank coveting-a-ton of our tax dollars in the guise of Port Covington. This time it’s 535 (or 660, the directors have not quite settled on a nice round figure yet) million dollars in tax increment financing (TIF) to develop a 7,500-unit housing complex, retail and office space. Wish as it may the city can’t afford to lavish such benefit on Mr. Plank-owner of Under Armour-, whose wealth accumulation is championed by Sagamore Development in this drama. So the state has stepped up to accommodate his continued accumulation of asset, by guaranteeing the bonds on the backs of the people. Oh yes, and exempting him from city law requiring affordable housing. Port Covet-a-ton

Never mind we’re still recovering from the exploitive drama (in laywoman’s term, recent injustice) that occurred in 2013 in and outside of city hall when City Council member Carl Stoke’s Taxation and Finance Committee attempted to stop this coveting-of-a ton by millionaire, Michael Beatty. But the committee’s hearing and decision was usurped by private dollars and government cronies to grant Mr. Beatty subsidies for his Harbor Point Development. This one granted subsidies in the amount of 120 million dollars. Harbor PointIt followed on the heals of Paterakis’s development in Harbor East, also heavily subsidized (with TIFs and PILOTs) by the government. This continued ‘theater of exploitation’ (in layman’s term, neoliberalization- or letting the market determine what’s best for the citizens- of urban spaces) of Baltimore by private developer’s greed for wealth accumulation, whether in the form of universities-Johns Hopkins – or individuals, seems unstoppable. Harbor East

Our destiny?

Many thought this macabre theater would end with the killing of Freddie Gray and the uprising by Baltimore citizens calling for an end to the roots of systemic racism and systematic economic exploitation-uneven development. But the wheels of capitalism, set in motion the development of Baltimore, and didn’t ever decide that black and poor lives matter. So while lip service about acknowledging the history of disinvestment of the poor and wealth accumulation of the rich trended for a moment, the movement from above continued. This is the movement of continued exploitation-carried out by public and private partnerships.

This has been the pattern with development in our city: inequitable and unsustainable. In the 1960s when the the city exempted developer’s of the Charles Center and Inner Harbor from a competitive bidding process amidst black residents protesting their lack of black employees, the justification was that it would serve the public. Charles CenterIn the 1950s the city and state granted subsidies to Johns Hopkins university and hospital for expansion into 59 acres in East Baltimore, displacing more than 1000 mostly black families. It served itself while the surrounding community continued on a road of poverty and neglect.
1960

But large scale uneven development seems to have been put on fast forward starting in 2002 when the Johns Hopkins university and hospital targeted another 88-acres in Middle East Baltimore for a Science and Technology Park. The city, state, and federal government again stepped in to assist this private developer with bonds, subsidies, and grants, using eminent domain to uproot another 700 black families and acquire the land. Like Port Covet-a-ton, Hopkins’ expansion also announced it would benefit the public, with jobs and affordable housing. Fifteen years later, and in light of legislation demanding 1/3 affordable housing (both rental and ownership), no affordable ownership housing has been built. Instead, luxury townhomes for upward of $250,000 will be constructed next and more government subsidy was recently granted for building out a pizza restaurant in the first floor of Johns Hopkins student housing-(you ask, is this theatre or reality?)2016 Hopkins

This may all seem like a really bad mafia movie, one in which greed, wealth, and corruption rules the land in the form of a development gang gone awry (Mad Max gone corporate? comes to mind) and the poor remain hidden in bombed-out spaces, disinvested by the state. Unfortunately it is not a bad drama, or temporary theater of the macabre. It is life in Baltimore.Mad Max

What to do?

Well we voted a couple weeks ago, but for whom? Some changes on the city council and we’ll wait and see if they have any substantial action to support the words that got them into office. It looks like a new democratic mayor will be voted in in the fall, what will she do? In light of the lack of support by the city council for more equal sharing of economic power between the executive and legislative branch, it’s not clear that much will change with this new mayor. It’s like holding tickets for a show that had good and bad reviews: will we be happy with the performances?

We have been waiting on government for too long, even as they continuously neglect the most vulnerable amongst us, in favor of the rich. The surest path seems to be in our own two hands. When we organize and demand change and accountability and transparency to the people, when we protest and have sit-ins, when we “shut things down” we send a message: enough is enough. All that’s good but something is even more near, something we can do to send a strong message to Mr. Plank’s new Port Covet-a-ton deal before the city and state. Each of you advocating for change, send him a polite and personal message: ask him how much wealth is enough; AND stop wearing Under Armour clothing and buying the paraphernalia that sends the message that you support his continued exploitation of our city dollars.That’s right, boycott with your money and insist that the exploitation of the vulnerable and growing gap between the rich and the poor will not happen on our watch. Those of you who are U of Maryland-College Park student/staff/faculty and alumni (Mr. Plank’s alma mater) ask the university why someone who is willing to exploit our state and city would be invited to address graduating students at a commencement ceremony. And do smile as you stand up for justice!
________________

Draft of a letter to Mr. Plank:

Kevin Plank
kevin@underarmour.com
Sagamore Develoment
1000 E. Key Highway
Baltimore, MD 21230

Dear Mr. Plank,

We are happy that your headquarters for Under Armour is in Baltimore. We hope that your assets are sufficient to comfortably take care of your family and friends. In an attempt to prevent continued exploitation of our public assets, we politely request that you reconsider demanding such large tax breaks from our city. As you are aware, such public subsidies exploit the citizens of Baltimore by re-directing the funds that could serve our most vulnerable communities and widens the gap between the rich and the poor. Addressing the legacy of uneven development requires that we reconsider “business as usual” which grants the rich access to continued wealth accumulation while the needs of the less well-off are ignored. Growing the city toward sustainability and equity will assure everyone benefits, not just a few.

Sincerely,

Your Charm City sister/brother

Promise and Disappointment: Baltimore one year after the Uprising

See the original blog at Versobooks here

“All to say, last year’s uprising has created this space for my family to have this conversation. albeit painful, it’s also provided us with the choice to grow from these experiences that go way back beyond the uprising.” Daughter of a storeowner in West Baltimore, April 2016

From a meeting of Baltimore activists during the week of the curfew.

From a meeting of Baltimore activists during the week of the curfew.

It’s been one year since the uprising in Baltimore that followed the arrest, murder, and funeral of Freddie Gray. Mr. Gray died in police custody after a rough arrest and “rough ride”. It’s not the first time a rough ride — in which police leave a handcuffed or footcuffed person deliberately unsecured in the van, resulting in uncontrolled movement and potential injury — has accounted for the injury and death of a black man in Baltimore police custody. Following his arrest on April 12, 2015 and his death on April 19, peaceful protests occurred. After his funeral on April 27, residents of Sandtown-Winchester — Mr. Gray’s community — and others in West Baltimore affected by police brutality rose up in protest. Some protestors became violent, throwing bricks at windows, looting, and setting fire to property. The National Guard was called in, the city was placed under curfew, and tanks rolled around as if it was a war zone.

The tanks in Middle East Baltimore added to existing perceptions about the abandoned and boarded houses and businesses, the trash on the street and in the lots, the desolate look and feel at nighttime: “it’s like Beirut here.” After real estate segregation (both legal and illegal), redlining, deindustrialization, urban renewal, mass incarceration, and gentrification, Middle East Baltimore and other black sections of the city have been subject to disinvestment and left to survive on their own. While nearby universities and private institutions have exploited these same communities with the support of public dollars and public policy.

In the weeks following the night of violence, thousands rallied across the city to protest the legacy of this history. This uprising, and the eyes it focused on the death of yet another black body at the hands of the criminal justice system, brought attention to this long record of segregation and abandonment.

Many have compared it to the 1968 riots that followed Dr. King’s assassination, in which hundreds of businesses across the entire city were vandalized or looted to the tune of approximately $9 million. The people in power were afraid. The National Guard and state sheriffs patrolled the places in which wealth was concentrated or accumulated: Harbor East, Inner Harbor, Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, and the like. Those who sent them there feared that their holdings would be the next target if people felt compelled to correct years of unequal distribution of government favors. The anger of a few had overflowed after years of suppression and repeated injury, disrespect and neglect, and false promises. Indeed, rioting is the voice of those who have not been not listened to.

Like mosquitoes on horse dung, the media — local, national, and international — devoured the sensation of the unrest. Baltimore made news in Jamaica, Canada, Poland, China, Russia, Brazil, the UK, Australia, etc. We were world-famous, we were trending. One year later, what has changed? Did the government address the deeper causes underlying the unrest? That is: mass unemployment, underfunded schools, shuttered recreation centers, poor and inaccessible health care, “affordable housing” filled with rats, mold, and lead managed by slum landlords and speculators — unmonitored and un-reprimanded by government — food deserts, deteriorated infrastructure. Have any substantial changes been made to a criminal justice system that brings injury and death, repeatedly and disproportionately, to black bodies, like Mr. Gray? How have different communities in Baltimore contributed to the process of enacting necessary change at the local level since the killing of Mr. Gray?

Over the past 2 weeks, I spoke with thirty-six different people from various spaces and sectors in Baltimore, and asked: what sticks out to you since the uprising last year? Responses came from organizers on the ground, activists with and without non-profit organizations, academics, students, and residents in working-class black communities like Mr. Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester on the west side, and Middle East Baltimore and McElderry Park on the east side. 78 percent of responders were people of color, 58 percent male.

National Guard posted at Mondawmin Mall

National Guard posted at Mondawmin Mall

Neighborhoods

The overwhelming response from people in neglected neighborhoods (and from those who live elsewhere when asked about these neighborhoods), was that there has been little or no change. Some felt things were worse in these neighborhoods in regard to policing and drug trafficking and -use, unemployment, available stores, and safety:

Nothing changed, worse than before. The violence, the separation, people have become more selfish.

Worse, shooting still going on, problem in house, in the neighborhood, if you know what I mean…things happening right next door and nobody talking.

A shop owner in Sandtown-Winchester responded: “no change, drugs still here…some more foot patrol, since the CVS reopened.” We wondered together why the foot patrol started only after the CVS was reopened: “Who is being protected, corporations or residents”?

read more here

Rebuilding Baltimore: How will we acknowledge and repair our history?

Today I was part of a panel discussion on the role of reparations in rebuilding communities (Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM); specifically Baltimore’s historic and currently dis-invested communities of color. There was a lot of wisdom on the panel, various suggestions. We acknowledged the historic structural racism that led to building chronic disinvested communities in many parts of Baltimore today. These are communities chronically disinvested in education, workforce development, social skills, transportation, health access, housing, recreation, and other core building blocks of healthy and thriving communities. Our conversation identified common threads which were consensual and built on each other. In summary we agreed that the 700 million Governor Hogan announced for demolition of vacant houses in historically abandoned communities should be:

1. secured and committed to this effort
2. used in accordance with a plan by impacted communities
3. used to rebuild Baltimore for existing residents and not only for the 10,000 being enticed to move here
4. used to create co-operatives and entrepeneural opportunities for impacted communities
5. distributed into organizations and projects working in cooperative and solidarity economics and worker-owned, and not the same neo-liberal non-profits who fill their pockets with dollars intended for impacted communities
6. used to build infrastructure to help communities organize themselves to be decision-makers
7. used to create opportunities to address the current social and health needs of impacted communities, instead of displacing these needs into other neighborhoods
8. used to build affordable housing for existing residents and new working class and middle class residents
9. used to create jobs for impacted communities, specifically for returning citizens, hire locally
10. used to ensure the people involved in rebuilding Baltimore are coming from a place of love to build a beloved revolution in our communities that would benefit all

Nothing here is new or unique to rebuilding communities. However, as a collective, such strategies would be new to Baltimore and acknowledge and begin to repair its history of race and class-based injustices. There has been one or two of these strategies used in past rebuilding efforts. But as a whole, a rebuilding plan incorporating such strategies would be revolutionary. In Race, Class, Power and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America, the last chapter provides a similar framework for rebuilding abandoned communities. The lessons came from the experience of a 2001 top-down, displacement-driven gentrification plan to accommodate the power of Johns Hopkins Medical complex in East Baltimore. This was a repetition of a similar plan in the 1950’s (Broadway Development Plan), the “highway to no-where” in 1970’s. There have been other urban renewal and “negro removal” strategies-serial forced displacement- since the early 1900’s in Baltimore and beyond. We know how to build inequitable communities.

Now, can we move in a direction of equitable community building? Can we get it right this time? Can we also come from a place of truth and acknowledge how white determination and superiority have dictated all aspects of community building? This truth drives and is embedded in how we have built and rebuilt communities of color, and white communities. This acknowledgement can begin the process of healing as we understand why we must take care to assure equity exists in process and outcome as we repair and rebuild impacted communities. For example, can we build on the model of the Gay Street 1 rebuilding project of the 1960’s in East Baltimore? In this majority African American and low income community, residents were surveyed for what they would like to see, housing was built to accommodate existing residents before their existing houses were demolished, residents organized and managed one of the housing developments (still standing today), residents planned for their high school. The parts missing from this community-driven plan was a robust social program and employment strategies for building employment training and opportunities. Ms. Lucille Gorham was a key community organizer and self-made planner for the community at that time. In later years she said she didn’t understand why vocational training schools was not incorporated in rebuilding communities: “not everyone wants to go to college”; and why social programs such as trash prevention and removal and housing rehabilitation and penalty to slumlords were not incorporated into these efforts. She saw these as basic rebuilding strategies for all communities. What was also missing was the competition from the powerful stakeholder of Johns Hopkins Medical Campus, encroaching on the land for gentrification. This allowed the city government to serve the needs of the public, and not the private giant. It was also a time of civil unrest after Dr. King’s assassination and the truth of racial injustice was glaring across the news and hearts of America. No doubt it affected government’s support of an African American-community-driven rebuilding plan. But what continued in community rebuilding in East Baltimore and elsewhere after the redevelopment was completed, was the same perceived superiority of white people and the inferiority of black-skinned people and the necessary segregation that this required. This truth was not acknowledged then, during the repair of the Gay Street 1 neighborhood. So the aftermath would naturally continue in line with inferior services and disinvestment in this majority African American community, with superior services provided in majority white communities.

We know what works and what doesn’t work to build equitable communities and inequitable communities. We first have to decide which we want to build. Let’s get it right this time and rebuild, repair, our Baltimore toward equity and sustainability! There are many issue-focused organizations on the ground already organizing toward equity: around community land trusts, affordable housing, living-wage, anti-grentrification, public housing, accessible health care, emotional healing/emancipation, transforming racism, transforming systemic police brutality, building worker-owned cooperatives, felony/returning citizen rights, environmental justice, mindfulness and social justice, arts and activism, and others. When we affirm the intersectionality of these issues and recognize how they all address building equitable and sustainable communities, we have the tools for transforming our communities. Can we find the space to see the interbeing nature of our struggles and connect across perceived boundaries? Acknowledging our historic struggle to address the human nature to hold one group superior to another, can begin to repair not only racial oppression. It will help us to dig out the root of the interconnection of all oppressions, our path to healing and liberating ourselves and our communities. Let’s rebuild Baltimore in a true and right way.

Two upcoming forums to continue this Beloved Revolution!

Community + Land + Trust: Tools For Development without Displacement
Thursday, January 28, 2016 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
UMD School of Social Work Auditorium
525 W Redwood St. Baltimore 21201
Questions? Contact and Rachel@unitedworkers.org

WORKER COOPERATIVE JUMPSTART
A One-Day Training to Help You & Your Community Start a Worker-Owned Cooperative Business or Convert an Existing Business into a Democratic Workplace!
Where: IMPACT HUB* 10 E. NORTH Ave
When: SATURDAY JANUARY 30 10AM — 5PM
RSVP: contact
SLIDING SCALE $1 — $25

Does policing affect community fragmentation and cohesion?

This action research focused on the observations of local Baltimore residents in some of our more dis-invested and abandoned communities. Residents’ views on policing, community fragmentation, and paths of change are presented.

Enjoy!

Gomez.Policing.ComFrag.PH.Proofedcopy.

Title
Policing, Community Fragmentation, and Public Health: Observations from Baltimore

Journal of Urban Health, (), 1-14 J Urban Health
Reference as: DOI 10.1007/s11524-015-0022-9

Beloved revolution

Living this beloved revolution
Well on its way
Look around
Living community in the midst of violence

IMG_20151231_142849_hdr

The last 365 days?
Streets stained red
blood or chalk?
Some of both?

Children still play
chalk over the blood
reminding us of time
for this, this beloved revolution

Houses stand and fall vacant
Homes loose their bloodline
Bus lines leave their passengers
Black and brown bodies hack rides

Families fall apart
Tired of the war on drugs
And the drugs of war
Is there an end to the fight?

AISQUITH

Evolutive love
Resistance and love
Next 365 and counting
More chalk than blood?

Revolution of love
Demand love
Be love
Beloved revolution

web

Policing: Social, political, economic violence

Policing as a means to serve and protect the public without discrimination and guarantee “equal protection under the law” came into effect in the US when the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted in 1868.1 Previous to that policing was motivated by racial superiority, white supremacy, and racism during times of enslavement, to control the enslaved.2,3 Since then policing has been promoted as the means to serve and protect the public mediated by peace officers or police officers. In the 1980’s and 1990’s crime and police misconduct and corruption increased prompting research into the reasons people will follow the law.4 Studies suggested that only when they feel police officers are acting with legitimate authority conferred in procedurally just ways will people follow law enforcement.4 Procedurally just ways are described as: treating people with dignity, giving individuals “voice” during encounters, being neutral and transparent in decision making, conveying trustworthy motives.5

Policing in the US shows none of these characteristics in regard the increased shooting and killing of black and brown people. A recent survey in 2014 reported that non-whites are less likely to feel that the police protect and serve them, not acting in line with procedurally just ways.6 These perceptions came during a period of increasing scrutiny of policing in the United States after several fatal incidents. The incidents occurred over a 9-month period, of police violence resulting in the death of black men in Ferguson Missouri, Staten Island, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, and North Charleston, South Carolina .7 Since then, Baltimore Maryland , Chicago, Illinois and others ware added to this list. This is the short list, the one we are most familiar with and does not include all the other incidents of police violence not made public. A current example of this is the police shooting of 17 year old Laquan McDonald in Chicago. The video of his killing by a white police officer shooting him 16 times was intentionally kept from the public. This type of corruption does not support “acting in line with procedurally just ways”. The personal violence is clear in this video and confirms the fear that most black and brown people in America have in interactions with police officers.

Police officers and the departments which support them can be perceived as a means of collective violence targeted against dark-skinned individuals and communities. The World Health Organization defines violence as “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”. The type of violence is characterized by the person or group committing the violent act and include self-directed, interpersonal (violence committed by an individual or small group of individuals) and collective violence.8,9 The act of neglect is also included as a violent act when assessed from the role of power and intention of the perpetuator.9 WHO defines violence as it relates to the health and wellbeing of individual -and subsequently communities as individuals congregate to form communities. As a part of law enforcement agencies police officers are empowered by government and political bodies to act for the safety and security of all individuals and institutions. When such collectives perpetuate violence, targeted against one group of individuals, this is categorized as social violence by WHO’s classification system (Collective violence is further categorized as social, political and economic according to the motivation behind the collectives’ intention). Collective violence, in this case the police system, can be motivated and affected by one or all three of these factors simultaneously.

Racial profiling is an example of an institutionalized mediated social agenda which when incorporated into policing results in disproportionate harassment, arrest, imprisonment and death of non-white populations.10 Current trends in police arrests and incarceration confirm the continued racial profiling and targeting embedded in policing in the US.11,12 In 2010, black and Hispanic men were six and three times as likely, respectively, as white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails, a gap larger than past decades and correlating with an increased gap in median household income and wealth between blacks and whites.13 Between 1980 and 2010 black males without high school diplomas were more likely to be in jail than those with high school diplomas, both groups more likely to be institutionalized than white males, with or without a high school diploma.22 Black men were more likely to be institutionalized than employed, significantly greater between the ages of 20-29 years.14 A recent report concluded that the excess deaths in black versus white men ages 15-34 years between 1960 and 2010 due to legal intervention is both longstanding and modifiable, regardless of income.15 This data supports previous studies showing deaths by legal intervention greater in black (63%) versus white (34%) men between 1979 and 1997.16

Political violence evidenced in neoliberal strategies of policing is well documented as the “War on Drugs”, affecting urban areas locally and globally.17,18,19,20 In the US, these policies were initially enacted in the 1970s and revived in the 1980s.21 The policies to enact the War on Drugs resulted in increased funding for personnel and subsequent increased arrests for drug charges: drug arrests increased from 7.4% of all arrests in 1987 to 13% in 2007, the greatest increase seen in marijuana arrests.22 A specific policy of the War on Drugs, Zero Tolerance, aimed at protecting the public space, was introduced in US cities like New York and Baltimore that had high crime rates and drug activity. This resulted in mass incarceration of young men, primarily African American and Latino.23,24 Zero Tolerance policies allowed police to stop and arrest individuals for quality of life offenses, such as drinking alcoholic beverages in the street, urinating in public, panhandling, loud radios, graffiti and disorderly conduct.25 Zero Tolerance policies enacted in urban schools resulted in school age children being punished more harshly for disorderly behaviors with expulsion, suspension, and juvenile court referrals, behaviors previously characterized as normal teenage mischief.26,27 Some resulted in arrests, contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline and the mass incarceration of black and brown people.20 The War on Drugs has singularly resulted in mass incarceration and depletion of young men from their communities, increasing community fragmentation, and decreasing this population’s opportunity to develop and determine politically and economically healthy and sustainable communities. 28

Economic violence includes attacks or perpetuation of violence by large groups for economic gain, i.e.. purpose of disrupting economic activity, denying access to essential services, or creating economic division and fragmentation.17 Incarceration of young men and women in urban communities lead to arrest records which initiate a cycle of potential chronic displacement and temporary housing, unemployment and underemployment, disconnect from services and family networks. Housing management offices can now legally discriminate against them for a record of incarceration under “one-strike you’re out” policies, another War on Drugs policy. Their communities lose the benefit of a generation of young men, unable to qualify for employment, housing, public assistance, educational assistance, and family reunification, continuing the cycle of economic violence and neighborhood and individual poverty. This cycle of community destruction through further fragmentation and uprootedness of young men via mass incarceration — facilitated by the school-to-prison pipeline — increases the likelihood of crime and alternative means of income and other behaviors results in unstable, fragmented, and unhealthy communities.29,30,31,32,33,34 For some this alternative economy provides for the basic essentials of food, shelter, clothing, and health care, even while it increases crime and risk of police violence and incarceration.35

Many of these urban communities targeted by the “war on drugs” and increased policing are communities which have been historically disinvested and abandoned since the early 1900s-violated socially, politically, and economically. Such communities were the targets of segregated real estate housing covenants and redlining tactics by the Federal Housing Administration who steered investment in housing and community development into white communities.36 In these disinvested communities, social fragmentation continued in the 1950s with urban renewal. Urban renewal resulted in mass displacement of many of these existing poor and of-color neighborhoods to make way for moderate and market rate development. Planned shrinkage continued with serial forced displacement of these communities followed by gentrification and mass incarceration. The psychological, social and economic effects of being uprooted from one’s home multiple times contribute to community fragmentation,37,38,39 and risk for low life expectancies and high disease burden.40,41,42,43,44,45

Both disinvestment and displacement undermine access to resources needed for health and wellness, including: functional schools, health and social services, parks and recreational opportunities, employment and workforce training opportunities, stable and sanitary housing, housing code enforcement, access to healthy foods, and infrastructure for mobility and physical activity. The resultant places of high unemployment, decreased educational achievement, low-income and high income inequality, predispose the people to generational poverty, high crime, high drug activity, and inequitable health outcomes.45,46,47 Corrupt policing and law enforcement systems continue this trend of social, political and economic violence currently experienced by hyper-segregated cities like Baltimore.48

The path forward toward equity and non-violence must address all ways policing and law enforcement agencies perpetuate these forms of violence.Training officers and all members of these agencies in transforming racism and oppression begins the personal transformation. But the institution and its policies must also be changed. Policies which block accountability and transparency and protect and propagate the violence perpetuated by these unfair systems must be challenged and changed. The larger systems of government and their private partners which rebuild communities and continue hyper-segregation must change. Government must be willing to transfer the wealth accumulated unfairly from the exploitation of black and brown people over the years. Such wealth can begin to change community and economic development in line with equity and sustainability-justice. Government must serve the people, not the rich. Training all public servants in the history of unfair wealth accumulation and the etiology of current wealth and health gaps must occur. Intentional structural, institutional, and individual transformation will begin to dig up the roots of violence-in policing and in all structures of the US.

Notes
gomez.policing.notes