The Widdershins

Activist Monday: Preventing More Michael Browns?

Posted on: December 4, 2014

Widdershins, a site snafu kept closing comments on Monday’s post, and we never really got to discuss this.  I honestly believe that it deserves a second chance, and yield my allotted time in order to repost this.


Good Monday, all. I hope your weekend and holiday were filled with good things for which you feel thankful.

After the travesty of the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, facilitated by a prosecutor of rather dubious integrity, many of us are wondering, could shootings like this be prevented in the future? And if so, how?

One community appears to have some good and effective ideas: Richmond, California, in the Bay Area. A decade ago, homicides were trending towards 47 a year.

Today, violent crime in Richmond is down. In 2013, Richmond had 16 murders—the lowest number in 33 years—and far fewer unsolved homicide cases than in previous years.

Police violence, in particular, is way down. Despite making thousands of arrests each year and confiscating one gun or more every day, the Richmond Police Department has averaged less than one officer-involved shooting per year since 2008. On September 6, The Contra Costa Times ran a story citing these and other statistics under the headline “Use of Deadly Force by Police Disappears on Richmond Streets.”

Police Chief Chris Magnus has been widely credited with enacting the reforms that led to these changes. In recognition of Richmond’s progress, and Magnus’ role in it, the U.S. Department of Justice recently added him to a panel of experts investigating the breakdown of police-community relations in Ferguson, Missouri.

I am struggling to find a silver lining in the horrible and tragic situation that Darren Wilson (who resigned yesterday from the Ferguson police force) created by killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August of this year. If Chief Magnus has succeeded in Richmond, and his ideas are adopted and prove successful in other high-crime and/or racially divided communities, then we may have one after all.

Here are the ways in which Magnus has promoted unity and reduced violence in Richmond:

  1. Rewarding and enforcing closer community engagement within the police force. Prior to Magnus’ selection as Chief of Police, teams of officers would spend most of their time in cars, patrolling the neighborhoods and rousting potentially law-abiding citizens for non-existent drug offenses. Today, police officers are assigned to longer beats on foot, promoting their visibility and recognition within the community, and those who are prone to engagement rather than hostility, are the ones who get the promotions.
  2. Hiring qualified women, minorities and locals whenever possible.  As most of us are aware, Ferguson has an almost entirely white police force that is not at all representative of the area’s demographics. This obviously askew racial makeup does not give local citizens confidence that the police are there to serve and protect them. The diversity of the Richmond police force is a lot more impressive, thanks to concerted efforts made by Magnus and his team.

    Today, about 60 percent of Richmond’s 182 active police officers are black, Latino, Asian, or Native American; about 40 percent are white, according to Deputy Chief Allwyn Brown.

    There are now 26 female officers on the force, including highly visible leaders like Captain Bisa French and Lieutenant Lori Curran.

  3. Taking the time to work with kids likely to join gangs, and getting them the help and opportunities they need to turn things around. This requires a high degree of cooperation with local community organizers and activists, which was not a priority before Magnus’ tenure.
  4. Training officers to use non-lethal force and weaponry in situations where violence is a potential outcome. Richmond’s police force is provided with pepper spray and Tasers, and participate in a federal training program which focuses on how to keep from pulling a gun in tense community encounters.

Has all of this resulted in a perfect record of non-violence? No, but it has certainly succeeded in creating a much more united and positively-viewed police force in Richmond. For example, the last officer-involved shooting in that community was between two Latinos, not a white male adult and a black teenager, and the police chief was invited to the victim’s funeral, which he attended in civilian clothes. The tragic occurrence did not result in the nationwide outrage of the Brown case, either.

I think it is a good sign that the reforms enacted in Richmond are being reviewed and considered by the federal government, and that Chief Chris Magnus is being consulted as to how to improve the situation in Ferguson, Let us hope that police departments across the nation take whatever actions necessary to decrease homicides, especially those committed by police officers.

This is an open thread.


8 Responses to "Activist Monday: Preventing More Michael Browns?"

I turned the comments back on.
I applaud the ST. Louis Rams for their entrance yesterday, and I loudly applaud the NFL for refusing to fine them for doing so. I applaud the unions who have declared ST. Louis to be off-limits for conventions until further notice. The only thing that gets through to city fathers is cash, so do not spend any money in St. Louis.
I can’t believe that I am saying this, but I also applaud {{{gasp, choke, wheeze, groan}}} Justice Scalia for his pithy criticism of the Kangaroo Grand Jury that refused to indict. (now I need to go lay down for awhile…..)

Since the original posting of this, a New York grand jury has cleared the police of all wrongdoing in the death of Eric Garner, a death listed as “homicide” by the ME. While it is much simpler to declare that prejudice is a Southern problem, we need to realize that this is a widespread American problem. Missouri is a birder state, but Cleveland and State Island are pretty far away from Dear Ol’ Dixie. The time for a nationwide conversation has arrived. Get ‘er done.

What day is it? (jk)

Ith Thmonday.

@4: Oh okay. I was getting ready to reset clocks and such. 😉

For anyone who may know a person getting their health ins. through the Federal exchange, ProPublica has a neat little tool which will show your current plan and what if any changes will be made to it in 2015. Here’s the link:

Now, as I said, this is only for the 34 states that did not set up their own exchanges. I tried it out and it seems to work well.

For Chat and Fuzzy and me.

200 arrests in NYC last night, but apparently no major violence reported.

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