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A troubled police force and hope for change

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In a trial where one prosecutor called the officers “gangsters with a badge,” eight cops were indicted, six pled guilty, and four opted to testify in the case as government witnesses. During the trial, Gun Trace Task Force member Detective Maurice Ward testified that officers would use illegal GPS devices to track targets, break into homes to steal money, and keep BB guns in their vehicles “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”

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By Barrington M. Salmon, Contributing Writer, The Final Call
@bsalmondc

For more than 50 years, the Baltimore Police Department has earned the reputation as a tough, bruising force that leveled most of its rough treatment and casual cruelty on Charm City’s Black residents.

Blacks in their 60s and others in their 30s speak of the brutality visited on them by a police force many came to despise and distrust. They spoke of harassment, beatings, detainment and arrests at the whim of the officers, as well as anger and frustration at having no public official able to force rogue officers to comply with the law and treat Black people humanely.

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, who was born and grew up in Baltimore, recalls the way Black residents were treated.

“I’ve been hearing some stuff (about the changes) on the periphery,” he said. “Historically, the police department was used to enforce segregation even after the Civil Rights Act. We couldn’t go into certain neighborhoods, so they pulled you over on ‘a routine check.’”

Rev. Hagler said his father bought a Lincoln Continental in the late 1960s and he was pulled over regularly. It was also well known in the Black community that initiation for White officers was to snatch a Black person off the street and beat them.

“That was the ‘Blue Code.’ Everyone in the department had to have blood on their hands,” said Rev. Hagler, a veteran civil rights and social justice veteran and senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. “There’s always been this really hostile relationship, especially with poor Black communities. You saw it with Freddie Gray. There’s a high crime rate because the police isn’t engaged, and the city is not engaged with the community either.”

Yet, one particular response by recently appointed Police Commissioner Michael Harrison surprised a number of people and held out hope that the department could possibly change. Media reports indicate that Sgt. Ethan Newberg, a 24-year veteran, was running a warrant check when a man passing by criticized him for placing the suspect on a wet street. Sgt. Newberg chased him down, grabbed him, tackled him, handcuffed him and arrested him. The sergeant filed a report saying the passerby “challenged him and became combative and aggressive.” However, after department officials reviewed Sgt. Newberg’s footage from his body camera, the real story came out.

“From what I saw, he did nothing to provoke Sgt. Newberg, whose actions weren’t just wrong but deeply disturbing and illegal,” said Police Commissioner Michael Harrison in a press conference announcing charges against Sgt. Newberg. “I don’t know how something like this would have been handled in the past, but I knew as soon as I saw this video, I knew how I’d be handling it.”

Sgt. Newberg, the second highest paid city employee in 2018, was arrested on June 6, charged with false imprisonment, misconduct and second-degree assault and suspended without pay.

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper said he was heartened by Commissioner Harrison’s decisive action.

“Given its institutional history, that the Baltimore Police Commissioner moved so quickly, and so decisively is a very positive sign,” Chief Stamper told The Final Call. “Let’s hope that as the story unfolds further, we’ll learn that at least some of Newberg’s superiors and/or peers had also come forward with their own observations of his conduct, past and present.”

“This is an example of major systemic (and workplace culture) failure,” Chief Stamper continued. “Supervisors (and peers) have a responsibility to blow the whistle on alleged wrongdoing of the type you describe. And the department or, preferably, an independent investigative body, has an obligation to conduct timely, accurate, and thorough investigations into all instances of alleged misconduct. Failure to do so sends a message throughout the cop culture: brutality, bigotry, corruption will be excused. It sounds like Newberg’s bosses, and peers, did him no favor by not holding him to account long ago. Although, of course, he had an obligation to conduct himself with dignity, respect, and self-discipline.”

Wake Forest Law School Prof. Kami Chavis said Commissioner Harrison’s decision was unexpected.

“Wow!” she exclaimed. “A little justice. When anyone performs a criminal act, he or she should be punished. To have trust for police officers, violence should not go unpunished. You cannot have people operating above the law. This is a very important step.”

“No longer can an officer tell a different story,” added Prof. Chavis, associate provost for Academic Initiatives and director of the Criminal Justice Program. “The officer committed an egregious act and then lied. It almost tells us a little bit about the morality of some of the officers. We have so long operated in this type of culture in Baltimore where this type of behavior was commonplace.”

Critics of the department and officer behavior would find a great deal with which to agree with Prof. Chavis.

The department has lurched from crisis to crisis for years, with office-involved shootings, harassment of residents and beatings caught on body cams or videos. The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified taskforce members were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling seized guns and drugs right back onto city streets.

The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified taskforce members were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling seized guns and drugs right back onto city streets.

The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified taskforce members were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling seized guns and drugs right back onto city streets.

In a trial where one prosecutor called the officers “gangsters with a badge,” eight cops were indicted, six pled guilty, and four opted to testify in the case as government witnesses. During the trial, Gun Trace Task Force member Detective Maurice Ward testified that officers would use illegal GPS devices to track targets, break into homes to steal money, and keep BB guns in their vehicles “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”

Mr. Ward, who pled guilty, recounted an incident where cops “took a man’s house keys, ran his name through databases to find his address, went into the home without a warrant and found drugs and a safe. The officers cracked open the safe, which had about $200,000 inside. They took $100,000 out, closed the safe back up, then filmed themselves pretending to open it for the first time.”

This corruption case deepened public suspicion that piqued following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old Black male was chased, detained by police, taken on a rough ride, suffered severe spinal injuries and died in a hospital. His arrest was captured on video as officers dragged him into a police cruiser and Mr. Gray appeared unable to walk.

Mr. Gray’s death triggered civil unrest, the torching of a number of businesses, looting, arrests of many who’d taken to the streets and dozens of officers being injured.

After the trials and acquittals of three of the six police officers who were charged and indicted, public anger, resentment and frustration ratcheted up.

The riots following Mr. Gray’s death crystallized the divide between both sides.

On Pennsylvania Avenue, a major Black thoroughfare, angry residents burned stores, businesses, and vehicles and shattered glass.

Baltimore activist Rev. C.D. Witherspoon echoed the sentiments of several activists, residents who maintain the city’s entire political structure is compromised by corruption, cronyism and greed, adding that the wishes and desires of Blacks are often ignored.

“I think the current commissioner has a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective, but you can’t put individuals in place to reform a system,” he said. “The department isn’t doing what’s in line with what citizens want and need. Corruption is like an in-grown toenail. We’re talking about a system here, a system not just locally but nationally. The police department needs to be dismantled and reconstructed. Needs to revisit what policing looks like.”

Rev. Witherspoon, an elder at The Light Baptist Church and a former Baltimore City chapter president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said city leaders and policy makers need to stop criminalizing health issues like drug addiction and instead treat it for the problem it is, a public health crisis.

“Public safety should not just be policing, there has to be a public health and mental health component that’s fully funded,” he said. “The people need to take control downtown and invest in schools, recreation and public health versus building on the waterfront.”

“A lot of people benefit from this plight. We know about private prisons and people getting rich. Other non-profits, in some instances, are profiting by offering employment and other opportunities. Yet this should always be community-driven, and residents should be in charge.”

Rev. Witherspoon, who lives in the Sandtown neighborhood, as did Freddie Gray, said little has changed since the young man died after an encounter with police.

“The only thing that has come to the community is a new police station,” said Rev. Witherspoon, who led several demonstrations after Mr. Gray’s death. “There are no new developments, jobs or rec centers. I don’t see how peoples’ minds have been changed since Freddie Gray’s death. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said riots are voices of the unheard. Frustrations could rise. It is like a powder keg.”

He said there have been “meeting of minds” and capacity building among and between grassroots communities.

“Grassroots people are talking but there has to be conversations about systemic and structural racism, the role of police in our communities and jobs beyond redevelopment of the Inner Harbor,” Rev. Witherspoon said.

In 2015, the police department began operating under a consent decree. As explained on the web page of the Consent Decree Monitoring Team, “Following an investigation that began in 2015, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found reasonable cause to believe that the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) was engaged in a pattern or practice of constitutional violations, which allegedly included making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; using enforcement strategies that produced severe, unjustified disparities in stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; using excessive force; and retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally protected expression.”

Baltimore Attorney Kenneth Thompson heads the Consent Decree Monitoring Team which is working to help the police department adopt a number of reforms aimed at ensuring effective, safe and constitutional policing. The team’s work is mandated by U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar.

“This (consent decree) is driven by decades of perceived mistreatment. Folks have felt police has always gotten a free pass,” Mr. Thompson said. “Sometimes there are officers with problems. They may have issues, problems at home and domestic problems. The proper technology would red flag officers who need help to supervisors.”

Mr. Thompson said his team is comprised of former police chiefs, other experts in policing and police reform, members of the civil rights community, and academics versed in psychology, social science, organizational change, data and technology and community engagement.

“The personnel in DOJ, to their credit, have been good stewards,” he said. “This is a lawsuit. The plaintiffs are kicking ass. They want change. It’s possible that the department resents us coming in. I don’t know. The city and police department have been true partners. The will is there. They want to save culture. The question is whether they will have money and capacity to do the job but I’m confident we’ll do it.”

He identified three of the biggest challenges that hinder successful implementation of the reforms. They are strengthening Internal Affairs so that the department properly investigates instances of misconduct or other deleterious behavior by police officers; outdated technology and staffing issues.

“The old unit had to be disbanded. It was so dysfunctional,” he said of the Internal Affairs Unit, which has been renamed the Police Integrity Unit. “In the old days, it wasn’t a very hospitable environment. It’s clear that there was favorable environment for those doing wrong. The DOJ saw minimization of charges. Now, it’s easier to file complaints and we’re making sure offenses were filed properly.”

Mr. Thompson said the team is putting in place a classification manual and is revamping the investigation manual.

“The unit is short-staffed and the technology is not up to par,” he said. “And it’s difficult to follow data. We’re making sure that the investigators are trained properly. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress but we’re still dealing with challenges. The department has indicated a really strong desire to change. But we still have a lot of things to do.”

Dr. Natasha C. Pratt-Harris is the principal investigator collecting data from a survey on community experiences and perceptions of city police that she and her colleagues conducted at the behest of the Consent Decree Monitoring Team.

After plumbing the community’s thoughts over a two-month period, she said she believes that significant and sustained change is coming to Baltimore City. But, she added, a prevailing sentiment from residents’ comments is the feeling that nothing will change. A major finding from the 640 people polled is that the community wants to see the police engaging and engaged with the community, said Dr. Pratt-Harris, an associate professor and coordinator of the Criminal Justice program in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology with Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Chief Stamper and Capt. Joseph Perez said it’s going to be very difficult to transform a department with entrenched bias, suspicion of the people they’re purported to serve and a sense of entitlement that makes certain officers act with impunity.

“The biggest challenge is dealing with the public, mostly because there’s a lack of trust and a lack of community on our part,” Capt. Perez said. “The biggest thing is building that trust. Traditionally, in police departments across the country, they like the heavy-handed officers. You almost never see officers recognized for work in the community. We have to go back to basics, go back to the community. I’m not talking about optics. We have to go into the community, build trust.”

Capt. Lopez, a New Yorker who has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years, said it’s a good move by Commissioner Harrison who has said police officers should go into the community for 20 minutes a shift.

“(But) many officers are resistant. It’s culture and begins in the academy. You can absolutely guarantee that every single person will say they want to help people, serve. But the academy fosters an ‘us vs them’ mentality. They see the community is a threat and they’ve got to have each other’s back. It’s the thin blue line, not reporting each other.”

Rev. Hagler, Prof. Pratt-Harris and longtime Baltimore City resident Nick Dorsey each noted problems in the department reflect problems in the city and the country.

“As with individuals, issues of race and what it means to strive and struggle are playing out. The problems found in BPD are found in the system, every school system, hospitals and elsewhere. The police department is mimicking larger society. We have to accept, acknowledge and address these issues,” argued Dr. Pratt Harris.

Liberation Journalist Barrington Salmon lived and wrote in Florida (Miami and Tallahassee) for almost 20 years. He is a 2017 Annenberg National Fellow (University of Southern California) who currently freelances for several publications, including The Final Call, Atlanta Black Star, the National Newspaper Publishers Association and The Washington Informer. Salmon writes on a variety of topics in the nation’s capital and can often be heard on WPFW, DC’s Pacifica public radio station. The Washington metro area has been Barrington’s home for 20 of the past 22 years, broken up by a two-year stint in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A London-born Jamaican, Barrington has traveled widely to locales including Ghana, Israel, Italy, Greece, El Salvador, Amsterdam, China, Nepal and Zanzibar. Connect with Barrington on his video blog, Speak Freely with Barrington Salmon + follow him on Twitter @bsalmondc and on his Facebook page, BarringtonSalmonWrites.

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The Storied History of the NAACP

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Much has changed since the creation of the NAACP 110 years ago, and as we highlight these achievements during this year’s convention, we cannot forget that we’re still tirelessly fighting against the hatred and bigotry that face communities of color in this country,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said.

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Accordingly, the NAACP’s mission remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice. (Photo: The Oklahoma Eagle)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The NAACP plans to highlight 110 years of civil rights history, and the current fight for voting rights, criminal justice reform, economic opportunity and education quality during its 110th national convention now happening in Detroit.

The five-day event which began on Saturday, July 20, will also include a session on the 2020 Census, a presidential roundtable, CEO Roundtable, and LGBTQ and legislative workshops.

“We are excited to announce the 110th annual convention in Detroit, my hometown,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.

“For me, it is a homecoming and I will also be excited to announce our theme for this year which is, ‘When we Fight, We Win,’” Johnson said.

Winning is what the NAACP was built on – winning battles for racism, freedom, justice and equality.

The NAACP was formed in 1908 after a deadly race riot that featured anti-black violence and lynching erupted in Springfield, Illinois.

According to the storied organization’s website, a group of white liberals that included descendants of famous abolitionists Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard; William English Walling, and Dr. Henry Moscowitz, all issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice.

About 60 people, seven of whom were African American, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, answered the call, which was released on the centennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Echoing the focus of Du Bois’ Niagara Movement for civil rights, which began in 1905, the NAACP aimed to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law, and universal adult male suffrage, respectively.”

Accordingly, the NAACP’s mission remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate race prejudice.

“The NAACP seeks to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes,” Johnson said.

The NAACP established its national office in New York City in 1910 and named a board of directors as well as a president, Moorfield Storey, a white constitutional lawyer and former president of the American Bar Association.

Other early members included Joel and Arthur Spingarn, Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Sophonisba Breckinridge, John Haynes Holmes, Mary McLeod Bethune, George Henry White, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, William Dean Howells, Lillian Wald, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, and Walter Sachs. Despite a foundational commitment to multiracial membership, Du Bois was the only African American among the organization’s original executives.

Du Bois was made director of publications and research, and in 1910 established the official journal of the NAACP, The Crisis.

By 1913, with a strong emphasis on local organizing, the NAACP had established branch offices in such cities as Boston, Baltimore, Kansas City, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Detroit.

NAACP membership grew rapidly, from around 9,000 in 1917 to around 90,000 in 1919, with more than 300 local branches.

Joel Spingarn, a professor of literature and one of the NAACP founders formulated much of the strategy that fostered much of the organization’s growth.

He was elected board chairman of the NAACP in 1915 and served as president from 1929-1939.

The NAACP would eventually fight battles against the Ku Klux Klan and other hate organizations.

The organization also became renowned in American Justice with Thurgood Marshall helping to prevail in the 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education, the decision that overturned Plessy.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was disproportionately disastrous for African Americans, the NAACP began to focus on economic justice.

Because of the advocacy of the NAACP, President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to open thousands of jobs to black workers when labor leader A. Philip Randolph, in collaboration with the NAACP, threatened a national March on Washington movement in 1941.

President Roosevelt also set up a Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to ensure compliance.

The NAACP’s Washington, D.C., bureau, led by lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., helped advance not only integration of the armed forces in 1948 but also passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1964, and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

NAACP Mississippi field secretary Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie would become high-profile targets for pro-segregationist violence and terrorism.

In 1962, their home was fire bombed, and later Medgar was assassinated by a sniper in front of their residence. Violence also met black children attempting to enter previously segregated schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, and other southern cities.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s echoed the NAACP’s goals, but leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, felt that direct action was needed to obtain them.

Although the NAACP was criticized for working too rigidly within the system, prioritizing legislative and judicial solutions, the Association did provide legal representation and aid to members of other protest groups over a sustained period of time.

The NAACP even posted bail for hundreds of Freedom Riders in the ‘60s who had traveled to Mississippi to register black voters and challenge Jim Crow policies.

Led by Roy Wilkins, who succeeded Walter White as secretary in 1955, the NAACP collaborated with A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other national organizations to plan the historic 1963 March on Washington.

The following year, the Association accomplished what seemed an insurmountable task: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Much has changed since the creation of the NAACP 110 years ago, and as we highlight these achievements during this year’s convention, we cannot forget that we’re still tirelessly fighting against the hatred and bigotry that face communities of color in this country,” Johnson said.

“With new threats emerging daily and attacks on our democracy, the NAACP must be more steadfast and immovable than ever before to help create a social political atmosphere that works for all,” he said.

The NAACP provided all historical information for this report.

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VIDEO: Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Dragged Off to Jail — Literally

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

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Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter is dragged from the courtroom following her sentencing for unlawful interest in a public contact, after she illegally helped her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter appeared overcome with emotion as she was literally dragged from a Cincinnati courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday, July 22, after she was sentenced to six months in jail for charges stemming from a controversial conviction in 2014.

A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contract after she was accused of helping her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document.

Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

With a courtroom packed with supporters — and many more who stood outside of the proceedings — Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dispensed Hunter’s punishment.

Prior to sentencing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote a letter asking the court to consider having Hunter undergo psychiatric evaluation based on questions he has about what he calls Hunter’s “mental condition,” according to reporting from WLWT5.

Hunter’s attorney David Singleton disagreed with the request, adding that he “couldn’t believe” Deters would ask the court to have Hunter undergo evaluation and that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the case.

With all of the support Hunter has received based on both real and perceived biases during the initial trial and appeals process, Mayor John Cranley wrote a letter to Dinkelacker asking him not to place Hunter in prison, saying that she has suffered as a result of her conviction and doesn’t appear to pose any risks to others.

Postcards were sent to Dinkelacker’s house asking for leniency in his sentencing. He read some of the postcards during the hearing.

“I violated no laws, I did not secure a public contract, I did not secure employment for my brother who worked for the court for about seven years before I was elected judge,” Hunter said.

At least one of Hunter’s supporters was arrested at the courthouse after trying to intervene when deputies attempted to take Hunter into custody.

Others shouted, “No Justice, No Peace,” and accused the court of racism.

In June, former Cincinnati State Sen. Eric Kearney had expressed to NNPA Newswire that Hunter’s incarceration was “going to be a problem” and the city would “explode. I’m telling you, black people [in Cincinnati] are not going to take [Hunter going to jail] lightly,” Kearney said. “The city is on edge.”

Kearney, Hunter and her vast number of supporters have said the process used to convict her wreaked of politics, corruption, nepotism and racism.

The jury that rendered the guilty verdict in her trial was comprised of political foes and others associated with the prosecutors and a Republican establishment that didn’t take kindly to Hunter breaking the GOP and white-male dominated stronghold to win a seat on the bench in 2010, her supporters have pointed out.

For example, one of the jurors worked for WCPO Television, a local station that has filed numerous lawsuits against Hunter.

Court documents revealed that the jury foreman contributed $500 to state Sen. Bill Seitz, the father of county jury coordinator Brad Seitz, who was responsible for compiling the panel of jurors that arrived at the guilty verdict, which required a unanimous decision from the jury.

Hunter said that the only three black jurors, none of whom had known ties to prosecutors and all of whom held out for acquittal, ultimately yielded to pressure from other jurors. The judge refused to allow defense lawyers to poll the jury after announcing the verdict.

In every American criminal trial, particularly those that end in guilty verdicts, it’s the right of attorneys to request the judge to poll all 12 jurors to ensure each is in agreement with the verdict.

“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Hunter told NNPA Newswire in June.

“If the judge polled the jury, it happened in a blink, but I don’t remember that happening,” Kearney said.

At the close of the trial, three jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty and “if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so,” Hunter said.

Hunter also wanted her supporters to know that she is not suicidal.

“I want everyone to know that I don’t drink … I don’t do drugs … I have no intention of harming myself,” she said.

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COMMENTARY: Pros and Cons of Modular vs Site-Built Homes

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Over the last 20 years,” said Maria Coutts, president of The Coutts Group and a senior officer of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, “the customization of modular homes has a consistent record of matching site-built homes and meeting customer demand, largely due to the use of computer-aided design.

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A completely different method of offsite homebuilding -- modular construction — has also been around for many decades but has not gained much traction until recently. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Improvements in Modular Homes Make Them a Competitive Alternative to Site-Built Homes

Christopher G. Cox, Publisher and Managing Editor, www.realesavvy.com

For many decades the preferred homebuilding method has been to assemble all the construction materials on site and build from the ground up, usually over a period of about six or more months. This is still the method used to construct some 90 percent of homes being built today.

A completely different method of offsite homebuilding — modular construction — has also been around for many decades, but has not gained much traction until recently.

“Over the last 20 years,” said Maria Coutts, president of The Coutts Group and a senior officer of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, “the customization of modular homes has a consistent record of matching site-built homes and meeting customer demand, largely due to the use of computer-aided design.

“The use of overhead cranes also allows modular structures to be as wide and as high as desired,” Coutts adds.

In modern modular construction, modules are manufactured in a climate-controlled factory environment. “This decreases the possibility of the materials being exposed to rain, snow and wind,” Coutts explains. “Prolonged exposure to these elements can lead to warping, mold and nail pops throughout the home. Also, squeaky floors and steps can be an issue if it is raining or snowing during a site build,” Coutts said.

Jeff Holdren, district sales manager, western territories, for North Carolina-based Holmes Building Systems, agrees with Coutts that quality control is greatly enhanced with modular building. “Actually, if you think about it,” Holdren said, “a modular home is a lot stronger structure. You have to be able to pick it up, put it on a transport and wind tunnel test it to 60 miles an hour.”

Both Coutts and Holdren point to the relative speed of construction of modular versus site-built homes. “The time a site builder might be involved in the construction process,” said Coutts, “is tremendous and with modular this time is cut in half.” Holdren concurs, noting, “A home can be finished within 120 days from the time we start.

“Many of the homes featured on the television series ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ are modular homes because of the speed required by the production schedule,” Holdren adds.

Coutts and Holdren also agree that the public at large is not aware of the many advantages of modular construction.

“Modular homes are much better than when I started in 2002, 17 years ago,” Holdren said. He attributes the lack of growth in part to the failure of his industry to better educate the public. “We do not do a great job of educating people. There is still a general perception that a modular home is inferior,” he notes.

Coutts is optimistic that this is changing. “Site-built construction has been the standard for so long that consumers don’t always research both sides, pro and con, of these two styles. As the concepts and practices of modular construction are becoming more popular with the general public, more consumers are becoming very receptive to this building practice,” she said.

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Coutts notes that modular construction has gained much more of a foothold in Europe than it has in the U.S. “Modular construction will eventually increase in use similar to the northern European countries of Denmark, Sweden and Germany,” said Coutts, “where it accounts for 20 to 85 percent of total annual builds.”

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Colorado Petroleum Council Focus on Enhancing Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The natural gas and oil industry is projected to create 1.3 million new jobs between 2015 and 2025, with that number growing to 1.9 million by 2035. Of these new jobs, 707,000, or 38 percent of the total, are projected to be filled by African American and Hispanic workers through 2035.

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A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Four years ago, the American Petroleum Institute, the world’s largest energy industry trade association, opened a chapter in Colorado, owing to the growing opportunities from natural gas and oil in the state. Since its inception, the Colorado Petroleum Council has served as an advocate for – and partner to – communities across the state, placing great emphasis on innovation, public health and safety. This has allowed the industry the ability to invest in reducing its emissions to historic lows even as energy production has reached all-time highs.

“Most importantly, Colorado is our home,” said Lynn Granger, the new Executive Director of the Colorado Petroleum Council.  “When we arrived in Colorado, our mission wasn’t simply to grow jobs and economic opportunities for the people of our state, though we are encouraged with our progress on that front. We breathe the same air and drink the same water as our neighbors, and we are proud of the leading role that our industry has played – and will continue to play – in the development and implementation of emissions-reducing technologies that benefit all of Colorado’s vibrant communities, regardless of income level, color or creed.”

A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans.

“We’re especially proud of our commitment to education,” continued Granger. “Our industry has taken a leading role in promoting STEM education across Colorado. The natural gas and oil industry continues to grow amidst the American energy renaissance, creating jobs that need to be filled with talented, skilled workers. We are focused on ensuring that Coloradans from every walk of life are given a true and just opportunity to benefit from these opportunities, and the foundation for future success begins in the classroom.”

The natural gas and oil industry is projected to create 1.3 million new jobs between 2015 and 2025, with that number growing to 1.9 million by 2035. Of these new jobs, 707,000, or 38 percent of the total, are projected to be filled by African American and Hispanic workers through 2035.

According to a 2018 report based on state and federal data, natural gas and oil operations support over 232,900 Colorado jobs, provide an annual statewide economic impact of more than $31.4 billion, and contribute more than $1.2 billion per year in public revenue to the state, including $180 million toward local universities and school districts.

“These jobs and dollars support communities across Colorado, funding everything from schools, to roads, to emergency responders,” noted Granger. “But they do so much more than that. This has allowed us to redouble our commitment to education at the local level and to serve as true partners in communities across the state. We are proud of the work we have done thus far, but know that there is more to be done for current and future generations of Coloradans.”

Colorado’s natural gas and oil industry, in partnership with dozens of government agencies, has implemented the most robust regulatory framework in the nation. Granger acknowledged that the industry’s growth, and the burgeoning opportunities it provides, can only be sustained with an all-hands effort toward keeping public health and safety paramount.

“None of what our industry does would be worthwhile if not for a round-the-clock effort to mitigate any environmental impacts that could have adverse effects on Colorado communities,” said Granger. “These efforts have been my top priority since assuming this role, and I want the people of our state to know that I will be fierce in promoting a balance between sustainability and the opportunities our industry brings to the table.”

Granger, in closing, recognized the existing disparities in Colorado’s economy, and expressed determination on behalf of her industry to be proactive in addressing the issue.

“People have moved to Colorado in droves from across the country, which has certainly presented challenges. We are committed to turning those challenges into opportunities. Colorado’s economy consistently ranks as best in the nation, but these economic opportunities feel out of reach for too many people in our state. The natural gas and oil industry is committed to being a partner in changing this dynamic. Everyone deserves a shot at the American dream, and the Colorado Petroleum Council and our member companies are unwavering, through investments in education, innovation, and directly into communities, to bringing these dreams to life.”

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Driving While Black: Police Continue to Profile, Stop and Search African American Drivers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “What’s particularly damning about this data is that police were more likely to search Black people than white people yet found contraband in only 41 percent of searches of Black people compared to 72 percent of the searches of white people,” said American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Carl Takei. “In other words, the police have a pattern of stopping and searching Black people in circumstances where they would simply let white people go.

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The Louisville Courier Journal also found that black motorists in Kentucky were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The Louisville Courier Journal also found that black motorists in Kentucky were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Two new recently published reports show that racial profiling – particularly “Driving While Black” – remains a crisis in America.

A recent report issued by Missouri’s attorney general Eric Schmitt revealed that black drivers across that state are 91 percent more likely than white motorists to get pulled over by police. What’s more, the profiling usually takes place in the motorists’ own community, according to the attorney general’s report.

The Missouri report arrives on the heels of one out of Kentucky where a study found that black motorists are searched at a rate of three-times more than whites in Louisville.

African Americans account for approximately 20 percent of Louisville’s driving age population, but they still accounted for 33 percent of police stops and 57 percent of the nearly 9,000 searches conducted on motorists, according to the Louisville Courier Journal, which conducted the study.

Their findings were highlighted in a tweet by The Thurgood Marshall Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Louisville Courier Journal said it reviewed “130,999 traffic stops in Louisville from 2016 to 2018 and found that an overwhelming number of African American drivers were profiled and pulled over by police.”

The newspaper also found that black motorists were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time.

“Aside from the alarming and devastating findings, we have always known that racial profiling is all too prevalent throughout law enforcement and our society as a whole,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told NNPA Newswire.

“What we need is to implement proper training for law enforcement officers on how to more efficiently carry out essential policing without threatening the lives of people of color,” Johnson said.

Racial profiling is an insidious practice and serious problem in America that can lead to deadly consequences, Johnson added.

“Our faith in our criminal justice system will continuously be challenged if we are constantly targeted by discriminatory practices just by doing simple tasks – walking down the street, driving down an interstate, or going through an airport without being stopped merely because of the color of our skin. Living as a person of color should never be crime,” he said.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Carl Takei told NNPA Newswire that racial disparities in the new data are similar to what courts have relied on around the country to find unconstitutional racial profiling in traffic stops.

“Disparities of this kind suggest that officers are using race not only in deciding who to pull over, but who to single out for searches,” Takei said.

“What’s particularly damning about this data is that police were more likely to search Black people than white people yet found contraband in only 41 percent of searches of Black people compared to 72 percent of the searches of white people,” he said.

Takei continued:

“In other words, the police have a pattern of stopping and searching Black people in circumstances where they would simply let white people go.

“This unjustly interferes with Black people trying to live their everyday lives – subjecting them to humiliating, intrusive stops and searches in circumstances where white people would not be stopped or searched.

“Additionally, such racialized policing practices harm law enforcement by undermining the legitimacy of the police and damaging police relationships with the communities they are supposed to be serving.”

The Louisville Courier Journal reported that Police Chief Steve Conrad spoke before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee and acknowledged that the department has disproportionately stopped black drivers.

The newspaper reported that Conrad reasoned that African Americans are disproportionately represented in all aspects of the criminal justice system, including in arrests and incarceration.

“This is not all surprising based on my over 35 years of practice defending drug cases after traffic stops,” Randall Levine, a Kalamazoo, Michigan attorney told NNPA Newswire.

“I would say that DWB – Driving While Black – is still as prevalent today as it was in 1980,” Levine said, before opining what could occur to affect change. “Diversity, sensitivity training and some type of real enforcement for violations might help,” he said.

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Philadelphia Fires 13 Officers for Racist Facebook Posts

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects. “I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

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Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Police officers in Philadelphia and St. Louis are paying a heavy price for their acts of racism.

Weeks after a scathing analysis by the nonprofit Plain View Project, the two departments have responded.

In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects.

“I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

Ross said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions.

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she added 22 officers to her “exclusion list” of authorities banned from bringing cases to her office after the Facebook posts were made public.

In a letter sent to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, Gardner said seven of those 22 were “permanently banned.”

Hayden and Gardner have said they are still investigating the Facebook posts.

In June, the Plain View Project determined that at least 328 active-duty police officers in various cities, including Philadelphia and St. Louis, posted content that championed violence against Muslims, immigrants and African Americans.

In the posts, officers from rookies to the highest of rank, said the viewed African Americans as “dogs,” and some wrote that they would arrive at work believing that, “it’s a good day for a chokehold.”

Still, others posted their beliefs that women in hijabs were tantamount to “trash bags.”

Plain View project officials counted more than 3,000 offensive posts from departments across the country, including Dallas, Tex.; Denison, Tex.; Lake County, Fla.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; St. Louis, Mo.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and York, Penn.

“We found a very high and concerning number of posts that appear to endorse, celebrate or glorify violence and vigilantism,” said Philadelphia-based attorney Emily Baker-White, who heads the Plain View Project.

“We included posts that we thought could affect public trust and policing,” she said.

“We also included posts that seemed to emit some sort of bias against a group of people – whether if that’s a minority faith, a minority race, ethnicity, immigration status, whatever it is. We saw a number of posts that appeared to denigrate those groups of people,” Baker-White said.

Pennsylvania State. Rep. Chris Rabb said the move by the Philadelphia Police Department to fire the officers is the right thing to do.

“We rely on police officers to protect us, all of us, and to serve as an example of appropriate behavior in our community,” said Rabb, a Democrat who represents the Philadelphia area.

“Unethical, racist, inappropriate behavior or comments by police officers, like that exhibited by these officers from the Philadelphia Police Department, undermines the public’s trust in an institution that is supposed to serve us all,” Rabb said.

Further, Rabb said he agreed with sending the message that such behavior will not be tolerated in any police department.

“But it’s not enough if those police officers are able to find employment in another community that’s unsuspecting of their past behavior,” said Rabb, who has introduced legislation that would ensure that officers like those being terminated cannot simply be moved to another department without leadership and the community being aware of their past behavior.

He said his bill would prevent a department from hiring a police officer who separated from their last job after a pattern of allegations, complaints or charges for inappropriate behavior.

It would also ensure that the hiring departments are fully informed about whom they are hiring.

“This legislation would empower police chiefs and municipalities to make fully informed decisions about the officers who serve their communities,” Rabb said.

“Accountability and transparency, which this legislation would promote, are assets in agencies and departments that strive for integrity.”

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said the organization was “disappointed” in the decision to fire the officers in part because they were deprived of due process.

“The overwhelming majority of our members serve this city with integrity and professionalism,” McNesby said.

None of the terminated officers were named, but Philadelphia authorities confirmed that the highest-ranking officer fired is a sergeant.

“We have a duty to represent ourselves and our city,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“We will not allow this incident to break down the progress we have made and we pledge to do better,” Kenney said.

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