Last week I was alerted to an inflammatory story from Bay Area ABC news reporter Dan Noyes that basically sought to disparage the Black August celebrations. The story noted that ‘police source’s had leaked a memo to him stating that prison guards and police were gonna be attacked by members of the Black Guerilla Family in celebration of Black August. Many found the allegations to be outlandish.
For those who are unaware, Black August is a month that is held to high esteem by many in the Black community who celebrate the resistance movements that have long been a part of our history for the past 300 hundred years. It also seeks to bring attention and calls for political prisoners here in the US to be set free.
This Black August as in the past, the organizing committees have called for folks to fast and reflect, but according to this ABC Report there is a call for the killing of police. To get an in depth history of Black August please read the following articles from;
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement–>HERE
Former Black Panther Party member Mama Ayanna Mashama –> HERE
In addition to smashing on Black August, this ABC news story cited the SF Bayview newspaper and basically accused it of being a contributing source to tensions between inmates and law enforcement because of articles it ran pointing out that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was responsibility last year’s tragic killing of longtime prisoner and freedom fighter Hugo Pinell.
SF Bayview publisher Mary Ratcliff noted that such accusations put the lives of all Black people in danger especially if they protest or express disdain about police brutality. It also undermines the work the SF Bayview does which includes among other things facilitating letter writing campaigns to political prisoners, publishing works of art, poems and short stories in their popular ‘Behind Enemy Lines‘ series from those who are incarcerated and shining light on controversial cases.
The Bayview has been an important lifeline between those locked up and the community at large. Ratcliff sent a letter to Dan Noyes and ABC asking to see this leaked memo, as of the time of this writing one has yet to be presented. You can read the ABC news story—> HERE.
POLICE FEEL GOOD STORIES: DO THEY HELP HEAL & REBUILD TRUST ?
The decision by ABC to run this story where they are essentially mouth pieces for police brass speaks to a larger issue in play, the cozy relationship between corporate media and police departments.
Here’s a couple of things that are going on right now that all should know. First, we have two nationwide PR campaigns. One campaign is designed to bolster the image of beleaguered police departments. Folks may have noticed in recent weeks a slew of feel good news stories on local news outlets all over the country, where we are presented with images highlighting the police doing ‘nice’ things for the community.
The stories range from police officers dancing with kids to holding BBQs to improve community relations to officers doing heroic things like buying shoes and clothing for the homeless to helping abused single mothers find housing to officers pulling people over to give them ice cream cones. How can one be mad?
The stories of police doing good deeds are endless with many of us in media seeing a marked increased on these types of stories being pitched. The pitches are accompanied with requests to interview retired police officers and law enforcement experts eager to provide a counter narrative to the onslaught of troubling stories of police terrorism, many which have been caught on tape, unjustified killings of unarmed individuals and racial and sexual harassment scandals attached to numerous police departments.
For some, the highlighting of police doing nice things is a good thing. It’s reassurance that things aren’t as bad as they seem. It’s a reassurance that police violence is an aberration with a few bad apples as the cause vs being something systemic. The feel good stories enhance the long held narrative that police are fair and just who are stern but friendly folks stationed in our community to protect and serve.
For many others, such stories have not erased the scars of brutality many have suffered or witnessed. If anything, the stories come across as hurtful because they are seen as an attempt to sanitize egregious transgressions committed by police officers where there has been little or no accountability, punishment and even admission of wrong doings.
Time will tell if these feel good stories are genuine attempts by police to bridge a gap, heal shattered communities and rebuild trust or if they are shallow PR moves attached to a larger agenda where police look good on the front end while doing dirt on the back.
For example, the video of a good-natured police officer delivering ice cream to a woman he pulled over stands in sharp contrast to the mean-spirited, disingenuous tone def photo/ article in San Francisco’s police union published in their newsletter where they use two dogs to extol the virtues of All Lives Matter over their deliberately distorted and antagonistic view of the Black Lives Matter movement. You can read about that—> HERE
Such hostile rhetoric and articles by police outlets like the one here in San Francisco do very little to put folks at ease especially knowing that there have been more than a dozen officers connected to a hateful racist text scandal where no one was fired or the the fact that officers got off Scott free in the execution style killings of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto and most recently Jessica Williams.
The Jeckyl and Hyde nature of police where they do a nice PR campaign while pummeling citizens when the camera are off can best be illustrated with the nationwide attention that was given to SFPD a couple of years ago when they help turn San Francisco into Gotham City for a young cancer survivor named Miles Scott affectionately known as Batkid.
The city of San Francisco was shut down and the red carpet rolled out as thousands came out to witnesses staged events where Batkid fought crime alongside SFPD officers who played key roles. At the end of the day there wasn’t a dry eye in the city. People fell in love with Batkid. The image of SFPD was boosted and former police chief Greg Suhr was deemed a hero.
While the eyes of the nation focused on Batkid and the ‘heroic’ efforts of SFPD, what didn’t get caught on camera that day less then a mile a way from city hall where the celebration took place, was the sieging of a neighborhood and the brutal beatings by SFPD of residence living in Valencia Gardens.
What sparked off the incident was 20 year old college student D’Paris Charles Williams aka DJ had just returned from the Batkid event. He rode his bike on the sidewalk from the street to the front door of his home when he was accosted by an undercover officer who didn’t identify himself but demanded DJ come over to him as he entered his home.
Williams was dragged from his home and beaten badly as other residents not sure who was attacking Williams got involved and they too were beaten by plain clothes and uniformed officers arriving on the scene.
Williams was arrested for riding his bike on a public sidewalk and resisting arrest. The charges were later dropped but set off a city wide Taking a Stand for SF campaign where Black, Brown and poor residence of SF brought attention to the onslaught of police brutality incidents that were often gone unpunished and hidden behind the city’s progressive and social justice image. You can read about that incident —>HERE
The feel good police PR stories fall flat when you have more than 30 cops in what major news outlets euphemistically call a ‘sex scandal’ involving officers ‘sleeping’ with a 17 year ‘sex worker’. You can read that story-as reported by ABC reporter Dan Noyes –>HERE .
Compare that read with the original investigative report from community newspaper the Eastbay Express that brought all this to light. It’s called Badge of Dishonor.
The choice made by mainstream reporters to use sanitizing words like ‘sex scandal’ as opposed to ‘rape’ or ’sleeping with’ as opposed to ‘human trafficking’ or ‘sex worker’ as opposed to ‘prostitute’, ‘rape victim’ or sexually exploited minor is rooted in what seems to be an all costs desire by many to see police as heroic figures who are a front line defense protecting us from crime and other dangers. No one wants to see their heroes fall or be put in bad light. Police departments know this and have acted accordingly.
Part of their PR campaign seems to be an attempt to put a good face to law makers who are now being aggressively lobbied by police unions all over the country to put into place so-called Blue Lives Matter bills. These bills written with the goal of making police a protected class of people and anyone attacking them being subjected to hate crime laws. Read about the array of bills being pushed nationwide –> HERE
The PR campaign also serves to discredit and demonize the Black Lives Matter movement and associate anyone protesting the police, no matter how tame, outlandish or aggressive as being card carrying member acting on the directions its leaders. Such attacks are dangerous and designed to squelch dissent. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
One thing this is at play which is rarely talked about is the on going symbiotic and business relationships many media outlets have with police departments. In some cities we have smiling officers giving us up-to-date information on traffic.
In other places like Los Angeles, we have retired police officers who are embedded in newsrooms and on call to serves as ‘experts‘ to provide keen insight to to SWAT stand offs and wild car chases which are routinely shown on TV. Read about that HERE
As we sit, mesmerized through a live car chase, our opinions are shaped by the police narrative which is often the sole voice that goes unchallenged.
Hence a ‘troubled’ suspect, who may be having a mental breakdown and in need of help and understanding is transformed before our eyes into a ‘dangerous perp‘ who should be stopped and taught a harsh lesson, maybe even shot and beaten for fleeing.
This embedding kicked off an era where we have celebrity cops who become media darlings. They range from folks like the late LA Police chief Darryl Gates who had his own radio show to tough talking Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to Sheriff David Clarke who recently spoke at the Republican National Convention. Some well known athletes and actors are now police officers including: Shaquille Oneal, Steven Seagal and Lou Ferrigno to name a few.
In many places, police blotters seemingly tailored made for news reporters to read on air, help cash strapped outlets fulfill ‘if it bleeds it leads‘ ethos. The prevailing train of thought is: ‘Why send a reporter out to investigate or unearth a news story when one can simply read story after story from a police blotter and interview a media savvy police spokesperson to fill in the details?
This type of endeavor is justified by news directors who assert that on the front end the incessant reporting of crime is a community service of sorts, where they are helping keep the public safe by getting the word out on behalf of the police and raising awareness about possible dangers we should be on the look out for in our neighborhoods. On the back-end it saves news outlets lots of money as police departments come to serve as defacto news reporters.
Many corporate media outlets seek to court favorable interactions with the police in order to get an edge up on other businesses ventures they are involved in. For example, many outlets seek to increase their visibility by sponsoring and producing concerts and festivals. In many cities the police have tremendous power under the guise of public safety, in recommending who gets permits or is allowed to play in a venue. In some instances, the police get to determine who even shows up on stage or what songs are sung.
We all know about what happened 25 years ago when the rap group NWA released the song F–Tha Police and police departments put the smash on the group forbidding them to perform the song in venues the police had jurisdiction. The group decided to push back and defy the ban when they did a show in Detroit which resulted in 20 plain clothes cops bum rushing the stage and effectively shutting down the concert.
Fast forward to 2016, we have a singer like Beyonce release a song like Formation where she calls for the police to stop killing Black folks. Police unions all over the country put the call out to boycott her World Tour and not provide security at venues where they had jurisdiction. Read about that–> HERE
A few months prior to Beyonce releasing Formation, film maker Quinton Tarrintino found himself in the cross hairs of police unions and on the receiving end of a boycott after he attended a Stop Police Terrorism rally in New York City and said the following from the stage:
I’m a human being with a conscience. And if you believe there’s murder going on then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I’m here to say I’m on the side of the murdered.
When I see murders, I do not stand by … I have to call a murder a murder and I have to call the murderers the murderers.
Police unions didn’t stop at a boycott, they called for police officers not to consult with Tarrintino and threatened there would be a ‘surprise’ (payback). Tarrintino to his credit did not back down stating he would not be intimidated. You can read about that –> HERE
Beyonce, one of the biggest stars in the world, also didn’t back down, but both her and Tarantino found themselves having to explain their remarks. This left folks wondering if mega stars could be put on blast by police, who else has been put in the cross hairs and made completely silenced?
Back in my Clear Channel/ KMEL days SFPD’s South of Market (Southern Station division) dictated to nightclubs in the areas which radio stations they could and couldn’t get to sponsor them. Our station was shut out of many nightclubs because the police captain at the time determined we attracted a ‘bad crowd’ and for public safety reasons they would pressure clubs not to use us. Those who went against their recommendations were required to spend a couple thousand dollars hiring officers to sit in front of a nightclub to make sure our ‘bad crowd‘ was contained.
At one point we actually had a big meeting with that SFPD division, they came to the station, sat down and read off a list of incidents involving clubs that advertised with us.. We in turn gave them an equally long list of incidents at clubs that had nothing to do with us. The meeting went nowhere quick, after my boss at the time informed the captain we would not be purchasing tickets or helping sponsor some sort of police golf charity they were putting on.
But needless to say as a media outlet maintaining a ‘good relationship‘ with the police became an in-house priority, especially when the influence of police spilled over to them having the final word on who did and didn’t get to perform at our signature Summer Jam event. For a period time, all acts had to be run through local police departments because of the so-called ‘bad crowd ‘we attracted. They would give a yeah or nay to our acts.
Many of the local acts we wanted were erroneously dinged and subsequently banned because police intelligence said they were gang affiliated or they known to ‘attract a bad crowd‘. One year we had a back and forth with police about having A Tribe Called Quest who they claimed had gang ties… We won that battle but many we had to let go…
DEMONIZING THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT
Granting permits, influencing sponsorships of festivals and other outdoor events all play a role in how corporate media dances and depicts local police departments. That in turn means that when a PR campaign pops up where there is a call to highlight feel good stories of police departments many outlets will enthusiastically jump on them.
At the same time, you will see the unchallenged parroting of police departments demonizing protests and protestors. Most notably in recent times has been Black Lives Matter. If a local activist gets up and says the Police have been infiltrated by white supremacist and rogue elements and have become a terrorist entity in many communities, such claims will be laughed at, dismissed and not even reported or investigated by many mainstream outlets. If anything such claims will lead to news outlets working overtime to discredit or disproving those making these claims.
On the other hand, if a police agency either through its command staff or their police union assert organizations like Black Lives Matter are dangerous and the root cause of police getting killed or harmed in the line of duty, its held up and treated as a fact with little or no attempt to set the record straight either about the organization or the exaggerated notion that police are under significant threats. News outlets will go out of their way to frame a story in line with police narratives while ignoring or downplaying blatant, juvenile and insidious attacks made by police against organizations they deem hostile.
For example, we are constantly hearing about the police who were killed in Baton Rogue and Dallas with the prevailing narrative being the individuals who did the killing were ‘inspired‘ by Black Lives Matter. What’s left out of the narrative is that in between the Baton Rogue and Dallas killings, two officers were killed in Berrien County, Michigan by a white man named Larry Darnell Gordon who was a career criminal.
Many media outlets in their desire to appease police departments made no move to challenge or put into context the Pro-Police/ Anti-Black Lives Matter narratives constructed and dictated by police unions and PR firms.
For example, while media outlets ran with the BLM inspired the killing of police narrative, very few looked into the role the military may have had on the lives and subsequent actions taken by Micah Xavier Johnson and Gavin Long the two men who were accused of the police killings in Dallas and Baton Rogue.
We heard no investigation into the military units they belong to or what sort of things were being taught or exposed to. There’s been little or no discussion on mental health. There’s been relative silence…
However, many news outlets delved deeply into what sort of readings they did on line and what type of music or artists they listened to and admired. A large net was drawn around folks and organizations who may have come upon these gentlemen casually or in passing.
We didn’t see this type of digging and mass associating when discussing Larry Darnell Gordon. There’s been little or no discussion into what may have influenced career criminal him? Was he affiliated with a anti-government/ militias, white supremacist organizations. After all, such outfits are not uncommon in a state like Michigan. Was Larry Gordon connected to a prison gang that had it out for the police and law enforcement?
Some may say such a question is far-reaching until you actually do some research and discover it was just two years ago, in April of 2013, that white supremacist prison gangs were accused of ordering the killing of a Texas district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia.
The killing of an assistant prosecutor named Mark Hasse was supposedly ordered two month prior by the same white prison gang. That slaying also took place in Texas. All 3 killings came on the heels of Colorado prison chief Tom Clements being killed at his home. Again that same white supremacist prison gang was at the center of the killings. Read about that HERE
With all that’s been said, we can better understand why there wasn’t a rush by both police and corporate media outlets to connect the killings done by Gordon with movements and organizations he may have been connected to and demonize them..
Sadly we saw similar patterns unfold after the tragic shooting of a Colorado Springs police officer named Garrett Swasey at the hands of Robert Lewis Dear who shot up a Planned Parenthood Center in November 2015.
Dear not only killed a police officer but also two civilians and injured 9 others. In the aftermath we did not see police unions characterize anti-abortion groups as violent organizations that needed to be curtailed. We didn’t see police rush to establish a Blue Lives Matter laws.
Dear’s terrible actions were isolated and framed by both police and corporate media as an aberration to the Pro-Life Movement vs something as systemic and part of that movement’s ethos. Such latitude has not been granted to the BLM Movement as shown via proposed policies and increased hostile rhetoric even as we are bombarded with feel good police stories.
So where do we go from here? First we need to be aware of what’s going on. We have to be crystal clear that much of corporate media is built around PR and advertising campaigns and not investigative truth telling that challenges and holds accountable systems of power. This is particularly true when it comes to police. We have to not only be aware but call it out and move in precise directions to counter. The sad reality is many media outlets are now owned those power brokers.
Second, we can not be lured into the trap of having feel good stories be a substitute for justice. Yes, it’s great to see cops dancing with kids, giving out ice cream cones and helping those in dire straits. In fact more actions like that should be encouraged, but for many, the smiles will be slow in coming if we see those who we grant with so much power, not be held accountable when they violate our communal truth. We should not be satisfied with benevolent actions under oppressive conditions that can be likened to a dictatorship of sorts. We need to have genuine system of checks and balances.
So when a news outlet like ABC wants to bring to light a leaked memo about police concerns around Black August, we should asking were there leaked memos and concerns about gangs dubbed social cliques with alleged white supremacists ties in police departments like; The nation wide Jump Out Boys, 3000 Gang, The Vikings, The Nomads, Sunset Incorporated (SI) and a many others? You can read about some of that—> HERE
We should be asking if these mainstream news outlets are doing investigations into those organizations and putting systems in place where they can get leaked memos to follow up on their insidious activities. We should be checking to see if some of these reporters when they get before lawmakers will press them and vigorously follow up about what sort of actions they intend to take to curtail police wrong doing. Far too often media outlets serve as glorified stenographers for police departments and that’s got to change.Until then #staywoke
written by Davey D