Why Should I Trust You?

June 9, 2015

Why Should I Trust You?

                                                                       © June 2015

 

 

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou, Poet

 

WHY SHOULD I TRUST YOU?

You suspect me of being a criminal because of the color of my skin or the neighborhood I live in.

       Why should I trust you?

You randomly stop me while I am walking down the street, tell me to put my hands against the wall and search me.

      Why should I trust you?

When I am driving my car you pull me over for no reason.

      Why should I trust you?

When I am pulled over for a legitimate reason and you can find I've committed no crime, you still make me get out of my car.

  Why should I trust you?

When I was 12-years old playing with my toy gun in the park, you killed me.

  Why should I trust you?

You arrest me for no reason, handcuff me, shackle my feet, and place me face down in a patty wagon and I die.

  Why should I trust you?

You choked me to death when I told you I couldn't breathe.

  Why should I trust you?

You know I am innocent and falsely prosecute, convict and imprison me.

  Why should I trust you?

You make me feel like trash.

  Why should I trust you?

You make me feel less than human.

  Why should I trust you?

You killed my unarmed son.

  Why should I trust you?

You killed my unarmed Daddy.

  Why should I trust you?

You killed my unarmed brother.

  Why should I trust you?

You wrongly convict me.

  Why should I trust you?

You over sentence me.

  Why should I trust you?

You won't take responsibility for your wrong actions but hypocritically ask me to take responsibility for mine.

  Why should I trust someone like you?

You made me sad. You gave me grief. You constantly hassle, harass, and disrespect me.

Why should I trust you when you don't trust me?

Why should I respect you when you don't respect me?

Why should I show faith in you when you show no faith in me?

Please tell me...

Why should I trust you?

 

America's law enforcement and the overall justice system wants the trust of the communities they serve. Yet they refuse to hold their police, prosecutors and judges accountable for abuse of power and discretion, excessive use of force, and other wrongful actions perpetrated on citizens that result in loss of life and liberty. They want us to trust them with the mass collection of our personal phone records under the Patriot Act when they have been caught previously abusing those privileges by illegally gaining access to our information through the misuse of national security letters. I and my IRP6 codefendants have seen the lack of humanity from justice officials who knowingly, willingly, and relentlessly pursued a wrongful criminal conviction and imprisonment against us.

 

In the IRP6 case, federal agents not only illegally gained access to church and parishioner banking records without a subpoena, but also federal Judge Christine M. Arguello lied about violating the pro se IRP6 defendant's 4th Amendment rights when she compelled them to testify in their trial and then made the transcript disappear.  Assistant United States Attorney's Matthew T. Kirsch and Suneeta Hazra, who witnessed Arguello's statements stayed silent and allowed the judge's constitutional transgression and prejudice against the IRP6 to stand so they could win a wrongful conviction.  In an effort to violate the IRP6's 6th Amendment right to present witnesses in their favor and win his case, AUSA Kirsch lied in open court about being unaware of two key IRP6 expert witnesses even though they were on the witness list and he had received letters from both months prior to trial.  Judge Arguello supported Kirsch's lies and refused to allow the witnesses to testify. U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals did absolutely nothing to correct the actions of Kirsch or Arguello.  I, David Banks, along with my other codefendants personally witnessed this happening and court records substantiate our claims. Retired federal Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who I am certain has reviewed thousands of federal criminal cases before he retired from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, reviewed the IRP6 court records. Sarokin said that the IRP6 were "pursued relentlessly and punished harshly for basically a failure to pay corporate debts.  He went on to say that he "feared a great injustice has been done. We are not alone. The actions of law enforcement resulting in the deaths of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown make it difficult for people to trust law enforcement, especially in cases where prosecutors condone police behavior by failing to bring charges and use the grand jury as a scapegoat to justify their actions. It's hard to imagine that Kirsch, Arguello, Walsh, Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals judges, Baldock, Hartz and Holmes and Briscoe possess even a residue of humanity when they allow us to be wrongly-convicted and imprisoned. Our lives matter! Our wives matter! Our children matter! Our mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers matter! Justice matters!

 

The slogan "Black Lives Matter" is not empty rhetoric. It is how we feel based on a culmination of heartfelt sentiment resulting from decades of unjust and disrespectful police policies and tactics. These policies and tactics have victimized African-Americans by robbing them not only of their constitutional rights, but also depriving them of human dignity, respect, and their very lives. Law enforcement must turn a critical eye of introspection on their culture and ask how they view African-American men and why they feel they should not face public scrutiny when an unarmed citizen has been killed by an armed officer. Attitudes by law enforcement and justice officials that the public should give them automatic benefit of the doubt that they acted properly when they kill unarmed citizens or wrongly convict and imprison the innocent shows just how deep the culture of impunity is.  Or is it that police find it easier to justify killing or caging African-American men because they view them as animals, thugs or even "demons" as Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson characterized Michael Brown after killing him? How else can one explain the callous and senseless acts of violence police are perpetrating on human beings they swore to protect?

 

It appears that some police, prosecutors and, judges’ consciences have been seared. Thus allowing them to completely lose their sense of humanity and cavalierly justify their destruction of someone's life and liberty.  Eric Garner, while being choked by an NYPD officer, complained 11 times that he could not breathe, yet the officer continued to strangle Mr. Garner until he was dead while other officers stood by and watched it happen.  Baltimore police officers cuffed Freddie Gray's hands behind his back, shackled his feet, and placed him face down in a patty wagon, allowing him to die after his spine was severed from his helpless body being violently tossed around the metal wagon.  Twelve year old Tamir Rice while playing with a toy gun in the park is immediately shot and killed by police, upon their arrival.  When I was growing up it was common for children to have fake guns and play cops and robbers in the park, but now even innocent black children playing with a toy gun are killed.  Officers involved in this type of reprehensible and brutal conduct shows that they are devoid of humanity.  Failure by prosecutors to file criminal charges is a kick in the face to African-Americans and shows they don't value our feelings or our lives.  As I watched CNN's coverage of the Freddie Gray shooting, I was greatly offended by the clear bias and tacit endorsement by former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes and retired NYPD Detective Harry Houck of the Baltimore Police officer's actions that resulted in the death of Freddie Gray.  Their attitudes shows a deeply embedded culture of impunity that exists in law enforcement and cold-hearted disregard for Freddie Gray's life.  Is he just another dead animal to them?  Houck and Fuentes were uncharacteristically critical of Maryland State Attorney Marilyn Mosby for bringing charges against the officers even after the coroner found the cause of death to be homicide. I heard Houck say that the public criticism being suffered when an officer shoots someone make police not want to do their jobs.  Houck's comments are patently disingenuous. The fact is that police actions are heavily criticized when they kill UNARMED African-Americans. I have not seen a single complaint or protest when cops killed someone who had a real gun.  A "we're the police, don't question us" attitude is a big part of why they suffer disrespect.  Additionally, a failure by police to acknowledge that some of their officers abuse power and use excessive force that kills unarmed citizens further alienates them from the communities they serve.  Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is quoted in the May 19, 2015 edition of the New York Times criticizing Obama and his administration for making comments on how the police acted inappropriately without knowing the facts and their failure to recognize the stew of poverty and lack of educational and employment opportunities that make police officer's job so difficult.  Now the FOP Police Union in Baltimore is saying that the "police are under siege" and that Baltimore police are afraid of going to jail if they properly do their job. These comments are carefully constructed not only to deflect from the victimization of Gray and Garner, but change the narrative to make the police out to be victims of a vicious community and redirect the focus to larger socio-economic issues and President Obama. Reasonable conclusions can be drawn by President Obama and the public from irrefutable video evidence and the FACT that these unarmed men died in police custody. The tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice represent the worst in policing. Yet, it is the day-to-day disrespectful and harassing policies such as stop and frisk that is significantly responsible for the mountain of distrust that exists in predominantly black communities.

 

It is folly for the police to justify, no matter how crime-ridden a neighborhood may be, that randomly stopping and frisking a citizen who is merely walking down the sidewalk is a fair police practice.  Many police executives would argue that this "ends justifies the means" approach has resulted in more guns, drugs and alleged dangerous individuals being taken off the street, thereby making the community safer.  Police are supposed to intervene in the commission of crimes and investigate specific people known to them to engage in criminal activity. However, they spend much of their time racially profiling and conducting random stops armed with a warped standard of probable cause amounting to driving or walking while black.  Stop and frisk is equivalent to the tactics used by the NSA in their mass collection and searching of phone records, which violates the constitutional and privacy rights of many in an effort to catch a few. Stop and frisk, however, is much more egregious because it profiles large numbers of human beings based on race and searches are conducted on the person's body.  If police were to conduct stop and frisk operations in affluent white neighborhoods and harass that community there would be outrage and many lawsuits would ensue. Stop and frisk is a policy of harassment and has contributed significantly to the dismal erosion of trust in our police.  Other policing tactics are also viewed as harassment.

 

I am absolutely dumbfounded how prison staff has legitimized slave labor, as a real job.  They pay $6.00 per month, do written performance reviews and have the audacity to make threats to fire inmates.  Is this a Saturday Night Live spoof or what? I have even heard staff say that inmate labor costs are out of control. WOW!!  If an inmate refuses to work, he faces solitary confinement.  Let us not forget that slaves were beaten, mutilated or killed when they refused to work for slave masters.  The United States, with their dark history of slavery, should be ashamed for ratifying slavery in the 13th Amendment for crime and punishment.  Germany does not engage in Nazi concentration camp practices on its citizens and neither should America with slavery.  Congress should amend the Constitution to totally abolish slavery in prison.  True rehabilitation could be realized if inmates were paid a reasonable wage whereby they could actually afford to pay restitution, provide some financial support to their families and even pay taxes.  Currently, when families send inmates money for prison services such as email, phone, printing, and commissary, some BOP case managers will take that money and pay restitution, thereby burdening innocent families by siphoning money out of their pockets and purses.  The law only permits federal judges to set payment restitution amounts and prohibits the BOP from doing so.  However, this law is being ignored by BOP case managers as they continue to take money from family donations instead of from what the inmate earns from despicable slave labor.  Even when a convicted felon leaves prison, they find themselves locked into a perpetual state of punishment through sanctions making it extremely difficult to find gainful employment --- making it impossible to ever pay his debt to society or support himself or his family.

 

In the Monday, May 18, 2015 edition of the Walls Street Journal, Joe Palazzolo reports in an article titled "After Prison, Landing a Job Is Tricky", that there are 46,000 state and federal restrictions imposed on convicted felons --- 60% to 70% of which are employment related. Experts estimate that tens of thousands more sanctions are embedded in local ordinances. The Journal also reports on research that shows stable employment greatly reduces the chances of recidivism. Federal judges also impose employment restrictions on defendants during sentencing and when an ex-convict finds a job while on probation, probation officers can and do prohibit them from working in certain capacities. Isn't the loss of freedom enough punishment? Many times inmates, especially those with white collar convictions are highly-skilled professionals and possess many years of experience in a particular profession.  Society's continual piling on through civil sanctions and telling a free man where he can and cannot work is cruel and unusual punishment. For the government to interfere in the right of a company to hire who they want or the right of a person to work where they want is tyranny.  To tout that America and its people are forgiving while imposing these type excessive and oppressive sanctions is both disingenuous and hypocritical.  Clearly this is another area where America needs to reform its criminal justice system. Federal, state and local legislators have begun to sponsor legislation to deal with the excessive sanctions. "Some of these consequences can severely undermine the ability of those released from prison to become contributing members of society", said U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D) in Wall Street Journal.  The Journal reports that Senator Leahy has helped secure federal funding for creating a national inventory of roadblocks to employment and other collateral restrictions, dubbed collateral consequences.

 

I ask police, FOP, prosecutors, and judges to take a moment and honestly ponder how they would feel if their Son, Father or Brother had been treated like Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Michael Brown.  How would you feel if your 12-year old Son was killed by police while playing with his toy gun in the park? How would you feel if your Son, Father, or Brother died as a result of being handcuffed with his feet shackled and placed face down without restraints in the back of a patty wagon?  How would you feel if your Son, Father or Brother was choked to death by police after saying he could not breathe 11 times?  How would it make you feel if your unarmed Son, Father or Brother was shot during a jaywalking stop? How would you feel if your pregnant Wife, Mother, Sister or Daughter was forced to the ground on her belly and arrested without just cause?  How would you feel if you were routinely stopped and frisked by police as you were at the mall or walking down the street?  How would you feel if you were charged with a crime you didn't commit, went to trial, had your Constitutional rights violated by a trial judge, the transcript of that violation mysteriously disappear, and then you are sent to prison? How would you feel if a prosecutor has proof of you or your family member's innocence and pursues a wrongful conviction anyway?  How would you honestly feel? That's how we feel.  Quit making excuses for your colleagues who abuse their power and use excessive force on unarmed people. It is only hurting your reputation with the communities you serve. Forget your pride. Forget your politics. Forget winning at any cost.  Do the right thing, practice the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and your family and it will heal this deep chasm of mistrust that exists between you and your communities.

 

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