An excerpt from Blue vs. Black: Let’s End the Conflict Between Cops and Minorities - BNCL Law Firm

An excerpt from Blue vs. Black: Let’s End the Conflict Between Cops and Minorities

August 16, 2015
By: John Burris
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Blue vs. Black

It takes a lot to make a grown man cry. I’m talking about the kind of tears that are churned up in the face of brutality and ignorance; tears that originate someplace deep in a man’s gut after he has been beaten down and humiliated in front of his children. It’s a hard thing to watch.

As a civil rights attorney, the abuse of dignity is my daily fare, so I’ve witnessed that crying more times than I can count. With blacks, Hispanics, Asians, even whites. No single race can lay sole claim to the experience of humiliation. But mostly I’ve seen it with blacks. We don’t like to hear it, and we don’t want to believe it, but there’s still an element in our society that feels a need to bring the black man down. When that element wears the shield of the law, the consequences can reverberate across generations, leaving permanent scars.

Blue vs. Black is the story of the conflict that goes on every day in the cities of America, between police officers and black citizens…. It is not my goal merely to display a catalogue of horrors and leave them to simmer. I intend this book to be a platform for a national conversation about solutions. For while some may view this problem as impossible to solve, I am not among them. There is a solution to every human conflict. It only requires the will to pursue it.

During the past twenty years, I have represented hundreds of people in lawsuits involving allegations of police misconduct. You will meet some of them here, and will be impressed by their remarkable spirit. What is most notable about my clients is that they are not, for the most part, the type of people who would ever have reason to be involved in police actions. Most of them are solid citizens, ordinary people going about their business, just like you and me. They include a psychologist, a janitor, a social worker, the director of a community center, a grandmother, a retired Marine, several college students, a high-school coach, a secretary, a small-business owner, and even a police officer. The circumstances that landed them in the center of their personal nightmares were generally innocuous–a traffic stop, a jaywalking ticket, a stroll through the “wrong” neighborhood, a case of mistaken identity that could have been resolved in an instant. Sometimes it was nothing more than just being there: “walking while black,” we call it; or “DWB”-driving while black. My clients over the years have confirmed the truth in the old Cliché: Bad things do happen to good people.

However, it isn’t a simple matter of black and white, righteousness versus abuse. The police officers involved in these confrontations cannot be painted in the broad strokes of a stereotype. It would be easy, of course, to peg them as rotten apples, bad cops, racists’ dissolving their individuality behind the color blue, just as my clients’ individuality has been dissolved behind the color black.

Although there is a minority of brutal cops in every precinct (estimated at 3 to 5 percent), the heart of the conflict is more complex than the misbehavior of a few…. The search for solutions goes to the heart of the police culture, where policy is set, attitudes are formed, and accountability is measured.

Imagine the result if enough people were committed to work for the day when blacks and cops might become allies, not enemies. When leaders on both sides preached cooperation rather than conflict. When citizens were shown respect by police officers, and returned it in kind….

These are possible goals. But they require an ability to see all sides of every issue–to be clearheaded when our hearts feel outrage. I will present my own 10-point proposal that I have shaped in consultation with leading experts on public policy and procedures.

While I was writing this book, I recontacted many of the people whose stories are represented in the following pages. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what I would find…. They were, however, eager to talk, to stand up and be counted, to let their names and faces provoke dialogue and produce change. These men and women were able to pull from the depths of their bruised psyches the courage to be a part of the solution. It’s a start.

To obtain your copy of Blue vs. Black, please contact us here or call us at (510) 839-5200.

You can also find the book here.

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