Comply or Die: What the Shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte Reveal About Policing in America

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  September 27, 2016

Comply or Die: What the Shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte Reveal About Policing in America

Failure to comply with police can result in a death sentence for Black Americans, says Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report
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Glen Ford is a distinguished radio-show host and commentator. In 1977, Ford co-launched, produced and hosted America's Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. In 1987, Ford launched Rap It Up, the first nationally syndicated Hip Hop music show, broadcast on 65 radio stations. Ford co-founded the Black Commentator in 2002 and in 2006 he launched the Black Agenda Report. Ford is also the author of The Big Lie: An Analysis of U.S. Media Coverage of the Grenada Invasion.


KIM BROWN, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore. More questions than answers still linger in the shooting death of forty-three year-old Keith Lamont Scott by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. There were a lot of protests over the past few days. Including one held at the Carolina Panthers home stadium where protestors gathered to voice their displeasure over the handling of the shooting by Charlotte area police.

To get an update on this, we’re joined by, Glen Ford from Plainfield, New Jersey. Glen is the co-founder and the executive director of the Black Agenda Report. He’s also the author of The Big Lie: Analysis of U.S. Press Coverage of the Grenada Invasion. Glen, thank you so much for joining us. Glen, your take on what has happened, not only to Keith Scott in Charlotte, but the reaction and the protest that followed.

GLEN FORD: Now that the streets of Charlotte aren’t full of angry black protestors, we’re at the stage when the question arises: “What does this experience, in Charlotte, tell us? What is the lesson that we’re supposed to learn?” The one thing that the police killing of Keith Scott shows us is that there is no prospect for this movement against police terror to fade away. The reason is that there is no prospect for the police behaviors that spawned that movement to go away. The police behaviors remain unchanged.

What is excruciatingly clear from the videos of Mr. Scott’s killing is that he was executed for non-compliance with police officers’ commands. That was his affront. They, the police, went into a killing mode when they couldn’t get him out of his car. They refused to budge from that killing mode; that “ready to kill” mode. Even as the victim’s wife was pleading with them, telling them that Scott had a brain injury. But they made no effort to enlist her support in resolving the situation with her husband. They had all the time in the world to safeguard the safety of everybody involved in this situation. But they chose, instead, to treat Scott’s non-compliance with their commands as some kind of capital crime.

Their actions defied common sense and a normal person, looking at those videos, would say that these were nonsensical actions. But one has to understand that the police mission, in black America, is to impose arbitrary rules and punish people who don’t go along with those arbitrary rules, right away, with deadly force. Failure to comply is a capital crime and every black person knows that this is a standard that was designed for black communities. Not for other people’s communities. And since this is how the police in this country are trained to work, how they’re encouraged to work, it doesn’t matter if the cops are black or if they’re white, or if the city is north or south, or if its old south or new south.

The rule is still the same, you comply or you die.

Compliance is also, of course, the overarching comply-ology in prison. Police in the United States act as if black people are such a dangerous population that they have to be forced into these rituals of compliance. Just like they do in prison. If they’re not forced into these rituals of compliance, well the whole society will then fall apart. Its clear that the social order that they’re afraid will fall apart, if there is not this non-compliance under pain of death is a white supremacists social order. And so the black police chief in Charlotte, he was finally forced to show those police videos after Mr. Scott’s wife’s videos went public.

But there’s a North Carolina law that goes into effect, just in a few days, in fact, that would keep such police videos secret. And the governor of North Carolina, Mr. McCrory, when he signed the bill, he said this law was necessary to keep these kinds of videos secret, in order to protect law enforcement. So, we see that the state and the police protect each other and both of them protect the white supremacist social order. But there’s nobody, nobody, nobody, out there protecting black people.

BROWN: But, Glen, you raise an interesting point about compliance because we have seen a black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was shot and killed by police officer, Betty Shelby, when there was lots of video of him appearing to be extremely compliant: hands in the air, walking very slowly. The police claim that he was not obeying commands but the video seems to dispute that and prove otherwise. And now, Betty Shelby is facing a charge of manslaughter. Obviously, this is a charge, not a conviction. But your thoughts about how these two cases are parallel to each other. With Mr. Crutcher being visibly compliant and the video of Mr. Scott, in Charlotte, not showing clearly whether or not he was obeying police commands. But your thoughts about how these two cases appear against each other?

FORD: Well that’s the arbitrary-ness of compliance. Compliance is whatever they say it is. The brother in Tulsa, a normal person would say, he certainly doesn’t seem non-compliant but the police said, the police woman who shot him, said that he wouldn’t look in her eyes. And he wouldn’t answer her questions the way she wanted him to. Apparently, that is enough to earn you a death sentence. Compliance is an arbitrary kind of thing when it comes out of police officers mouths, just as the danger is an arbitrary thing.

Police constantly say, as their defense, it seems the only thing they need to defend themselves against charges of wrongful death that they felt that their lives were in danger. What is the standard of having that kind of emotion? That feeling of somehow being in danger, its whatever they say it is. That’s what I mean by arbitrariness of compliance. If we knew exactly what they wanted, most of us not wanting to go to jail or even miss a beat when we’re just trying to get to our jobs. We’d comply but we don’t know what they want and they change the version of what they want, all the time.

BROWN: Interesting thing about compliance, Glen, I’m not sure if you saw this or not, but the high court of Massachusetts ruled, recently, that it was not unreasonable for black men to run from police. It’s a very very interesting case, if you get an opportunity to check it out. The court says that based off Boston Police Department’s own data, how black men especially are routinely profiled and arbitrarily stopped, that it is unlawful nor is it unreasonable for them to run from police when encountered by them.

FORD: It, certainly, is not unreasonable if your experience tells you that this cop, when he gets you under his control, is going to make demands upon you, that you may not fulfill, that he’s going to ask you to do things that you can’t do or might not do quickly enough and then if you fail to do what he wants, adequately, as far as he sees it, you might be killed. Then, running, may be the most sensical thing you can do.

BROWN: Indeed, we’ve been speaking with Glen Ford, he is the co-founder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Also, author of The Big Lie: Analysis of U.S. Press Coverage of the Grenada Invasion. And he is a regular contributor, here, to The Real News. Glen, we appreciate you, as always.

FORD: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you for watching The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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