Bernie Hayes

Have you seen cemetery tombstones reading “I Told You I Was Sick – Do You Believe Me Now?” Well, African Americans have been complaining about police brutality, harassment, intimidation and killings for years, and now since the release of the Department of Justice on Ferguson, I ask the world, “Do you believe us now?”

The report established that African Americans accounted for 85 percent of all people stopped by Ferguson police officers and 90 percent of all citations issued. The report also notes several racist jokes sent by city and police officials via e-mail. In 13 of 14 police canine-bite incidents for which racial information was available, it says, the person bitten was African-American.

On my radio programs, listeners would call in and complain about police harassments, random unprovoked stops, traffic tickets and other forms of intimidation to African Americans in Jennings, Moline Acres, Ferguson, Florissant, Pine Lawn, Ladue, Velda City, Beverly Hills, Maplewood and many other county municipalities. Now these facts are being revealed.

The city of Bellefontaine Neighbors mandated its police officers to write a certain number of tickets each month, and recently the chief of that municipality resigned. Although nearly all of the defendants at the city's municipal court were black, the chief insisted that black people were not targeted.

Complaints have been filed against Ladue, and the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP has filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that some St. Louis County police officers racially profiled blacks in and around stores in South County and that racism is rampant in the department’s hiring, firing and discipline.

One of the core principles of the Fourth Amendment is that the police cannot stop and detain an individual without some reason, probable cause, or at least reasonable suspicion that he or she is involved in criminal activity. But Supreme Court decisions allow the police to use traffic stops to search for evidence, and those stopped are primarily African Americans and Latinos. 

We depend on the police to protect us from harm. But racial profiling has led countless people to live in fear, casting entire communities as suspect simply because of what they look like. It is a fundamentally flawed and inequitable system, fragmented, unfair and inefficient, and I hope these revelations by the Department of Justice will make the system better.

Malcolm X said, “Power in defense of freedom is greater than power on behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”

Please watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on KNLC-TV Ch. 24. I can be reached by fax at (314) 837-3369 or e-mail at: berhay@swbell.net.

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