Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Original Local Youngstown Newspaper article referencing my very early efforts in reviewing various citizens complaints of Warren's Police abuse in light of a "potential pattern and practice" issue in Warren

I believed I had discovered for the second time in my life, a rust belt Eastern Ohio city with major policing problems and issues on a scale that even seemed to dwarf my hometown of Steubenville, Ohio back in the 90's.

It did and in fact, this information and evidence would be presented to the Civil Rights Division personnel and officials in person the very next month, after this article was written and published.

I developed a professional but close working relationship with the article's author Peggy Sinkovitch and together we were uncovering major deep rooted instances of serious police misconduct and abuse, even serious corruption on a scale that would easily qualify for a national/federal Dept of Justice Civil Rights Special Litigation review and investigation from my previous work with the Department in Steubenville, the prior decade.

This early effort would eventually lead to me filing a number of federal civil rights lawsuits all alleging that a "pattern and practice of serious constitutional violations" were occurring in Warrren and had occurred there.  These lawsuits along with a few others filed by those listening and then assisting others in Warren, helped formed the basis for the serious federal Civil Rights Division investigation that would take place, beginning with their announcement in December of 2004, in the very last days of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, under Bush's first term right after he was re-elected.  This surprising support by a very conservative and otherwise not exactly a bleeding liberal Attorney General, held sway and would give encouragement and impetus for those of us on the ground in Warren and surrounding areas to keep going and move on.

Eventually, much too long for some of those I originally represented and in a way, even for myself, this U.S. Department Federal Civil Rights pattern and practice investigation would come to fruition and while too late for many of us, who pioneered and originally began the effort, nonetheless, the Feds would make their findings....eight long years after they started and after I first spoke with them in August of 2003 in Washington DC, soon after Peggy had written this article for the Vindicator, the local newspaper in the Mahoning Valley.

Vindicator, Vindication....maybe...perhaps,...but again for some of us, it was a bittersweet victory....but one...given the implications and the consequences and what we gave and some even went to prison over, for a long time, and others were impacted in their lives and careers forever...

In the fall of 2011, the DOJ finally reached a conclusion of its long, (too long?) 'review' of the Warren PD; to wit: the DOJ Special Litigation lawyers and the Northern District U.S.Attorney for Ohio and the Civil Rights Division Chief, Tony Perez, {now Obama's new Labor Dept Secretary Designee} publically announced that:

 "Warren had engaged in a pattern and practice of serious civil rights violations of its own citizens" and Division Chief Perez made it clear, "it was and has been the result of a long historical problem in Warren and it would take an equally long time to remedy the same."

     The Civil Rights Chief  also expressly stated, "this investigation began as a direct result of the civil rights lawsuits filed in court back in 2004."  For myself, and those who suffered the abuse, it may have been again, a little late and almost anachronistic after what we been thru over the past seven and half years prior.   What I first was reviewing and 'saw' and concluded, however back in the summer of 03, as Peggy S first published this this article, came to official fruition and in part, vindication, by this federal Department of Justice finding by its Civil Rights Division, long after much hard fought battles, had taken form and exacted, a serious toll on many of those, including myself, who had simply given witness to what the truth on the ground in Warren was for many who had the life affecting experience of dealing with its police force and its local benefactors and legal supporters.

Ferreting out systemic abuse by government officials on a local level is nothing for the faint of heart.
Especially so, is this true of exposing American policing problems in cities and towns with the kinds of backgrounds and reputations that Warren-Youngstown and Steubenville have.

What has happened in the days following these revelations, lawsuits and settlements and findings?

   Much of this remains the task of the local advocates and citizens themselves.  What kind of modern policing models take root now that the US Justice Dept has made an entry and its findings of "pattern and practices" of citizen constitutional violations on a mass historical scale in such former proud steel towns?  That's a question and issue that remains to be seen fully and in part, it is largely up to the citizens themselves of these towns and cities to carry on the work and the effort of what others have done for them, who have gone before them often much to their own detriment and with a certain kind of "veteran of domestic wars" isn't unlike any human rights activist or worker truly is a human rights issue that can be found either in this major bell weather Midwestern State or it can be found in Downtown New Orleans, New York, LA or in war Zones, Like Abu Gharib in Baghdad, or across the seas, in the Mid East, in places like Mosul, Cairo or Tunisha, or in and among the former Soviet Republics;  it can also be found in London or Greece or South America too....bad policing and severe local and state official abuse and torture of one's citizenry can be found worldwide and once you have worked on such issues deeply inside of even the smaller towns and cities of Eastern, Ohio, like Steubenville and Warren, Ohio among others, you will find the deep appreciation for what the meaning and struggle for human rights worldwide is like and what is costs...

its nothing simple, its not a laughing or mocking matter or something to be readily dismissed as "someone else's problem"   Its the problem of the late 20th and this early part of the 21st century, if there are any such human rights problems anywhere

What is constantly amazing to me, still, after all these years, is the heavy ...still...local govt leaders opposition to reforms instituted by the DOJ and the sheer denial and historical revisionism some want to engage in.   Its truly a stunning aspect of the entire struggle and effort to 'get at' this serious problem that exists oftentimes around the globe in our modern world today.

What amazes me as well, is the official "bright smiling face" that America puts on display, around the world for its "great human rights example"...for the world to see and follow.

Its largely a lie and at least its something less than what often passes for American "exceptionalism" as its called today.  If our Founders had local police officers acting like they had done in the smaller towns and cities that I personally came into engagement with, they would have fought to the death against this kind of ugly spirit and 'local tyranny" with all their fortunes, if the circumstances were all otherwise equal.   No doubt, many of the affected are African American's today but by no means all and the constitutional level of violations that have been documented and referenced would have easily fit within Tom Jefferson's "list of grievances" of the kind that are found in the original Declaration of Independence which would give the people the right if not the duty to ...engage in a revolution against that government which were "to violate and deny certain inalienable rights to its own citizens"

having said this much, simply put, it is in no small way, very assuring and extremely fulfilling in one sense, to know and to note that the U.S. Justice Department has in fact, listened, responded and even with its very late and too little too late for many, final conclusion, it nonetheless says something about our system that we even expect so much from a distant national /federal government agency today.

The Feds have their own problem of "face" within the Attorney General's office and its Justice Department.  They have to get along and work besides many local law enforcement officers on a daily and continuous basis and will have to do so, for the next century.

Its not easy for any law enforcement agency to "police its own" much less go against their "cousins" in the field of law enforcement.  The feds too are or have been painted with a broad brush by the more conservative elements like the strong FOP union that strongly backs all local police departments and officers across the nation with an iron fist like sense of righteousness.  The FOP often calls for the Civil Rights Division lawyers to "get off of our backs" and labels them as "big brother" and worse.

The issue of federalism versus local home rule is a major sticking point anytime any federal law enforcement efforts are directed at mainline institutional settings.  Its only exponentially multiplied when this same model is applied or directed towards local policing anywhere from small to large metro local police departments, who again much considerable political clout and public pressure.

All of this, combines to make what happened in Eastern Ohio and among a handful of advocates and their pleas and cries for certain justice and their long suffering efforts to make the constitutional promises and guarantees real and true as they were and exist to protect the ordinary American citizen even in such out of the way small venues like these.

If such constitutional "righting of the wrongs" and such major federal 'enforcements' can happen in such towns, then there is some genuine basis for hope for everywhere, and by logic, everyone else.

"What happens to the least of these, happens to Me" was the notion that those of us who battled the serious local forces who were found opposing such police and local government reforms held to our chests and in our imagination as well as our hearts during the most difficult moments and darkest days of such difficult encounters.   And we still do.  very few get rich off of representing the oppressed and the disenfranchised and their plight before the status quo powers that be of anywhere USA.
But winning these certain few but nonetheless, critical serious local battles even for those of us, who small in number generally speaking, for gaining constitutional level reforms to be both acknowledged as needed and then 'enforced' by federal involvement and oversight, thereby gaining some much needed balance in such citizen -police power relationships, with the public need for some kind of redress publicly was all important in both of these towns that I did this work in.   And it remains so to this day.

    This notion that the individual matters, that no matter what status in society or life, that in America, the small person and the poor and the oppressed, had such fundamental rights as guaranteed by the US Constitution would warrant and the Framer of the 14th Amendment would envision, was the underlying basis for getting to the bottom of these issues in such out of the way places like Steubenville and Warren, Ohio in this rapidly moving modern era.

It was the fundamental belief in the good of the country's promise of democratic impulses and the notion that "everyone is equal under the law" and that the Bill of Rights, wasn't some kind of anachronistic overlay from another era that is no longer relevant in today's modern and tough world of modern citizen-police interface and the fact that ordinary people, of all backgrounds and socio -economic status of even the most forgotten and "former industrial towns" of middle America, the small and midsized towns that once made America what it was [...and] in some ways...


     and they have the right to enjoy what those very wealthy Virginia landowners believed and wrote about for themselves and for....all the citizens of this nation ...who were to possess, over 220 years ago

    and what John Bingham and those in the Post Civil War 39th/40th Congresses worked hard to gain and ensure and fashion into federal law and made certain by the Reconstruction Era Constitutional Amendments, that indeed, all men and women everywhere were to be viewed as equally sharing in the "Due Process of Law and Equal Protection of the laws", as they were Americans, irregardless of race, class, nationality and/or socio-economic status. 

If we share and safeguard this ideal, that all men and women and children were to be entrusted and to be "clothed" with the 'beautiful sameness', of the power of "the in-alienable rights", of the equality of all men and women, everywhere and the notion 'we are all created equal and are equal before the law' and this was to be worked down into the very locales where real people lived, breathed and have their being, then what we did, by standing up for these affected citizen communities, wasn't something 'small' wasn't "just a small town's or eastern Ohio issue"....nor was it merely something to be forgotten...

it was, it in fact, remains, the very core of what this nation ...and what human rights worldwide... are about...or should be...

and its why some have died and given their lives in the cause of freedom....both in peace time and in wars...across the globe.

its not just the veterans of foreign wars....that have fought serious battles and bear the scars of such serious battles...there are many who have fought serious long sustained 'battle's' right here inside of America and for many decades and for years...and some have not lived to see the fruits of their labors...and some have left us too early...and others have not been given the same opportunity we have to witness in their own lifetimes, such advances or even a victory such as 'minor' or large as ours...

for this, we need to be thankful...and for some of us...we can share and bask in the knowledge even when we were beat, when we were imprisoned, when were we shackled, when we were publicly humiliated and put to the test and oftentimes shunned and many times made to feel the hot breathe of the liars label being put town around our heads like some crown of thorns...

we nonetheless, can still see the righteous judgments of the Lord and they are "altogether righteous"...

the Eternal Hand can be found, at times working almost imperceptibly among the affairs of men...for a few of us....we have had the experience of holding That Hand, if even for a moment, ...while the same guided us thru and protected us, in the midst of...these battles, and efforts to aid His poor...and to bring light to a very dark corner of our world

and in doing so, we helped begin to heal the nation's soul, in part...

it isn't over by a long run...
there is more to go    and ...there is a long road yet to be this nation...

but some of us,  like those who came before us and fought on in such invisible battles, with extant results, Lundy, like Garrison and Douglass and Bingham and many others...

and those who died too early in our own era, the Evers, the Kennedys, King etc...and many others

we have made our contribution....we have done what we were sent to do....

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