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At Flagler NAACP Town Hall, Matters of Black Lives, “The Talk,” and the Gap Between Community and Policing

| July 13, 2016

naacp town hall violence

‘When was the last time we talked about Medgar Evers?’ the Rev. Danita Blow, who moderated the NAACP’s town hall Tuesday evening, asked. ‘When is the last time we talked about the four Alabama girls? As we come here today, it’s a reminder that the police aren’t responsible for everything that’s going on in our community. We have to make a change.’ (© FlaglerLive)

When the Rev. David Blow and his wife, the Rev. Danita Blow, were stopped by a Flagler County sheriff’s deputy recently on their way to church, the black couple became wary.

“In this climate, you don’t want a traffic stop on your way to church to end your life,” David Blow said during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening (July 12) at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Palm Coast, where he’s youth minister.


Blow then alluded to “the talk” – the term African-American parents use to denote the cautionary advice they give their male children on how to handle encounters with law enforcement. And Blow alluded to two recent, graphically gruesome viral videos that show black men dying after being shot by police.

“You have to be very guarded about your interaction with police departments,” Blow said during the town hall organized by the Flagler County branch of the NAACP. “One of the tensions about the talk is you tell your children if you do A, B, C and D if you’re stopped, all will be well. But then on TV they see people do A, B, C and D and it doesn’t go well.”

“We watched a gentleman die on camera simply because he told the officer that he needed to reach for identification,” Danita Blow told the audience of some 80 attendees.

The Flagler County officer “pulled us over, detained us, asked us for ID, gave us our stuff back and sent us on our way,” David Blow said, leaving the couple feeling that they had been racially profiled.

The recent police killing of those two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castille in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. (see below), plus the subsequent revenge killing of five white Dallas police officers by an African-American, former Army Reservist named Micah Johnson, prompted the Flagler County NAACP to host the town hall meeting.


The Falcon Heights Shooting

 

Discussion among a five-member panel and attendees included not only community policing, officer bodycams and minority law enforcement recruitment but also the Black Lives Matter movement, biblical-inspired child-raising and even gangsta rap – the latter replete with a slide show of rappers and scantily clad women that played out on the church sanctuary’s giant video screen.

Panelists included David Blow, Flagler NAACP president and former New York City police officer Linda Sharpe-Matthews, and three white members of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office: Chief Deputy Jeff Hoffman, Commander Steve Brandt and Sgt. Mike Lutz. Danita Blow moderated the event.

Attendees included Larry Jones, the lone African-American candidate among nine running for Flagler County Sheriff (Jones did not address the crowd); Adrienne Felton, an African-American woman and a human resource specialist with the sheriff’s department; and Denise Calderwood, a Republican candidate for Flagler County Commission District 5 and one of only five white people in the audience.

The concept of community policing received ample attention.

“Community policing is not a new concept, but I think over the years it was lost,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know why or when it was lost. I came on board a police department shortly after the Rodney King incident. At that time the powers that be thought what we’ll do with community policing is form small groups of officers who specialize in engaging with communities. It seemed like it worked. I was part of one of those squads.

“Then it occurred to me some time ago that community policing really wasn’t designed to be just a system where just a handful of officers practiced this. It should be a department-wide philosophy. But there’s also a community function in a partnership. It takes an entire neighborhood to keep a neighborhood safe — everybody looking out for everybody. That’s really what community policing is. Are we very good at it? I don’t think so. We haven’t quite mastered it.”

Brandt, a 23-year veteran with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, noted citizens of all races are hesitant to cooperate with police: “Part of community policing is officers work in a particular zone and that’s where they stay. The purpose is they get to know the community.


“Our children are the children of the dependent, of the despairing, the disillusioned, the disenfranchised. Jim Crow is not in a hood any more – he’s wearing judicial robes.”
 


“There have been multiple instances throughout my career where I’ve gotten to know my community, not just the African-American community but the community in general, where I’ve gotten to know kids, mentor kids and get involved in their lives. Then when a problem arises on the street – a rash of burglaries or vandalism — and they’re there, but nobody wants to talk to the police. It starts at home for everybody. I’m not talking about just the African-American community but the whole community.”

Hoffman speculated that the shortfalls of community policing “could be a generational thing. I’m a little biased about the new generation coming into law enforcement. I don’t believe some of our younger officers and younger people in general have the communication skills that generations before us had. That’s problematic in law enforcement for sure. We’re striving to do better. Getting the community involved in this partnership also is a challenge.”

Matthews, the NCAAP president, recalled her own time as a police officer in New York and said “residency requirements” for officers “are key. Police officers in some places live in the suburbs and have very little interaction with minorities.”

As that comment drew an audible favorable response from attendees–in predominantly black south Bunnell, for example, police might as well be from out of state–Matthews continued: “The thing about this is fear is born of ignorance. If you have no interaction with anybody of another ethnicity, then you are never going to be able to understand them. You don’t have to walk in my shoes, but you have to understand when my feet hurt. Because it is exhausting being black. It is exhausting being Latino. It is exhausting having to have that talk. We’re the only race in the nation that has to have THE TALK with our male children,” Matthews concluded to fervent applause.

Some attendees expressed concern over a lack of African-American officers on police forces.

“If we do not see proper representation on the police force, if there is a disparity between the African-American community and representation we see on the police force, then there is going to be a problem with community policing,” Danita Blow said.

Hoffman said the percentage of African-American law enforcement officers “is consistent with the population of the county,” but he added, “Could it be better? Absolutely. I don’t know what the solution is honestly to that problem. It’s definitely not for a lack of trying on our part. As someone who is intricately involved in the recruiting process for the agency, I know there are not a lot of minority applicants. I don’t know why.”

panelists naacp town hall on violence

In response to the recent killings of black men by police, as well as the killing of five Dallas police officers, the Flagler County branch of the NAACP held a town hall meeting July 12 at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church of Palm Coast. Panelists included, from left: David Blow, youth minister at Mt. Calvary; Flagler NAACP president and former New York City police officer Linda Sharpe Matthews, and three members of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office: Chief Deputy Jeff Hoffman, Commander Steve Brandt and Sgt. Mike Lutz. (© FlaglerLive)

Hoffman noted that at a recent police recruitment academy held at Daytona State College, there was only one African-American participant among 35 students.

Audience member Harold Burton, a former police officer who served in a “very racist” climate in Richmond, Va., in the 1960s, said, “A lot of this stuff were talking about starts at home. You want to know why you don’t get many minority children involved? I lay you a dollar to a doughnut that they don’t receive with open arms the inclusiveness police recruits should be getting regardless of what color they are. Let’s face it, in this area of the country, skin color matters,” he said to robust applause.

“If you’re waiting to go to the academy to get a minority person to become a law enforcement officer – way too late,” Burton continued. “Somebody needs to be in Buddy Taylor Middle School. You need to be sending uniformed police officers into the elementary schools, helping them to understand that police officers are good for 99.9 percent. What we are dealing with in the news is admittedly the one percent.”

Felton, the human resource specialist with the sheriff’s office, noted that the agency “actively recruits” at black colleges in Florida, and that programs are currently operating in Flagler County middle schools and high schools to introduce students to law enforcement.

One “success” for the sheriff’s office has been equipping FCSO officers with body cameras, Hoffman said: “Not only does it offer transparency to the public, but I believe it’s keeping honest cops honest. The body cameras provide that monitoring program to these officers on the street to ensure they are acting the way they are supposed to be.”

Brandt, the FCSO commander, responded to an audience member who asked “Who is policing the police?”


The Baton Rouge, La., Shooting

 

“We do it all the time, but it doesn’t make the headlines when we fire a police officer,” Brandt said. He repeatedly urged attendees to contact the sheriff’s office if any citizen has a problem with an officer. He also said he had seen no evidence locally of a so-called “code of blue silence” – that officers protect fellow bad officers by not speaking out against them.

“I can’t speak for agencies across the country – I only know about here,” he said. “Locally I don’t know of any bad police officers and if I do I’m going to deal with it. I’m not getting those complaints. If it should happen by all means pick up the phone and call me. If I don’t know about it, I can’t deal with it. I’ll do the internal affairs investigation.”

The Rev. Sims Jones, who is running for Palm Coast City Council, referenced President Obama and the use of a robot-delivered bomb by police to kill the holed-up shooter in the Dallas incident.

“I’m afraid driving down the street,” Jones, who is black, said. “This country and its machinery built itself up in such a way as to always keep us down. If you don’t believe it, look what happened when we got our first black president, how the machinery turned on that black president. The bottom line is we aren’t being treated right. They are not going to treat us right.

“My heart goes out to the families of those police officers who got killed and hurt. But did you see the next step our government has moved to? They no longer are going to shoot us with guns – it’s ‘I’m going to protect my officers so I’m going to send in a bomb and blow you up.’ We have gotten to a place where we ain’t nothing but something to be exterminated. That’s the hard truth of the matter. We have to change the mindset of our government . . . we are the only race that the machinery of the United States is built to keep us down.”

Matthews, the NAACP president, responded to a woman “who asked why we concentrate on Black Lives Matter,” in Matthews’s words. “We concentrate on Black Lives Matter because throughout the course of history, all lives did not matter – our lives did not matter. I am not even a generation removed from the Civil Rights era. I remember being a child watching the riots and the dogs being set upon our people.

“Can you imagine the people raised in that era to accept this as the norm? Our children are the children of the dependent, of the despairing, the disillusioned, the disenfranchised. Jim Crow is not in a hood any more – he’s wearing judicial robes,” Matthews concluded to applause.

Danita Blow noted that “one of the things that’s come up consistently is that it starts at home. We spend too much time asking our children what they want to do and not enough telling them what they need to do. Our children are running the ship . . . they get what they want and they have no responsibility. Somebody’s going to have a problem with me in a moment, but the Bible declares that ‘Those I love, I chasten.’ God loves you and he chastens you. If you are not chastened by God then that means you are a bastard child. We cannot afford to have bastard children running around. Amen.”

David Blow, the Mt. Calvary youth minister, decried gangsta rap as slides of such hip-hop artists as Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg and others showed on a giant video screen.

He noted such music “celebrates” drugs, violence and “hyper-sexuality” and that “the bad thing is we are allowing our children to download this music. Many of us don’t even know what’s on our children’s iPads or the music they are listening to. These are some of our new slave masters. Look at the chains” – a reference to the exaggerated, massive chain necklaces being worn by many rappers on the video screen.

“I don’t blame Snoop Doggy Dogg or Dr. Dre,” David Blow continued. “I blame anybody who allows this mess into their iPad. There’s no way a child living in your house using your Internet should be able to say ‘You can’t see what’s on my device.’ ”

Blow referenced Kool Moe Dee, another rapper whom he called “a great prophet. He had a great line. He said, ‘I never ever ran from the Ku Klux Klan and I shouldn’t have to run from a black man.’ This culture of criminals within our community has to stop. We are a great people.”

Danita Blow urged the crowd to consider “our Jewish brothers and sisters. It does not matter how much their children get tired of seeing the Holocaust, but they see it. It does not matter how tired their children get of seeing ‘Schindler’s List,’ but they see it. It does not matter how much they get tired of recounting their history, but they recount it.

“When was the last time we recounted the history? When was the last time we talked about Medgar Evers? When is the last time we talked about the four Alabama girls? As we come here today, it’s a reminder that the police aren’t responsible for everything that’s going on in our community. We have to make a change.”

Hoffman, the chief deputy, said, “There’s a common theme to what everybody has said here tonight: working on the front end, whether it’s in the home, how we recruit law enforcement officers, how we train them. I think everybody realizes what needs to be done: It needs to start in the front end.”

naacp town hall

Attendance was as polarized as the subjects under discussion: panelists aside, only five white people were in the audience at the NAACP’s town hall. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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25 Responses for “At Flagler NAACP Town Hall, Matters of Black Lives, “The Talk,” and the Gap Between Community and Policing”

  1. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Wonderful message, I can only imagine what the comments section is going to look like. So I’ll start.

    Police aren’t military combatants. The #1 killer among police officers is heart disease, and you aren’t working in a war zone. You think you’re in a war zone because of police academy, which spends on average 110 hours on firearms training and self defense, and 8 hours on conflict resolution. You aren’t combatants, you are civilians just like the people you police. The sooner you realize this, and treat those that you police like people, the easier your job will be.

  2. David S says:

    Tell that to the BLM people the majority of these people who have problems with the police are convicted felons and thugs…

  3. theevoice says:

    why are so many black kids criminals? why is it accepted in the black culture? why are there so few fathers living in the home with the mothers with the black kids? the do most black kids aspire to be rappers and or sports stars? why do black kids have such poor grades and fail to go to school long enough to even get a high school diploma? let alone a college degree!! why is it always blamed on being slaves back in the 1800’s?? why do blacks take no personal responsibility for their actions/crimes? get answers to these questions and you will have a great start at a civilized society!!

  4. Donald Trump's Tiny Fingers says:

    Hahaha there it is, the first blm thug post. Next up: police apologists.

  5. Jim says:

    i won’t take sides but one side isn’t easily going to change (criminals), the police could and should make better decisions. Think about your job when you have a sticky situation, you may stop and go back and talk to a supervisor or call in several fellow employees to take a look at it. If a person is going to be combative or an officer feels like a situation could arise. Backup and supervisors should be called in. An officer can always go back to their patrol car and think through a situation even if they already know what is going to happen. It won’t work in every case but it will help the majority. If you tell someone to get on the ground and they don’t, call backup call a lot of backup. If a traffic stop doesn’t feel right retreat back to your vehicle and call backup call a lot of backup. Don’t make a big decision on your own. It only makes the situation more tense. I think officer training can be easily changed more so than civilian ignorant minds. Just a thought…

  6. Born and Raised Here says:

    I my 50 years living in Flagler County I have hardly ever seen any public relations or programs for the Black community of South Bunnell by the FCSO or the Police Dept. of Bunnell. The residence deserve better.

  7. yourstrully says:

    David, I could have not said it better myself! FACT stated.

  8. Ron says:

    Obey the laws of this country. If you are stop by a police officer be polite and follow the instructions of the officer. If you feel you are being mistreated ask for the officers badge number and name and file a complaint. Do not get aggressive or aurgumentative.

  9. Trapper says:

    It is NOT true that only blacks have “the talk” with their kids. I have reinforced this repeatedly with all three of mine. There are good people who are cops but the majority seem to be power freaks. They terrify me and I am an honest old white guy. I disagree with the style of BLM but not the content. NO ONE should EVER die reaching for their ID. PERIOD. If any cop is so terrified that he shoots that quick he should be charged with murder in my opinion. I have had many interactions with law enforcement over nearly seven decades and in the last twenty years its been consistently bad. In my opinion we are leaning towards a military police state instead of FREEDOM. I am very distressed by the violent attacks on guys just doing their job but there are TWO SIDES to this . Want proof? Go to the county fair and notice the cops do not talk to us. They only talk to each other. And they run in packs. Go to a restaurant and its the same. They think they are the elite. This is WRONG. I do believe a residency requirement should be mandatory. Much harder to arbitrarily shoot your neighbor. I hate that this is presented as a racial problem as I perceive it as a problem for us all. And frankly calling 911 for law enforcement is very scary to me. I simply do not believe they are there to serve and protect as they used to be.
    I hope community input can help change this as it certainly needs attention . Trapper

  10. r&r says:

    Eight years ago I thought we were all getting along fine. Then came Obama who encouraged the blacks to riot, rob, kill and burn. He said If I were there I’d be right in there with them. He’s the ONE who separated US. Besides WHITE LIVES MATTER. They’re paying the taxes that support these people.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank you FCSO for everything you do.

  12. Fredrick says:

    The TALK?? As a non hyphenated American, my parents had that with me also. They told me not to be stupid, don’t break the law and respect the police, even though some of them can be assholes. This has worked for me all my life and kept my interaction with law enforcement pleasant. Well there was that onetime drunk in Vegas but what went on there stays there :-).

  13. Super Fuzz says:

    If there was a war on police what happened to them in Dallas would be happening to to them everyday instead of gang members just killing each other. It’s a false narrative

  14. footballen says:

    How many blacks are killed by one another as opposed to those killed by police (doing their jobs as it is supposed to be done)? Then how many blacks are murdered by a police officer? If you answer those questions honestly then you will truly understand that this is not about the police. Granted on the rare occasion one of them does something terribly wrong then they should well be punished just as any criminal. In the story the pastors state that they were pulled over here in flagler, they cooperated and they were fine but they felt as if they had been racially profiled? Why? People are stopped all the time? In the story they also say that black men have done A,B,C, and D as they were taught by their parents and they were killed. When and where is that example? They explain a scenario where a black man asked to reach for his ID and he was killed for it. That is not even nearly the truth but it is what is being stated to a crowd of people expecting to be accurately informed. These are the problems!

  15. Changed says:

    Reading some of these comments are a perfect example of the problem. Some folks don’t know about the black culture; how we live, how we think or how society has subconsciously trained our minds. I have many young professional relatives. Many of you sound racist. You don’t even know that you’received racist. You should stop commenting about things you know nothing about. Thank you!

  16. woodchuck says:

    It’s easy white or black,brown,yellow and colors in between JUST COMPLY even if you are being harrassed the result will almost be better.

  17. Fredrick says:

    Changed – Yep, you are right it’s societies fault. Why take responsibility for anything. That thinking is THE PROBLEM.

  18. footballen says:

    Changed: I agree that I must have no idea what it is like to grow up as an African-American or black culture. I do not understand how you think. I am not sure what you mean when you state that society has trained your minds. When my girls were younger and we lived in another city. I tried to always treat ALL people with the same level of dignity and respect. When they had candy sales for fundraisers we went to ALL neighborhoods to go door to door sales. What effect do you think it had on them when the welcome was not so warm for a nerdy white guy and two young girls in particular neighborhoods where the population was predominately black? When we were called racial slurs and treated very rudely? Society has had an impact on all of us in many different ways. Isolating ourselves and taking no responsibility for our own injustices will get no where. I do not condone unfair treatment of any race, however I do not wish to shout to the hill tops that all Celtic people should be allowed to go on acting as they do with no regard for the laws simply because it is their culture. That is ridiculous.

  19. r&r says:

    Now it’s the whites who trained these blacks to riot , rob, burn and murder whites. They’re home schooled to do this and nothing is going change their frame of mind. So deal with it.

  20. Roachman says:

    We must get our language together people!! I’m a 28 year old black male who was just released from prison last year Sept27th there is even an article about it on this site!! My name is Theodore moore and I’m on this comment board to tell you the truth..these vigilantes and race soldiers that you guys are calling COPS (police) are not cops!! These are race soldiers posing as police officers!!#fact. I’ve never in my life watch a police officer harass, take down or execute anybody outside of the constitutional laws,but I as well as people who look like me have had to deal with race soldiers posing as cops harass,hurt,mistreat,my our children.our mothers.our fathers.to whatever degree and for what reason they will at will..the article that’s on here about me that sent me to prison in which I was just released…I was set up by the arresting officer!! FACTS….his first words to me when he seen me that moment where didn’t I tell you if you lied to me I would get you#FACT..a few months ago I was pulled no license with knowledge and had weed he thought I was a sucker in (street terms) and basically forced me into a I go to jail now or just find out who did a certain crime he wanted to know about and I tell him..I agreed …but avoided him for months weeks up until the incident..#FACTS..the whole incident was recorded on tape …also the officer cruiser had a mic that records when in park it recorded his first words him telling me about trying to play him about not snitching and even planted the gun on me ..I was so afraid and so scared to challenge him I went along with the gun and just tried to fight my way out of prison then try to tell a judge that a cop planted a gun on me ..also after telling me he has friends that will make sure I go to feds if it slips my mouth ..my first day in court they told me the feds were looking into my case ..then all of a sudden it was back in state courts …also how is the audio retrieved from his vehicle because I can prove my story with those tapes ..even if I have to prove the original tapes have been altered..I just have limited resources as you may say but hey maybe somebody who cares may just look into it…or will I just be another troubled black man ….every situation has a story

  21. Outsider says:

    Why don’t we ever see these types of videos in these stories claiming the cops are killing people for no reason?

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=n2KUTBN_nJ4

  22. r&r says:

    If you were a cop and you’re trying to cuff him and he pulls a gun on you what should you do say you’re sorry? It’s a jungle out there and the thugs are in charge.

  23. nomad says:

    ALL LIVES MATTER. PERIOD. The whole narrative on whose life matters borders on extreme narcissism and undeserved bourgeois entitlement. My husband’s ex-brother-in-law and by default mine, a white dead beat, was shot and killed by police for fleeing from an arrest warrant for outstanding child support the police were attempting to serve on him. Did he deserve to die? NO! But hey, he was a white guy so HIS life don’t matter. His story did not even make it on the news because it did matter. It did not fit the distraction narrative on the msm. Never mind that the guy genuinely could not afford to pay the child support because he had lost his job, which led to the breakdown in the marriage. If Black men were meted out the same punishment, they would all be in jail or dead. FACT: the majority of black men have more children than they can afford to support. FACT: the majority of black men do not support their kids. FACT: black women have more kids than they can afford. FACT: Black women only have kids because of the welfare benefits. FACT: Black men have kids for the welfare benefits. They only show up when the check/EBT is paid out so that they can collect on it. Blaming white folks for their, Black, problems is easier than taking responsibility for their actions.

    FACT: A white guy was shot and killed by police responding to a domestic dispute in my neighborhood. FACT: The white guy said “I am unarmed and I’m coming out with my hands up because I don’t want to die.” FACT: A police officer responding to the scene shot and killed him. Did it make the news? NO! It does not fit the distraction narrative of the msm.

    FACT: Below is a link to the posting of a BLM activist that is utterly disgusting. Whites, Asians and non-blacks rightfully have a right to be FED-UP with the rantings of these people.

    “According to ‘Black Lives Matter’ organizer Ashleigh Shackelford, white people aren’t welcome at Black Lives Matter rallies and instead should just hand over “reparations” to black people so that they can purchase new cellphones and laptops.”

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-07-16/black-lives-matter-organizer-triggered-white-people-demands-money-being-fat-black-bi

    Black people think that whites are to blame for buying them from their own black people who sold them into slavery. Really. If my parents had sold me into slavery, who should I blame? My parents or the folks who purchased me? I would naturally blame my parents. But not these folks. They want to impose their “warped” sense of “thinking” on everyone else and expect them to buy into it. Not me! And I’m not even White!

  24. Maureen McAleavey says:

    I attended this meeting. I am new to Palm Coast and saw this as an opportunity to learn more about the community. I was disappointed that my friend and I were the only white people at the meeting, other than 5 who were from the Sheriff’s Dept. or running for office. Palm Coast residents! Let’s be better than that!

  25. Maureen McAleavey says:

    I am new to Palm Coast and decided to attend this meeting to learn more about the community. My friend and I were the only white people at this meeting (other than the panel, one woman who was running for office and a journalist ). It was obvious that there is a racial profiling problem with a few sheriffs pulling over black residents. The Sheriffs Department commander said he was unaware that there is a problem and encouraged residents to call him personally if it happens to them. He sounded sincere. I hope that the meeting brings about more listening and problem solving.

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