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Black Motorist’s Fatal Shooting: Outcry Over Police Tactics

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In this April 4, 2015, frame from dashboard video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager stands by Walter Lamer Scott's car during a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to a fatal shooting that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. Slager has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/North Charleston Police Department)

In this April 4, 2015, frame from dashboard video provided by the North Charleston Police Department, Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager stands by Walter Lamer Scott’s car during a traffic stop in North Charleston, S.C. The video captures the moments leading up to a fatal shooting that has sparked outrage as the latest example of a white police officer killing an unarmed black man. Slager has been fired and charged with murder. (AP Photo/North Charleston Police Department)

JEFFREY COLLINS, Associated Press
MITCH WEISS, Associated Press

NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP) — As its population surged in the last decade, South Carolina’s third-largest city fought rising crime through aggressive policing. But North Charleston’s police department lost the respect of many black residents in neighborhoods they blitzed, and now many are upset after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black motorist by a white officer.

Police in North Charleston used computers to track the neighborhoods where crime was on the rise, then sent waves of officers to patrol and conduct traffic stops, looking for offenders and letting drivers know they were cracking down. By the numbers, the tactics worked: every major category of crime, from murder to burglary to robbery to rape all fell significantly from 2007 to 2012, the last year for which statistics are available.

But anger is surfacing as civil rights leaders are demanding a full U.S. Justice Department investigation of the North Charleston force. The fatal shooting of Walter Scott as he fled after a traffic stop Saturday stirred outrage around the U.S., but people in North Charleston said they weren’t surprised.

“If the image of the city is more important than the lives of their citizens, there is going to be a problem,” said Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP civil rights group. She’s unrelated to the slain motorist.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a parallel investigation with a local prosecutor into whether there were civil rights violations in the killing of Walter Scott. The NAACP would like that expanded to a full probe of whether racism and lack of respect for civil rights is pervasive through the entire department — similar to the federal agency’s probe after the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old unarmed black man by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

With just over 100,000 people, North Charleston grew by nearly 16,500 people or about 20 percent from 2000 to 2010. More than half of its residents are minorities, mostly African-Americans. About 28 percent of its families make less than $25,000 a year.

For years, it battled an economic slump caused by the mid-1990s closing of the Charleston Naval Base on the city’s waterfront. For decades, city fortunes were tied to the base, where 38,000 people worked in the late 1980s.

But the city had plenty of land and proximity to next door Charleston, an affluent city popular with tourists. North Charleston has since bounced back, largely because of a huge investment by Boeing, which has a 787 aircraft manufacturing plant in the city.

Now North Charleston reaches from upscale subdivisions of $700,000 homes near the banks of the Ashley River to the older, impoverished black neighborhoods near the old naval base.

And those poor and black residents have learned to band together and be cautious around a police force that is nearly 80 percent white. Several residents around the city this week told the same story about what they do when an officer turns on the lights to pull them over. They said they immediately call a friend to see if they are nearby and can walk over to be a witness to a traffic stop. If no one is close, the phone is kept on so the person on the other end can listen, just in case.

Blacks were routinely putting their hands in the air when police confronted them for years before “Hands up, Don’t shoot” became a slogan in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, said 25-year-old Robert Blanton.

He said he has been stopped plenty of times for simply walking around his neighborhood after dark.

“I wonder — do they do that to whites walking in their neighborhood?” Blanton said.

The police department has refused to talk about its crime-fighting strategies since Scott was killed and officer Michael Slager was charged with murder, saying they want to wait until after Scott’s funeral on Saturday out of respect for his family.

But in a 2012 article in The Post and Courier of Charleston, then-Police Chief Jon Zumalt justified his more aggressive approach by saying it ensured people were obeying the law. And even if traffic stops didn’t lead to arrests, it got the word out that North Charleston was serious about fighting crime, he told the newspaper, which reported traffic stops in the city increased by about 3,000 to nearly 64,000 in 2011.

Numbers gathered by the state back that up. North Charleston had 26 murders in 2007 and 13 murders in 2012. The number of robberies in that five-year span fell 66 percent, while the number of burglaries dropped 29 percent.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Community

Building Bridges Beyond Bias in Marin

Registration is required. Sign-ups are available on the MCFL website. For more information and to register to this event, go to marinlibrary.org/blogs/post/building-bridges-beyond-bias/

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From left: Tahirah Dean, Jason Lau, Ph.D., Laura Eberly, Alejandro Lara

The Marin County Free Library (MCFL) and Age Forward Marin is presenting a four-part, on-line series “Building Bridges Beyond Bias” which is designed for Marin County residents from all backgrounds to gain understanding and foster awareness about each other through conversation and connection, and to confront and explore beyond our biases.

Tahirah Dean will be speaking on Wednesday, October 20, and Jason Lau, Ph.D. will be speaking on Wednesday, November 3, for the two remaining programs. The programs will be online via Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Dean is an Afro-Latina Muslim woman and a staff attorney at Legal Aid of Marin, pursuing her passion for housing justice, and has worked as an immigration attorney assisting asylum seekers and those seeking work visas. She holds a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of North Texas, and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.

Lau traveled to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1997 to further his education. Today, he is the interim associate dean and senior business officer for the School of Extended and International Education for Sonoma State University and chairs the Marin County Child Care Commission and the Marin YMCA Volunteer Board of Managers.

The speakers for two previous programs in the series were Laura Eberly, who spoke on September 22 and Alejandro Lara, who spoke on October 6.

Eberly is the founding director of Mountaintop Coaching & Consulting, which provides diversity, equity, and inclusion services. She holds a B.A. and M.S.W. from the University of Chicago and is ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. She is a proud alum of Catalyst Project’s Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizing Training Program.

Lara is a first-generation Latino college graduate from UC Davis, and currently works as the communications coordinator for the Canal Alliance in San Rafael.

MCFL has supported equity measures in the county, offered enlightening educational programming, and has enthusiastically endorsed the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ prioritization of social equity and the creation of the County’s Office of Equity. County departments are working to dismantle inequities and transform systems inherited through centuries of racial, social, and political injustices.

The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spearheaded the Age Forward Marin. It is a collective effort between County departments and local government, community leaders, and residents including in Marin’s unincorporated areas.

Gloria Dunn-Violin, a resident of Novato, approached HHS Director Benita McLarin with a concept that evolved into the special speaker series. Dunn-Violin teamed with the Corte Madera Library and the Age Forward initiative to design the Beyond Bias program’s purpose and format, to assist in finding speakers, and to share the event with community partners focused on diversity and inclusion.

Registration is required. Sign-ups are available on the MCFL website. For more information and to register to this event, go to marinlibrary.org/blogs/post/building-bridges-beyond-bias/

The Marin Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California

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Black History

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis Pioneered Diversity in Foreign Service

UC Berkeley Grad Continues to Bring International Economic Empowerment for Women

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Ambassador Ruth A. Davis (left) is meeting with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Ambassador Ruth A. Davis was recently named as a distinguished alumna by the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley. 

She also has been honored by the U.S. State Department when a conference room at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia was named in honor of her service as director of the Institute. She was the first African American to serve in that position.

Davis, a graduate of Spelman College received a master’s degree from UC Berkeley in 1968.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also a graduate of the School of Social Welfare, now chairs the House Appropriations Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. She praised Ambassador Davis as “a trailblazing leader and one of the great American diplomats of our time. Over her 40-year career, she had so many ‘firsts’ on her resume: the first Black director of the Foreign Service Institute, the first Black woman Director General of the Foreign Service, and the first Black woman to be named a Career Ambassador, to name just a few.

“She served all over the world, from Kinshasa to Tokyo to Barcelona, where she was consul general, and to Benin, where she served as ambassador,” Lee continued. “ I am so proud of her many accomplishments. She has represented the best of America around the world, and our world is a better place because of her service.”

During Davis’ 40-year career in the Foreign Service, she also served as chief of staff in the Africa Bureau, and as distinguished advisor for international affairs at Howard University. She retired in 2009 as a Career Ambassador, the highest-level rank in Foreign Service.

Since her retirement, Ambassador Davis has served as the chair (and a founding member) of the International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC), an organization devoted to promoting women’s economic empowerment by creating an international network of businesswomen.

She also chairs the selection committee for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship at Howard University’s Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center, where she helps to oversee the annual selection process. Finally, as vice president of the Association of Black American Ambassadors, she participates in activities involving the recruitment, preparation, hiring, retention, mentoring and promotion of minority Foreign Service employees.

Gay Plair Cobb, former Regional Administrator of the Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor in the Atlanta, and San Francisco offices, was Ambassador Davis’ roommate at UC Berkeley. Cobb said, “Ruth always exhibited outstanding leadership and a determined commitment to fairness, equal opportunity and activism, which we engaged in on a regular basis.”

Davis has received the Department of State’s Superior Honor Award, Arnold L. Raphel Memorial Award and Equal Employment Opportunity Award; the Secretary of State’s Achievement Award (including from Gen. Colin Powell); the Director General’s Foreign Service Cup; two Presidential Distinguished Service Awards; and Honorary Doctor of Laws from Middlebury and Spelman Colleges.

A native of Atlanta, Davis was recently named to the Economist’s 2015 Global Diversity List as one of the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life and is the recipient of the American Foreign Service Association’s Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Award.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Business

City Must Pay Contractors, Businesses, Non-Profits Promptly

By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

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Sheng Thao

I have introduced legislation to restore the City of Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance and it will be heard at 1:30 p.m. by the City Council on October 19 because local contractors and local businesses need to be compensated in a timely manner for work they do on behalf of the City.

It’s unacceptable that the city is using the COVID-19 pandemic to delay payment to these local non-profit organizations.  By restoring the Prompt Payment Ordinance, local organizations working for Oaklanders will be compensated in a timely manner and can do more work for Oakland as a result.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then-Interim City Administrator, Steven Falk issued an Emergency Order suspending parts of the City’s codes to give the City the flexibility to navigate the uncertain times.  Few would have guessed then that the world would still be navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic nearly 18 months later. One of the ordinances suspended by the Emergency Order was the Prompt Payment Ordinance.

Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance requires the City to compensate local businesses and contractors executing City grants or contracts within 20 days of receiving an invoice.  This allows local organizations providing services on behalf of the City of Oakland to be compensated in a timely manner and builds trust between these organizations and the city.  Local contractors and businesses provide a diverse set of services to the City, covering areas ranging from trash removal and paving to public safety.

Almost 18 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oakland’s Prompt Payment Ordinance is still suspended.  Even as City staff have adjusted to working remotely and the City has adjusted to operating during the pandemic, there is no requirement that the City compensate its contractors or local businesses in a timely manner.

Oaklanders can comment at the meeting by joining the Zoom meeting via this link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88527652491 or calling 1-669-900-6833 and using the Meeting ID 885 2765 2491 and raising their hand during the public comment period at the beginning of the Council meeting.

 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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