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Posts Tagged ‘African American’

IMG_4034Is it me?  Is it you?

I didn’t wear a hoodie for Trayvon. I didn’t march to Save Our Girls or Kony.  I didn’t do the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” march for Mike Brown in Ferguson.  I didn’t do the “Can’t Breath” march for Eric Garner in NYC.

You won’t see me out there. Nope.

While I can’t deny that I’m Caucasian, I can say that as a motorcycle enthusiast I’ve experienced law enforcement arrogance that allows an armed “professional” to be less responsible of my rights than a typical citizen.  And I’ll acknowledge up front that I can’t represent or fully appreciate any of the issues through a racial lens or what African-American people feel.

It’s not that I don’t believe in any of these causes.  I’m not in denial that there are aggressive LEO’s out there who push the limits with their actions.  Just this week an Oregon State Police detective was prosecuted for destroying evidence and lying about it.  And a Clackamas County Sheriff was fired for mishandling and then lying about evidence, forcing the dismissal of 10 cases!  Clearly an affront to all Americans.

It’s just that I’m not convinced marching in 2014 is really going to make a difference.  But, let’s back up for minute before I explain why.

About four years ago I attended a day-long training session at the Oregon Public Safety Academy (DPSST) on law enforcement using deadly force in making arrests. You can read about it HERE.  I was in “Tactical Village” – a sprawling complex with faux buildings, roadways, cars, buses and the typical neighborhood debris you’d find in any urban environment.  We had Glock’s that fired paint-pellet bullets and went through various training scenarios to simulate real-world incidents.  I spent several hours responding to chaotic, dangerous or unpredictable situations in an effort to serve others or as they say… “walk in a LEO’s shoes.”  Suffice to say that my lack of split-second decisions got me killed repeatedly and made me realize how we all should talk about citizen retraining, so critics will at least wait until they have all the facts of a case before calling in the high-profile, paid-to-incite activists.

So, why do I sit behind my computer and criticize some of the marching or protest efforts?  This isn’t 1960 when the act of sitting in a restaurant sparked a nationwide movement that changed some things. It’s 2014 and we live in a “right now for the moment” world or I prefer to call it a bandwagon, hashtag advocacy society.  People create protest hashtag campaigns faster than a drive-thru burger joint.  Then along comes the funky complementary graphics they believe it provides everyone a sense of solidarity.  If its trending, we’re hashtagging it. Get your hashtag t-shirt or beanie now!

But, once the thrill is gone, so are we.

Think I’m trippin?  What happened to the girls everyone wanted to save a few months back? Where are they now? How many of those hoodies everyone posed in put Zimmerman in jail or helped to pay for legal fees for Trayvon’s family?  Where have all the occupy chanters gone?  What’s changed in 3- years?  So, how are these new protests around the country stopping cops from killing or from spraying mace in the faces of the marching kids today or tomorrow?  If you can answer that then I may reconsider my position.

People lose interest when they realize the issue is more complicated than a hashtag.  They can’t sit still long enough to ensure change before racing off to the next hashtag driven controversy.

I’m disgusted by much of what I’ve seen – on both sides.  We have constitutional rights to a legal system that treats all equally and fairly.

But, the real work happens when there’s no marching, or when there’s no protesting.  Do we really need high-profile, paid-to-incite activists flying in on carbon-spewing private jets to rally the disenfranchised?  The real work happens at the polls during the primaries or a non-presidential election. The real work happens as members of your community-based organizations, at your local city council town hall and in our churches. The real work is not on social media and a race to the next crowd gathering. Social media is great for promoting a message, but not change itself.  Where is the solidarity to do the real and very difficult work?!

Marching for a few hours or a couple weeks is not going to change anything.

Photo taken by author.

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The Changing Faces Of Harley-Davidson Owners

Don’t you just like that word?!

You’re either out of the inner circle or working hard to remain firmly in the trusted seat.

Maybe you’re that guy who is tired of missing out on his friends’ weekend motorcycle trip because he doesn’t ride. Or maybe she’s the woman who has been a passenger for years and wants to ride her own ride. Maybe you’re that middle-aged guy who sees a kid on a dirt bike and remembers the happy riding days of his youth, and suddenly can’t recall why he ever stopped riding. Or the young woman who spots a sleek new “72” in the local Mall and suddenly decides, with absolute certainty and no warning, that she simply must have it and learn to ride it.

There are many different ways or reasons to get into motorcycling, but the common riding experience is inclusive for everyone.

And speaking of inclusion, last month I read how more and more businesses are looking to make sure they get their fair share of the black dollar and how H-D is no exception in making sure that this community is appreciated for helping strengthen their bottom line.  In fact,  there were reports of African-American reporters who were completely immersed (read wined and dined in Milwaukee on H-D’s dime) into the biker culture with the motor company for three days and pitched on the company attributes in hopes of them writing about the experience and then even more African-Americans coming over to participate in the H-D lifestyle.

If nothing else, Harley-Davidson, is showing how serious it is about broadening its reach.

I’ve often blogged, that if the motorcycle industry is to be reborn — and even the quickest scan of sales statistics is enough to know a rebirth is necessary — it will come from expansion into long-ignored niches, such as youth, women and minorities. We Boomers are quickly approaching our doddering years and will soon be trading up to trikes if we’re lucky or for walking sticks if not.

These days if you meander into any Harley dealer you’ll likely find: a pink-haired twenty-something white woman who could be a student to a bandana-ed Hispanic man that is a police officer and all nondescript types in between who ride. Oh sure there is the occasional tatted up true blue stereotype white male rock star trying to look gritty and the ever present old time long haired grey bearded biker.  But, Harley’s message is simple: They are no longer a niche brand. They are no longer focused on Boomers who hijacked the brand during the last decade. They are for everyone.

The claim is that no stereotypical Harley-Davidson rider exists anymore.  I say welcome to the family and a trusted seat in the inner circle!

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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DPSST Tactical Village

I arrive at the mock Rogue River Bar.  It could very well be your average motorcycle enthusiast bar, complete with pool tables, fridge and beer taps.  It’s all part of “Tactical Village” – a sprawling complex with faux buildings, roadways, cars, buses and the typical neighborhood debris you’d find in any urban environment.  This area was also referred to as Scenario Village which as the name implies is for various training scenarios to simulate real-world incidents.

Tactical supervisor Capt. Ed Thompson provided instruction as he led the group of exercises.  Today the press participants would be acting as a police officer in various situations.  We were briefed on gun safety, shooting and while the Glock’s only fired paint-pellet bullets they did have enough velocity to sting and leave substantial marks.

Demonstration by Lt. Daryl Tate (L) and Officer Jason Brown (R)

I’ve experienced confusion at motorcycle rallies when ask to respond to conflicting instructions from multiple law enforcement officials, but nothing prepared me for my first “routine” patrol stop.  The patrol car radio blasted a somewhat inaudible message about the ’96 Dodge Stratus with Idaho plates that I had pulled over for a traffic violation was involved in an arm robbery – I cautiously exited the patrol car collecting my thoughts as a rather large man (~300 pounds) exits the Dodge on the driver side – I shout out to stay in the automobile, the man doesn’t comply – I shout again for the man to stop, but he continues to walk toward me and the patrol car with one hand in a back pocket – I notice he has an angry and aggressive physical demeanor.   Now I’m using all the techniques from earlier in the day… defining the threat (Intent; Means; Opportunity) when at about 20 feet from the police car I see the man pull a gun.  My first thought was WTF? this can’t be happening.  In addition I had tunnel vision and didn’t see his partner exit the scene…I was so focused on that gun.  Having no police gun/holster experience didn’t help and my attempt to pull my firearm was delayed by safety snaps — Gunshots sounded.  The officer (me) was hit by 4 paint ball pellets.  No blood was spilled, but I was dead in less than 20 seconds!  It was about that time when one of the instructors stated “experience is the knowledge you needed 1 minute ago”… a bit flipant, but I’ve got to give ‘em that one.

Officer Jason Brown (L) Explains Scenario in Tactical Village

For several hours we responded to chaotic, dangerous or unpredictable situations in an effort to serve others. The exercises really hit home and made me re-think law enforcement’s role and the second guessing of intentions. With sincere respect to families of people shot by police, including Aaron Campbell’s, what most people killed by police have in common is that they were running from the law, threatening to harm someone or failing to obey police commands. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be shot, but it does complicate an officer’s job and forces the type of split-second decisions police make.   I believe Capt. Rau stated during training that “Nobody wins these situations, you survive them.”  We continued into the afternoon with the academy’s interactive video training program called MYLO (Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives) which used a Glock laser firearm vs. paint-pellets.   It’s a computerized model capable of running hundreds of scenario’s ranging from domestic disturbance to school shootings.  The situations are intense and life like even if displayed on a video screen.

Tactical Village

At the end of the day I was tired from the adrenaline rush and participating in a number of these scenarios (I was hit so many times I looked like a member in the Blue Man Group!).  Near the end of the day we received an overview from Michael Slauson (Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Oregon DOJ) on SB 111 (2007) and requirements for each county (36 in total) to have a deadly force plan which outlines a number of minimum requirements around police officer mental health and making information available to the public.  In all there were more than 25 people involved in delivering this training.  Unfortunately the mainstream media/press turnout was dismal.  Why?  Fox News (TV12), Albany, Corvallis (Gazettetimes.com) and a local neighborhood paper called The Skanner participated.  While the small class size made for high-quality individual training the absence and the opportunity for the mainstream press to help influence perceptions was a disappointment.

After all the scenarios I wasn’t so sure who would want to be a police officer?  Why would anyone be willing to serve, given the beatings the bureau gets from a rush-to-judgment public and the second-guessing of officers. Instead of officer retraining, maybe we should talk about citizen retraining, so critics will at least wait until they have all the facts of a case before calling in the high-profile, paid-to-incite activists.

Part 1 is HERE.

Tactical Village photo courtesy of Gazettetimes.com, other photos taken by author on scene.

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DPSST Admin Building

Earlier this week I attended a day-long training session at the Oregon Public Safety Academy (DPSST) about Deadly Force used in making an arrest.

It took some persistence, but I was able to convince the Department of Public Safety that independent bloggers DO have a community voice and should be included along with “mainstream” media. To that end I was afforded the opportunity to fully participate in the Salem event and want to provide a major shout-out to Cmdr. Cameron Campbell and PIO and OSP Trooper Lt. Gregg Hastings!

So why was I there and what’s the 411?

You may recall last month’s fatal shooting of Aaron M. Campbell by a Portland police officer which sparked intense scrutiny on the use of deadly force.  The 25-year-old African-American was shot and killed by a white police officer after he emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment where officers had been called to perform a welfare check on a suicidal, armed man.  The shooting prompted national attention, including public protests and marches by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and a high profile drive-by visit to Portland by none other than the infamous Rev. Jesse Jackson.  I’m not going to cover all the details and anyone who wants to have an opinion about this police shooting really needs to read the nearly 500 pages of grand jury transcripts.  Or if you prefer The Oregonian can provide summary information HERE.

DPSST Admin Building (Back)

The law enforcement agencies were quick to realize that when a police officer shoots an unarmed person because the officer fears for her/his life – this is a huge contributor to the tension and distrust that the public might feel on the streets – so it prompted the Oregon Police Trainers to offer the media some unique training to learn about the realities in use-of-force incidents.  Basically in 8 hours we received what police officers receive during the 16 week training program.

Not surprisingly, a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp survey found that 56% of Americans think the government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to their rights and freedoms.  And with that, in some communities, there is a deep-seated distrust of police and a fear that interaction with them has the potential to turn violent.

Yes, I’m white and feel that police are here to protect me and work for me.  I can’t represent or fully appreciate through a racial lens what African-American people feel.  I can say that as a motorcycle enthusiast I’ve experienced law enforcement arrogance that allows an armed professional to be held less responsible than a typical citizen to control motorcyclists or rally crowds and make them stay “in their place.”  That mentality comes from people who believe that their time is more valuable than ours. It comes from an arrogance that says that our actions are supposed to make their lives easier, not the other way around.

Then I spent two hours in a class room with Lorraine Anglemier (Deputy DA and Judge) getting a comprehensive overview on the use of force and Oregon statues and my views started to evolve.  The conversation went well beyond typical discussions of force continuums or matrixes.  The focus was on how the use of force must be understood in a comprehensive manner to ensure proper force decision making.  She covered statutory authority and limits, State and federal case law, prevention and tactical consideration.  We were reminded of the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment along with the Oregon equivalent (Article 1, Section 9).  Then came State v. Bates, 304 OR519 (1987) followed by Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and how excessive force is analyzed (deadly or not) under the 4th Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard.  Then we dissected the “Graham Factors” and whether the totality of circumstances justifies a particular sort of action.  Yeah, it was heady stuff and as a person who has trouble with a motorcycle rental agreement this had my head severely spinning.

After another 30 minute presentation by Capt. Raymond Rau on the physical effects of being in a high-stress situation and the traumatic effects of being involved in a shooting I made my way down to the “Tactical Village” … I’m fitted with face protection, a bullet proof vest, holster, a Glock firearm and extra clips/bullets (paint balls) to undertake my urban training scenario’s … I kept replaying what Ms. Angelmier stated… the standard “reasonableness at the moment” applies not with 20/20 hindsight in my head.

This is a multi-post article… Part 2 HERE on Tactical Village.

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AACMWith an estimated 310 million people residing in the U.S., marketing to each person is the most arduous processes any company can undertake.  As a result, they slice and dice the population into sub-categories with facts, figures, and statistics which include demographics on ethnicity, age, gender, household characteristics, postal code data, purchasing influences along with many other attributes to develop a target market strategy.

Speaking of target markets… African Americans have a lot of influence on today’s culture and taste — and I’m talking beyond the role of hip-hop music and the issues of social responsibility vs. freedom of expression surrounding misogynistic words.  Harley-Davidson has recognized this influence and applied various perspectives on how the company will market to the African-American consumer.   Last April, H-D assigned John Comissiong to oversee the development of strategic marketing opportunities for the African American customer segment as the director of Market Outreach.

Mr. Comissiong is highly qualified and very well educated, holding multiple degrees including a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Cornell University, a Master of Science in engineering from Stony Brook University and a Master of Business Administration from Duke University.  In addition he is a licensed motorcycle rider and can be often seen on his Night Rod Special!!  In essence his job is to determine how H-D can obtain a disproportionate share of the $744 Billion in income which the 38.3 Million African-American consumers spend annually.  More specific, is the approximately $32B spent each year on Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles — how can H-D get more of those $$?!  It’s always about money.

Maurice Slaughter

Maurice Slaughter

This isn’t new behavior from corporate America.  For example, recently NBC News launched TheGrio.com, an African American ‘video-centric’ Web site devoted to stories and perspectives that appeal to the African American community.  Even the White House/Obama’s are expanding African American family definitions beyond Bill Cosby’s Huxtables with real-world examples and influence. 

So, what’s in it for H-D?  Today African American’s account for only 1.5% of new motorcycle sales. Even worse is that 7.9% of H-D’s total U.S. sales are to African Americans.  There are more less flattering stats.  Seven out of approximately 700 dealerships are owned by African American’s like Maurice Slaughter.  Few people of color sit on the company’s board or are members of the senior management and less than 10% of the employee base is African American.  H-D purchases approx $190M worth of material from minority-owned suppliers.   Representation of African American motorcycle clubs is fairly robust with: Buffalo Soldiers, Defiant Ones, Rare Breed, Magic Wheels, Soul Brothers and East Bay Dragons to name a few.

H-D has focused on the African American consumer market (AACM) with co-sponsorships at the NAACP Image Awards, the Atlantic or Urban Beach Bike Festival (referred to as Black Bike Week) and celebrating heritage “Bikers on the Boulevard” in Daytona.  They work with celeb’s and community leaders for opportunities to interact or obtain endorsements of H-D products in the African American community which in marketing terms is designed to create the perception that H-D understands African American needs and strengthens its credibility with that market segment.

I’ve been somewhat skeptical of H-D’s minority oriented efforts as sales and marketing issues are complex.  They do require creative actions and placing John Comissiong to maximize exposure and convey that H-D is relevant in the African American lifestyle and culture seems sincere and less of a stunt or a photo op.  Whether trend-setting celebs or average Joes, stimulating a dialogue between company representatives and motorcycle enthusiasts of ALL genre’s means H-D gets product feedback and company’s should never turn down a social opportunity with customers!

Photo courtesy Virginian-Pilot and Maurice Slaughter.

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