Part I: A Bad Dream!

Charles

“I went to feed the parking meter and a police officer on a motorcycle stopped to ask for my driver’s license.”

It was 5pm, Friday, August 22, 2014, Emmy Award weekend in LA.  Charles was ordered to sit on the curb handcuffed. “I figured, they would run my license, even google me and straighten everything out.”  The incident and photo of above tells a story that should have never happened but it also should have ended there.  Sadly, it did not.

Instead, Charles who had been working with talent all day preparing for the weekend’s events was booked for a crime he knew nothing about.

“They took my wallet, shoes, shoelaces, fingerprints and mug shot. Then handed me a blanket and toiletry bag.  As a female officer booked him, he said to her, “this is like a really bad dream.”

“Yeah this is a really bad crime you committed.” She responded.  “It was like, I was arrested and convicted at the same time.”

Why did officers, while tensions were high following the murder of Michael Brown, risk making another mistake?

Sitting with Charles in an Atlanta restaurant for this interview, he shared,  “I was a tall, bald, Black man who fit the  description .  They believed I was involved in a bank robbery.”

Days before Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown.  At his trial for the murder, he testified that he “spotted two young black men walking down the middle of the road,” and wondered if “they were the suspects” involved in a robbery.  They fit the description.

Sitting on the curb, Charles knew he could become another unarmed man killed by police, because he fit the description.  Although wrongfully detained, he cooperated with the police.

Hours later, “Around midnight, the female booking agent escorted me from the cell to a room.  There a Beverly Hills Detective and two FBI agents told Charles, “a tall, bald, Black male was going in and out of the bank complaining about the ATM, creating a distraction and serving as an accomplice to the bank robber. You fit the description.”

“I tried to describe why I wasn’t the person on the video. It was only then that they admitted they had not watched the video.  Six hours later, they actually never looked for the actual guy because as it turns out, the ATM really wasn’t working.”

“They never found him.  And if they had looked at the video,  there were several distinguishing things that would have ruled me out, including my appearance and clothing.  My t-shirt was a designer t-shirt from a friend.”

If you find the details of Charles arrest troubling, what happened after his release is more alarming.

Tomorrow Part II….. Handcuffs to M.A.D. 

Charles Belk is President/Producer at I Will Make You A Star Productions and Adjucnt Professor Pierce College.  He is the founder of the organization and executive director of Fitting The Description.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Elegant and Sophisticated: Not This Tea Party

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Speaker John Boehner stepping down means the drama is heating up.

It started a few years ago when the Tea Party Republicans came to Washington.  Back then, actor, singer-songwriter and social activist Harry Belafonte said at the Congressional Black Caucus annual dinner, “Don’t worry about the Tea Party. You know what happens when you put a tea bag in water? (He paused)  It sinks!”

That’s exactly what happened with my party, The Republicans, it’s sunk.

The dysfunction in Washington has disgruntled voters in the party believing three political candidates Trump, Carson or Fiorina with no political experience can fix Washington!

Boehner’s resignation and the drama in DC is going to boil over and show Americans willing to watch, how bad the Tea Party is for America.

That’s what this resignation is about. Boehner wasn’t the problem, he was managing it.

The Tea Party are made up of Americans afraid of change and equal access for all Americans to have Healthcare, immigration reform, programs that help young people forge ahead in education, and women the right to choose what they can or cannot do with their bodies.

Tea Partiers this just in! America isn’t just for you.

Boehner tried to avoid shutting down the government and save you. Why? It isn’t a viable option for the country or the Party!

Tea Party extremists don’t know what Republican stands for. Nor are you what the founding fathers and those who fought for a representative form of government intended when creating Congress.

Republican used to represent the idea “preserving the Republic.” The Tea Party is destroying the Republic with its inflammatory tone, representating “I” not “We”.

Look at history and Abraham Lincoln for an example of a Republican who saved the Union.

Tea Party consider when you want to defund programs that protect women, or not paying employees during a government shutdown that your idea of taking back is grounded in fear. Fear that hit you in the face, when you lost the 2008 and 2012 presidential election that.  Your fear is that America is no longer just for you. And you’re right.

But that’s been the case a long time. The CHANGE was that millions of other Americans finally realized that America was also for them.  America changed long before that election.  It took a bit longer for all to recognize the power of doing it together. That all of us make America wealthier and stronger. This is a lesson now for you to learn.  Without all of us, America is far less wealthier America and not nearly as strong.

Take into consideration three American groups and their spending power, groups you often target.

First, according to Nielson, women contribute between $5 and $15 trillion a year.  In the next decade that is expected to grow to being two thirds of the consumer wealth in America!

Second and third Black/African Americans contribute 1.4 trillion and and Hispanic/Latino $1.6 trillion.

Together that’s $8-18 trillion annually that goes into the U.S. Economy!  Where would itbe without those you attack?  Think the recession last decade was bad? Imagine it without these Americans!

Tea Partiers if you want to defund something, defund oil, not healthcare or organizations targeting and helping women.

If you end oil company subsidies, you would save $16.4 billion a year.  In fact, it would be a smart divestment if you consider, last year in the second quarter, Exxon Mobil had $111.6 billion in revenue and $8.8 billion in profit. For one quarter! That’s half of what all US oil the companies get in subsidies!

On the other hand, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million last year combined in federal, state and local dollars. It received another $303 million in outside government dollars. $254 million in private donations. And $54 million in other fees and services. The clincher is that because of federal law enacted in 1976, no federal dollars can be used for abortions which is what Congressional members say they’re aiming for to defund the organization! Private donor and foundation dollars do that.

Abortions account for only 3 percent of what the organization does or makes in dollars!  Did you know that?  Surely you didn’t if you want to take more than 50 percent of the organization’s to make a point!

Stop holding Americans hostage and threatening to shutdown the government!

Instead of taking America back and attacking organizations like Planned Parenthood, be the best example for the Nation and move us FORWARD together.

Be the faction of the Republican Party that increases the minimum wage so that more money goes into the U.S. Economy.  And we have stronger families because parents instead of working two, three and four jobs can spend quality time with their children.

Be the party that guarantees equal pay for equal work for women and all Americans!

Be the Party that protects all Americans and make our streets safer by creating policies that end unlawful killings of Americans by police officers.

Be the Party that instead of creating dysfunction, creates opportunities for all.

If the Tea Party does these things and invests in our greatest commodity Americans, instead of divesting and cutting, in twenty years our economy will be stronger for it.  And so will the Party!

If it invests in educational opportunities, it can in one generation lower crime.

Stop wasting time attacking the Affordable Care Act and find ways to invest in a healthier workforce so that we are the healthiest in the World.

More importantly, stay out of the life choices of women.  Stop “being the problem and become the leaders of implementing solutions!”  In other words stop sinking the Party and the country!

Let’s let the Tea Party go back to those who are elegant and sophisticated!

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Mental Illness: When You Can’t Count on the Police

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Matthew Ajibade
Kristiana Coignard
Kristiana Coignard

Parminder Singh Shergill
Parminder Singh Shergill

By Dr. Samantha Madhosingh

Just last week, a friend called me because she was worried about another friend’s husband. He was not “acting in his right mind” (her words) and they were trying to get him to voluntarily go to the hospital without success.

She mentioned that they managed to get him to the hospital the previous evening, but the hospital released him without really doing anything.  Now he seemed to be getting worse and more agitated.

I thought about how best to advise them.  My primary concern was, “How can we get this man to the hospital safely without making it a bigger crisis?”

The reality is, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), 1 in 4 people in the US has a mental health problem and as many as 10 million have a serious mental illness.  This includes schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Mental illness crosses all gender, race, socio-economic, religious, region, culture, and sexual orientation lines.

Almost all families have a close or distant relative who has been or will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.  Since the closing of many psychiatric facilities and decreased funding for mental health services, the police find themselves frequently engaged with the mentally ill. Families call the police out of desperation, scared both of and for their loved ones, but wanting them to receive help – not jail or death.

So as my mind scanned the possibilities two options came up, “the police or an ambulance.”

I quickly crossed off the police because he might refuse to go with them.  I’d just read about 22-year-old Matthew Ajibade whose family called police because he was exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder.  He died in the custody of Savannah, Georgia police at the beginning of January, reportedly alone in an isolation cell.

I recalled reading about 43-year-old Parminder Singh Shergill, a Gulf War veteran suffering from PTSD.  Shergill was killed by police in Lodi, California after his family called for their help to have him hospitalized.

With these incidents in mind, I advised my friend to call an ambulance and provide specific language to the dispatchers with hopes they would take the situation seriously without involving the police.

Thankfully, he went without incident.  He was hospitalized for several days undergoing observation, assessment, and treatment in a psychiatric unit.

After the call, I was saddened that I didn’t trust the police to handle a mental health crisis safely and effectively. The police have a very difficult job, but are woefully under trained to handle mental health emergencies and, more often than not, the mentally ill end up in jail or dead, instead of in a hospital. While many might argue that my concern is unwarranted, the statistics tell a different story.

According to a 2012 published report by the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram, almost half of the 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year nationally are mentally ill. In some states like New Mexico, that number may be as high as 75%.

Without proper crisis de-escalation and mental health training, the police, unfortunately, often end up escalating the situation – putting themselves, the individual, and the community at large at risk of harm. Their tactical training leads them to push too quickly to control a situation and enforce compliance, which can often make things much, much worse.

They don’t recognize that the erratic behavior associated with some mental illnesses cause individuals to not respond to authorities in the manner they think they should.  The police treat these situations as simple cases of noncompliance and situations escalate quickly. Police officers are trained to use deadly force. If they fire their weapon, they must shoot to kill – not maim.

The deaths of Matthew Ajibade, Parminder Singh Shergill, and most recently 17-year-old Kristiana Coignard (Texas), were completely preventable. After watching the publicly released video of Kristiana Coignard’s death, it’s hard to fathom why the 17 year-old was shot and killed.

There appeared to be multiple points when she could have been restrained and handcuffed. These victims do not have age, gender, race, religion, or region in common.  What they share is mental illness and a life cut short needlessly due to their interaction with police.

So what must we do?

In some jurisdictions, police departments are creating crisis intervention teams of officers who have specialized training to de-escalate situations with the mentally ill without using deadly force. However, it is imperative that all police officers be properly trained on how to identify people with a psychiatric illness and how to appropriately, effectively, and safely de-escalate crisis situations involving people with psychiatric problems who are in an erratic and agitated state.

Resources must be spent to improve the sensitivity and knowledge of the police force so they are not inappropriately acting out of fear.  Dispatchers should notify officers when the situation is a mental health emergency, so they are prepared for the situation.

Families with loved ones who are mentally ill are desperate for more mental health resources that provide assistance and support. Resources are needed for community mental health, community living for the seriously mentally ill, and psychiatric hospitals providing acute and long-term care.

As a society, we must also focus on reducing the stigma associated with receiving mental health support, as well as providing funding for prevention and early intervention programs.

145Dr. Samantha Madhosingh is a #1 bestselling author, psychologist & speaker.  A frequent media contributor and sought-after expert for both local and national media, she has appeared on FOX, NBC, CBC, Emotional MoJo, Daytime and Heart&Soul. Her book, Strike it Happy! 101 Reflections to Revolutionize Your Life is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrSMadhosingh                Instagram: @DrSMadhosingh

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drsmadhosingh

www.askdrsamantha.com

Check out my bestselling book, Strike it Happy! 

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www.askdrsamantha.com/strike-it-happy

 Sam

Sick and Tired!

In light of an incident involving the NFL’s Miami Dolphins a conversation on bullying and hazing in the NFL is going on.  The conversation is as hypocritical as the one, that found New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator and coach suspended last year for placing bounties on players from opposing teams.  People knew it existed, but did nothing until there was a public outcry.

Fraternities and sororities have traditionally hazed.  Playing sports is like joining a fraternity.  And none is larger than the NFL.  How big is the fraternity, how powerful?  Big and powerful enough for years to keep former football players from suing for head trauma even though they knew their insomnia, mood swings, depression, suicides, and other maladies were caused from playing football?  Powerful enough to convince them that there was an unwritten code, you don’t sue the NFL.  

The players didn’t sue, and why didn’t the fans stand up and say more for their favorite players?   Was it because they love to watch the gladiators do battle on the field?  And why wasn’t there an outcry when the NFL settled out of court for 750 million dollars and got away with language in the settlement absolving them of fault?   

My point is bullying is in front of us all the time.  Trayvon Martin was bullied and killed by George Zimmerman.  If Zimmerman didn’t have a gun he wouldn’t have followed Trayvon, let alone confront him.  The gun argument in America is about men needing to feel power.  Most can only get it by threatening others usually because they have a gun or threaten that they do.  

And police are among the biggest bullies.  Oscar Grant III’s killing at Fruitvale Station and too many killings of unarmed citizens by police is bullying! So is Congressional failure to pass a Jobs Bill, and shutting down the government.  It is bullying especially when you know others are victimized. 

But what makes our country great and our history relevant, is that men and women at tumultuous times in our history found a reason to stand up to the bullies.  Today, we read with pride their courageous stories.  Whether it was Bull Connor’s firehoses, or laws that protected the institution of slavery,  courageous men and women stood in the face of danger.  This is what parents have to teach their children again, the spirit of not backing down.   

Today, the conversation may be about Jonathan Martin and the insensitive criminal behavior of Richie Incognito.  But the broader conversation should be, when will good people finally stand up and face the bullies in schools, sports and politics. 

When are we as Fannie Lou Hamer said, going to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired?”