Guest Commentary: How Do We Address Systems of Inequity in the City?

By Gloria Partida

As a football fan, punting is probably my least favorite play. I understand the move from a strategic stand point but I can’t help but feel that the team should  just keep trying. The question of disparities in policing around traffic stops and charge recommendations is complicated. Depending on where your standing, what you see can be very different. To add to the complexity, all views are true. The fact that people of color are arrested and charged at higher rates than their white counter parts is widely accepted. There are many parts to unpack around this fact. Poverty, trauma and embedded racism in systems cause more people of color to encounter situations that involve the police. This accounts for some of the disparity. The defund the police movement is aimed at the leveling of this imbalance. It is also the piece of the movement I am most interested in.

The investment of resources into people’s lives that can counter trauma, housing insecurity and lack of enrichment is a powerful tool. I was part of a small group of students in my neighborhood schools that were singled out as high achieving. We had a dedicated team of teachers that introduced us to back packing, environmental justice, opera and advanced discussions on what was going on in the world outside of our small circle. It was eye opening and challenging to navigate the spaces between two worlds. The impact of having a support system around our young lives was transformative. Even still, not all of us were successful. The ability to create a framework of support around the most vulnerable in our community is doable. We have the networks in place. What we need is coordination.

Imagine what a difference it would make for struggling families to be able to have their children safely participating in summer programs when they cannot afford to have all day care. Imagine what it would mean to children to be able to swim rather than be idle all summer. Add to this the ability to receive training on job readiness to be able to work in the City summer youth programs. Imagine a robust coordination between the City and School district for identifying and supporting programs needed. Imagine art and culture programs that engages our communities at the margins and provides spaces that they can learn and take leadership in. There are many small interventions that can move our vulnerable populations onto paths that improve their success. Imagine being able to fund all of this.

Our City staff does a great job of strategically applying for and winning grants. It is not the best way to pay for programs that need long term funding. Reimagining policing ask us to imagine what our communities would look like if less money went to policing and more went to supporting social programs. In theory, the more you invest in social programs the less you would need to police communities. The movement towards this reality should be deliberate. Like any moonshot, it must be well planned and tested. This is quite different from a punt.

The other reason there are disparities in policing is implicit bias. Racism in systems is a large part of what keeps people of color in poverty and in the path of policing. Everything from red lining, to keeping people of color out of public housing during the new deal, to the war on drugs, to the shameful history of medical experimentation on people of color are examples of institutional racism. We have done much to acknowledge the need to address racism in our systems. We have much to do to correct the course of it’s long history. The requirement for implicit bias training for our police department is a small step in the right direction. The delta between people having police encounters because of their socio-economic circumstances and because of their race is where interpreting the RIPA data gets murky. This is also why my questioning of Chief Pytel felt like a struggle for possession of the ball.

In fairness, I don’t know if Darren deflected my question as much as I felt he missed my question. He did correctly point out that the buck stopped at the DA’s office. He also stated that he did not fully understand what the recommendation around charging referred to. Essentially what I wanted to know was all things being equal if you pull over two people with expired plates and broken tail lights and one is white and one is not do you give both a ticket or do you give the white person a ticket but ask to search the POC’s car. If you search both cars do you report the minor drugs you found in the POC’s car and not the white persons. This is a reality in the world. Disparities in policing and charging center around this issue. All things being equal POC are arrested and charged at higher rates. The fact that the RIPA numbers show higher rates for POC is not surprising because the world has set POC on paths that will involve the police. What I want to know is if our police department is equitable when those paths meet. I know teasing this information out of the data will be difficult but it must be done. I am encouraged that we have set in motion many things that will ensure we are doing everything we can to be equitable.

That we will find implicit bias in our police department will not be surprising. Studies have found that preschoolers of color are disciplined at higher rates than then their white peers. If preschool teachers need implicit bias training it should not be earth shattering that our police departments need it as well. It is difficult sometimes in a public meeting to arrive at understanding. The dialogue and relationship council has had with the police department has been healthy and I have faith that it will arrive at a productive place. Chief Pytel and I may not have gotten to the answer to does our department had a set protocol for stops and what triggers a car search? Is it just a gut feeling? but really it may not have an answer for a while. The important thing is that he is willing to take the question.


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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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42 Comments

    1. Bill Marshall

      Doesn’t surprise me… his Mom would have probably “written him up” (and them some!) had he not been polite… I was priviliged to work with her for many years… one of my favorite people…

      1. Ron Oertel

        They only ticket them at a higher rate.

        Meaning that they’re more apt to let other groups go with a warning for the same infraction, someone might conclude – based upon “objective data”.

  1. Ron Oertel

    He also stated that he did not fully understand what the recommendation around charging referred to.

    Neither do I.

    Essentially what I wanted to know was all things being equal if you pull over two people with expired plates and broken tail lights and one is white and one is not do you give both a ticket or do you give the white person a ticket but ask to search the POC’s car. If you search both cars do you report the minor drugs you found in the POC’s car and not the white persons.

    To which I’m *sure* that he would state that his officers treat people differently, depending upon their skin color.

    What an insulting question, and a messed-up point of view to begin with.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Neither do I.”

      You can be forgiven for that – he can’t.

      On the other point I think Gloria asked the wrong question – the question was whether you pull them both over (data suggests the person of color is more likely to be pulled over, second would you search their vehicles (data suggests people of color more likely to be searched) and if something is found (data suggests white person more likely to be found with contraband) would you charge them (data suggests white person less likely to be charged). That’s what the data say. You’re implying that’s an insulting question and yet it goes to the heart of the problem.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Some people make unfounded conclusions in the face of data.

          Data might also reflect crime rates of different groups. Do you think Gloria is interested in that, or would have accepted that as a possible “answer”?

          And (on a more basic level), what exactly is her “recommendation” to the chief that she referred to, regardless?

          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t think you’re a position to know whether the conclusions based on the data are unfounded because I don’t think you have spent much time studying the data.

        2. Ron Oertel

          I haven’t put forth any conclusion (other than one possibility, which is apparently the “wrong answer”, for some).

          Nor am I putting forth any “recommendation”, as Gloria apparently did.

          1. David Greenwald

            You actually did – you called her question insulting despite the strong evidence that underlies it.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Calling her question “insulting” is not a recommendation. The question itself is not likely to elicit a useful response.

          What exactly is her recommendation (that she referred to, but was “misunderstood” by the chief)?

          1. David Greenwald

            That goes beyond my role in this conversation which was to call you for stating that a data-informed question was insulting.

        4. Ron Oertel

          The question itself is similar to, “when did you stop beating your wife”?

          It is not a “question” of data. The data is what it is. People like you and Gloria apparently already have a pre-determined “cause” in mind – which is (in fact) insulting.

          Again, what is Gloria’s “recommendation”? She wrote this article – let’s hear it. Apparently, the chief didn’t understand it, and it’s not spelled-out in the article.

        5. Eric Gelber

          These “do you …” or “would you …” questions, appear not so much to be insulting questions but, rather, softball questions to give the Chief an opportunity to say that what he’d do would be based on the circumstances, not race. The follow-up would be to ask about the data that suggest that race is, in fact, a criterion. These are legitimate oversight questions for the Council to be asking, not personal insults.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Here’s the question, Eric.  I’m not sure how anyone would answer this, without saying that, “no, we don’t do this”:

          Essentially what I wanted to know was all things being equal if you pull over two people with expired plates and broken tail lights and one is white and one is not do you give both a ticket or do you give the white person a ticket but ask to search the POC’s car. If you search both cars do you report the minor drugs you found in the POC’s car and not the white persons.

          And by asking, it is an insult, as there’s already an implication embedded in it. Or maybe just ignorant, in terms of eliciting a useful response.

          Here’s an idea: How about we let Gloria explain what her “recommendation” is (without you, David, Tia, or anyone else defending her), since she wrote this article? Especially since the chief didn’t understand her, either?

          Who knows – maybe there is something useful in there.

          1. David Greenwald

            You seem to think that my answer is racist cops but go back to the column yesterday – the problem is not individual level cops necessarily, it’s systemic racism. That’s not easily solved through individual acts.

        7. Ron Oertel

          I never said what I thought your “conclusion” is.

          But now that I see it, maybe you and Gloria should be addressing “racist systems” (whatever that is), rather than people.

          Actually, you kind of have addressed it (e.g., in other articles). To grossly simplify and exaggerate, no arrests or incarceration for crime. A “soft” defunding of police, apparently. To be replaced by social justice programs.

          But again, I’d like to hear what her “misunderstood recommendation” to the chief actually is. From her, not you.

        8. David Greenwald

          It’s unfortunate you don’t seem to understand the relation between person and institution.  Police are the gatekeepers to the criminal legal system, but police chiefs are the local gatekeepers to the police.

        9. Ron Oertel

          Please let me know when you change your name to Gloria, since that’s who should be explaining things regarding her “misunderstood recommendation” to the chief.

          The article was her second (failed) chance to explain it, and here’s yet another invitation to do so.

          In the meantime, maybe you should refrain from your interpretations of my understanding.

        10. Alan Miller

          The question itself is similar to, “when did you stop beating your wife”?

          Much agree.

          These aren’t questions:

          if you pull over two people with expired plates and broken tail lights and one is white and one is not do you give both a ticket or do you give the white person a ticket but ask to search the POC’s car.

          If you search both cars do you report the minor drugs you found in the POC’s car and not the white persons.

          There are no question marks!  They are implicative statements wrapped in a “question” bow.  Further evidence they are not meant to be questions is the sentence that follows them:

          This is a reality in the world.

          Questions can’t be “the reality” because they are asking “if” — so the statements designed to appear as questions must be the implied “reality” so stated, not asked about.

    2. Richard McCann

      Sometimes asking a complicated question on the fly can sound “insulting.” But instead of letting one’s emotions rule, the appropriate response is ask follow up questions for clarification that may both mitigate the apparent initial intent (which probably wasn’t to be insulting if you know Gloria–I know other Council members over the years that I couldn’t say the same thing) and, as David showed, really unpack the question to dig into real questions. Also, remember Pytel is answerable to Partida and not the other way around. I’m not sure if he found the question insulting, but he should be digging deeper to help her rather than giving a pat answer that he might give to other citizens.

    3. Gloria Partida

      Ron sorry for the long delay in responding. I have just returned to check comments and was locked out for some reason. The point of view which you see as messed up is the question the nation, as well as our community, is asking . It is the question that is at the heart of police reform. Police departments all across the nation as well as our own would not have begun examining their practices if data coming forward did not show disparities in how people are treated. Our own department is ahead of the curve in many respects. This would not be the case if Chief Pytel was insulted by this question. It speaks to his fitness as a leader in fact that he can see the value of examining his department to insure they are delivering equitable public safety. As a researcher when examining data I had to start from the point of view if all things are equal what effect does the variable produce? I am not accusing our department of racism. An unfounded accusation would indeed be insulting. I have even acknowledged that an increase in stops and charges of POC is reflective of larger, just as troubling, factors as you have also suggested. “Data might also reflect crime rates of different groups.” What I am asking is when we look at our data, can we determine if there is an additional affect that can be ascribed to implicit bias. This would not be the end of the world or even surprising. It would only be information that we could use to be better. Right now our community is asking that we deeply examine our policing practices to ensure they are the best they can be. I am always willing to chat off line.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Thanks, Gloria.

        I was busy fending off a lot of comments, before yours.

        Seems to me that the question itself is not an easy one to answer (especially “internally”, and asked by someone who has some authority over the chief), but you nevertheless had some type of recommendation for him.  I’m not sure what kind of recommendation you can make, unless you’ve arrived at conclusions.  Other than an unstructured, unfunded recommendation to “study” the issue.

        I did find your question (as cited) to be “loaded”, but I suspect that you didn’t expressly state that to the chief. However, I was not a witness to it.

      2. Ron Oertel

        And for what it’s worth, I certainly don’t deny that implicit bias exists (in all segments of society, including the police).

        But implicit bias has at least some basis in reality. That’s why I’d be less-fearful of someone like Tia (compared to some others), using her example on this page.

        Again, common sense.

        Seems to me that there are some who actively deny that basis in reality (not necessarily anyone commenting here).

         

  2. Tia Will

    Ron,

    What an insulting question, and a messed-up point of view to begin with.”


    You think that is insulting and the viewpoint “messed up”. I certainly do not. I had an encounter with our local police I think is illustrative. It was shortly after the Philando Castillo shooting. I was pulled over rightfully by one of our officers for mistaking the speed limit and exceeding it by 10 mph. He asked for my driver’s license, registration, and insurance papers. Before taking my hands off the wheel, I told him where they were and when I was going to reach for them. He laughed and told me I didn’t have to tell him. Hmmm…now why would I not have to tell him where and why I was reaching, when Philando Castillo doing exactly that did not even save his life. I can think of a few possibilities including gender, and age, but I certainly do not think you can remove race from that equation. I have also told the story about my son armed with a similar toy to that being carried by Tamir Rice. My son was told to have a nice day. Tamir was shot dead within seconds of the arrival of police.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      Hmmm…now why would I not have to tell him where and why I was reaching, 

      Not sure why you felt the need to do so in the first place, since you had already concluded that white people (not to mention older white women) are treated differently.

       

      1. Tia Will

        Ron

        Obviously, I have made no conclusion since it was I that put forward several other possibilities. What I cannot understand is why, in the face of much data, as well as anecdotal evidence that differs from your perspective, you do not seem to be able to accept that race might play any role in it at all. And would a blanket denial that racism could play a role, as you suggested would be the answer, be any better than a blanket assumption that it does?

        Might not a more thoughtful approach have been to look into the issue after it was raised in 2006 instead of just ignoring the suggestion as it seems from Pytel’s response that perhaps it was back burnered if not completely ignored?

        1. Ron Oertel

          you do not seem to be able to accept that race might play any role in it at all. 

          Never said that.

          But again, Gloria is the one who should be extrapolating regarding her “misunderstood recommendation” to the chief.

          It’s not in her article above, and I’ve suggested that she do so several times since then. To which others feel compelled to bring up their own thoughts, instead.

        2. Richard McCann

          Tia

          Ron O has said as much that race matters, and that the difference in treatment is deserved because Blacks commit crimes at higher rates. Being the conservative that he is, he’s saying “what problem?”

        3. Ron Oertel

          It’s amazing how others jump to conclusions on here, and attribute things which were not said.  This is exactly why it’s (ultimately) a waste of time and energy to comment on here, and the very reason why some folks (who are apparently wiser than me) avoid it.

          Nor am I particularly interested in how others label me, which appears to be driven by something other than objective “understanding”.

          Again, the only one who has any explaining to do is Gloria (since it’s her article), regarding her “misunderstood recommendation” to the chief.  I’m all ears. But in this type of reactive, protective, of others forum – it seems not likely to occur.

  3. John Hobbs

    “I don’t think you’re a position to know whether the conclusions based on the data are unfounded because I don’t think you have spent much time studying the data.”

    As per usual, yet you publish his baseless nonsense.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Thanks.

        It’s a “sport” for him.  He enjoys it, and is attempting to elicit a reaction from those he disagrees with (or at least, he thinks he disagrees with). I’ve seen others fall into that trap on here, sometimes becoming angry.

        It’s rare for him to actually put forth anything of value. Fortunately, he does not comment frequently.

        For the most part, I find it better to ignore him.

  4. Ron Oertel

    For some reason, I’m quite comfortable discussing issues of race (skin color).  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing.  😉

    Probably depends upon the eye of the beholder (and their own biases/beliefs). However, I suspect that we ultimately all have the same goal. Some of us may feel more “responsible” than others to achieve the goal, and as well as who and what is ultimately responsible for it.

     

  5. John Hobbs

    “I don’t get your desire to censor everyone’s opinion who you don’t agree with.”

    I’m in favor of a free discussion, without censorship. Let the words fly, I haven’t been hurt by one yet. You protect the mealy-mouthed, insipid and hateful, then censor the truth.

  6. Alan Miller

    This is also why my questioning of Chief Pytel felt like a struggle for possession of the ball.

    Why is there no mention in this article about where/when this discussion took place?

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