TWITTER ON MIDDLE EAST SPARKS DEBATE
A message posted by a Fairfax County School Board member stating, “… Israel kills Palestinians & desecrates the Holy Land right now. Apartheid & colonization were wrong yesterday and will be today, here and there.” has inflamed some in the county, calling for resignation.
One member of the public said, at the May 20 school board meeting, “the tweet could be reasonably interpreted as a microaggression” against Jewish students, adding, “This posting violates established rules of conduct applicable to school board members.” Another speaker at the meeting said, “I stand in solidarity” with the comment. The board member “is progressive, courageous and a champion for us all. Her factual statement did not alienate any religious group.”
At meeting’s end, the board member addressed the subject: “I understand on a deeply human level the pain and the anguish people are feeling abroad, and the helplessness that people feel here today, who have family in the region, who have ties or just have a personal connection. I have been grateful to hear from many constituents and neighbors who have reached out. The loudest thing I want to be heard today is that I want to listen. I want us to have dialogue and conversation and to be able to empathize with one another.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington was set to honor the board member for work in making the “academic year calendar more equitable for people of faith minorities.” But in response to the tweet, the group rescinded the honor, stating that it was irresponsible to use the public forum to “advance controversial political views.”
All elected public officials have a duty to be mindful of political commentary, its content, and where it is said. Poor judgment in this respect casts a shadow over their public responsibilities.
DATA CONFIRM DRIVING WHILE BLACK ATTRACTS POLICE
The General Assembly is confronting systemic racism: Last July, mandatory data collection required police all over the Commonwealth to begin documenting demographic data about who they stop and for what reasons. The records also detail whether a search was initiated and any enforcement action taken. The findings: Black drivers in Virginia are almost twice as likely than white drivers to be pulled over by police, and three times more likely to have their vehicles searched, according to data collected under the state’s new Community Policing Act.
The first six months of data cover more than 400,000 traffic stops, in nearly every Virginia jurisdiction. Black leaders, though disheartened, were not surprised.
Perhaps knowledge can be the first step toward understanding, and then changing police behavior and affirming public confidence..
See story below, and VoxFairfax, Around the Novahood, Reformers Follow Police Shooting in Prince William, Dec. 21, 2020, https://wp.me/p9wDCF-26u.
COMMONWEALTH’S ATTORNEY DECLINES PROSECUTION IN POLICE STOP ‘WITH NO LEGAL BASIS’
A Black woman was pulled over by a Virginia State Trooper in March, and the stop rapidly escalated when she refused to get out of her car after asking why she was stopped and receiving no answer. And she had dropped her cell phone, so was unable to record the encounter. She declined a breathalyzer test and was handcuffed and charged with driving under the influence. At the police station, her blood alcohol level read 0.0 but nonetheless she was then charged with misdemeanor eluding, obstruction of justice, reckless driving, and failing to have headlights on.
Upon review of the dashcam footage, the Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney dismissed all charges against the driver, saying there was no legal basis for the stop and requesting the Virginia State Police open an internal affairs investigation, adding, “It’s sickening and unacceptable that any member of our community fears for their safety during a routine traffic stop.” An administrative investigation is proceeding.
According to a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former police officer, pretextual traffic stops are problematic. “The whole idea of the pretext stop: That I’m stopping you on a flimsy traffic requirement so that I can actually explore other things,” he said. “Police often use such stops as a justification to search cars,” he added. “The pretext is subject to so much discretion that a great deal of bias can work its way in. Pretextual traffic stops are often disproportionately applied to people who are Black and Latino and in poorer neighborhoods,” he concluded.
While individual police officers may not have racial biases, the evidence from broad data collection demonstrates a disproportionate effect upon racial groups. Breaking such habits requires continuous attention to achieve true equity.
CHARLIE THE TUNA SWIMMING FROM PITTSBURGH TO NOVA
StarKist Co., complete with mascot Charlie the Tuna, has announced plans to move its corporate headquarters from Pittsburgh to Northern Virginia next spring. No reason was provided. Its connection to landlocked Pittsburgh stems from 1963, when it was bought by H.J. Heinz Co. It has changed ownership several times since then, and is now owned by Dongwon Industries of South Korea.