Op Ed by Howard Eagle
As it relates to civics 101 (following the tragic murder of Mr. Daniel Prude, and that’s according to Monroe County’s Medical Examiner), I imagine where astute political observers are concerned, Rochester citizens are beginning to look like novices, if not chumps.
In spite of massive street-protests (for nearly 20 consecutive days )–If we discount the fact that Rochester City Council voted to rescind its decision to spend $12.5 million on a new police substation, which, according to Councilman Mitch Gruber, will NOT amount to additional resources for the people of Rochester, but will only mean that the city is not going to borrow money to build the substation–not much has changed.
Yet, in light of this sad, ongoing reality City Council has decided, without an iota of input from taxpayers, to spend up to one-hundred-thousand ($100,000) dollars to launch a so-called “independent” investigation into the murder of Daniel Prude, and no one is saying a single word. It’s crystal-clear that the council is simply posturing, and attempting to give the impression that they are doing something important and significant. They are not. THERE IS NO NEED FOR CITY COUNCIL TO CONDUCT A SO-CALLED “INDEPENDENT” INVESTIGATION. THAT’S ALREADY BEING DONE BY THE HIGHEST LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL AND DEPARTMENT IN ALL OF NEW YORK STATE—STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL LETICIA JAMES.
To drive the point home we need only to consider the fact that the only Black man who has served as both former Rochester Police Department Chief, and former Rochester Deputy Mayor, and who happens to be one of the nation’s most well known, and respected psychologists and policing experts, told participants via a recent UCLM-sponsored Zoom meeting, that we should not have any confidence in any investigation of the Prude case other than the one being conducted by the State Attorney General’s Office — period, and; he made it clear that he has no problem with us reporting to City officials that he said so.
Thus, with regard to the irrational idea of a super-expensive, separate, so-called “independent” investigation by City Council, it becomes logical to ask, is the Council making a statement that they don’t trust the State Attorney General? If that’s not the case, then what is their logic, especially during these extraordinarily challenging fiscal times?
Connected to the wasteful fiasco and farce outlined above, the Mayor and County Executive’s recently empaneled, so called, RASE Commission is supposedly tasked with addressing Andrew Cuomo’s reform-directive regarding “state aid [being] tied to the review of police policies by [all] localities.” Also, supposedly: “The commission will “go beyond that to review the state of education; healthcare, including mental health and addiction services; job creation, business development; as well as other social services.”
A major problem and issue with the so-called RASE Commission is that, in addition to numerous other fundamental flaws and problematic issues (such as the fact that it is not nearly, adequately reflective of the overall population of Monroe County, especially and particularly as it relates to those who are most directly and most devastatingly impacted by individual, institutional and structural racism daily), the Commission is operating secretly, while spending tax money, without permission.
It is simply unrealistic to believe that a so called Commission composed largely of white and black, middle and upper class suburbanites whose sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sister, uncles, aunts, cousins and neighbors are the very people who make up the majority of folks in the Rochester Police Department, are going to search out and discover racism that’s manifested within attitudes, belief systems, and behaviors among MANY within RPD’s ranks, much less identifying and recommending clear, specific, comprehensive policies, practices procedures rules, regulations, and laws that have allowed (historically), and are continuing to allow such prevalent, pervasive attitudes, belief systems, and behaviors to exist.
The latter referenced reality is vitally important to understand, which most on the Commission, do not. That is, it is vitally important to demystify racism, and make it plain that it’s not some sort of abstraction hanging around in the atmosphere, but instead is manifested and perpetuated by specific attitudes, belief systems, and behaviors, which have been instilled in people (from the crib up, via socialization processes), and have been, and are being reinforced, perpetuated and ultimately maintained via policies, practices, procedures rules, regulations, and laws that are conducive to continuation of the old, old, deeply entrenched, white-supremacist-based status quo.
In order to be successful regarding their charge, the reality described above is what people on the Commission need to understand more than anything else, and not merely in a cerebral fashion, but instead at a deeply internalized, experiential level, which is why the composition of the so-called Racial And Structural Equity (RASE) Commission must be significantly altered–period.
Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)