Local Pols Pass Whimsical Laws While Blacks Languish [OPINION]
Here we are again. Groundhog Day. It doesn't matter what the date is. Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Ferguson, Baltimore, and now Minneapolis.
Police are documented abusing or even killing a citizen and protests, followed by riots. This happens exclusively when the citizens are African-Americans. The perception, perhaps accurate in too many cases, is that blacks are treated in an unequal way by police officers, putting them at an unacceptable risk when compared to the treatment of white citizens.
I've written it before, but I will say it again: if some of our citizen brethren feel this way then we need to stop, listen and act. We cannot stop, look, and as soon as the mess is cleaned and the smoke stopped, we forget about it. Americans want real action. The trouble is, we seem to have a collective ADD issue and never see it to the end.
I hear demands for "change." I see signs that read "Silence=Complicit." We all see the families of those who died at the hands of rogue police brutality during arrests. They are filmed by the ratings-hungry news networks who count on their tears and words and who will abandon them as soon as the story has "jumped the shark."
The friction between the Black community and police is not an issue that has caught anyone off-guard. This didn't "sneak up" on our nation. It is a perpetually recurring issue with perpetually equal inaction, aside from the protests and marches.
My advice to those leading the charge for change? The demand for changes cannot be focused on the police. Police enforce the laws, they do not create them or amend existing ones. Legislators do, though. Lawmakers have somehow eluded any pressure by BLM or really any notable activists on this issue.
Here in Massachusetts, we have a legislature dominated by Democrats (usually they hold 85 percent or so of the seats). This is the party that most Black citizens believe serve their agenda the closest of the two major parties. Again, perception is a powerful thing. A close look ought to leave them unimpressed.
They seem to have had plenty of time to vote for their own raises, for making the "Fluffernutter" the official sandwich of our Commonwealth and pass many of their own personal wish-list bills. It's like we have 40 First Ladies in our State Senate instead of serious thinkers who use our valuable time and money to actually improve lives. Typically, many First Ladies in the White house find their personal "cause" and focus on that as their footprint in society.
Here in southeastern Massachusetts, we have Senator Mark Montigny, who seems to be quite pedestrian in coming up with laws for changes Massachusetts should come up with to minimize police brutality of Black citizens or even to help with the perception. Montigny has been in office since 1993, or 27 years.
A seated state senator or state representative are not pedestrians. They are the agents for change.
In that time he has certainly invested more energy for himself, the lucky lottery winners, his girlfriend, and cats. Oh yeah. Let's roll the tape.
The crucial and critical Bill S.169 is something BLM leaders must be praying over, right? Praise Jesus. You didn't know? S.169 or "An Act Prohibiting Inhumane Feline Declawing," came to light just in the nick of time last year. God knows how many kitties have appointments that can be finally stopped in righteousness.
Eric Garner's family would be proud of the laser focus. He also praised his own work when Montigny presented the "Act to Provide Additional Funding For Animal Welfare And Safety Programming," or S.501. This overdue bill ought to soothe the constant anxiety of many African-American Massachusetts drivers who get pulled over or are stopped for questioning by police.
In 2014, the 54-year-old Montigny got the scare of his life when he was nearly caught up in the infamous probation patronage scandal. Somehow, his 21-year-old girlfriend at the time, was selected for a very good state job as a probation officer in the Bristol County Probate and Family Court. The job started at $66K plus full benefits. A job that Montigny admitted he let her know was opened. A job for which she was "woefully inadequate as far as her qualifications were concerned," according to her superiors who testified under oath.
Montigny and the nearby lazy version of the Duke of Windsor, Marc Pacheco, were thought to be in the crosshairs of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. Insider theories say that is until Governor Deval Patrick placed a call to his pal in the Oval Office, President Obama, who then redirected the probe, causing Ortiz to inexplicably detour away from the state senators' dubious roles in the scandal.
More pressing legislation fancied by Montigny as BLM issues came and "went." How about the new way for police to pull over drivers and hand out tickets or just to stop and question them? He proudly and persistently led the charge to outlaw using the handheld cell phones while driving. A law enforced in February of this year. That should really help our Black brethren Americans to bring about the changes we seek to heal the wounds.
How about Antonio Cabral? He's been in the Massachusetts State House as a member of the House of Representatives since 1991. Thirty years for him this coming January, and what has he done for BLM? What creative legislating ideas have been passed, or even introduced by the career state rep to deal with this issue?
He's batting a thousand on votes for his own raises and raising taxes on us – or abetting illegal immigrants – but seems to struggle with pitches coming at him from the Black community and their concerns over police interactions. From what I could find, he requires a pinch-hitter with a 0.000 percentage in the 10,750 days in office.
How about William Straus, 27 years as a Massachusetts State Representative? Zilch, nada, nothing for legislation passed or introduced to deal with the issue that is now crippling our nation's cities.
I know how popular these guys are in the progressive fortress of New Bedford. I also know they've had the time, cause, and ability to do something, anything to attempt to change the climate that many Blacks feel they live under since these three gentlemen have been in office, and before so.
How about a bill adding a panel of qualified citizens, including members of our Black community, to interview police candidates in addition to the police chiefs' interviews/screenings?
How about introducing legislation to help police officers report concerning observations of racism or abuse, without being unfairly singled out for being a "rat?" Design a system to anonymously but credibly provide data to investigate potential rogue behavior so that it is documented for an investigation to stop another tragic incident before it happens.
Step up or step out. I can sure as hell come to Beacon Hill and within a month make a difference, so surely someone else can do better if you can't.
And to the organizers of Black Lives Matter, how long are you going to let them all hide behind the "D?"
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.