Statement of Topic and Overview of the Issue:
There seems to be a pervasive assumption attached to the Asian American community that enables institutions, such as law enforcement, to violate rights accorded under the Constitution. Asian Americans are increasingly becoming victims of unlawful detentions, imprisonment, violation of due process and police brutality. The Federal Criminal Enforcement, Federal Civil Enforcement (Police Misconduct Provision), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and OJP Program prohibit any form of discrimination or police misconduct against any person, citizen or noncitizen, living in the US. Yet despite its proscription of police misconduct, there are clear incidents that show otherwise that these policies need to be reexamined to address the ever increasing violence against Asian Americans by police.
Consequently, the “Model Minority” myth renders the notion that excessive force can and will be used against Asian Americans without law enforcement fearing any repercussion or accountability for their actions. For example, The New York Times reported that “a 16-year-old boy who the police say was brandishing a pellet gun was shot and killed by a police officer yesterday morning in the driveway of a home in Sheepshead Bay.” (Hevesi, 1995) The parents of the young Asian American did not understand why police killed their son. In 1997 Kuan Chung Kao was shot in the head by the Rohnert Park Police Department. As a result of the death of Mr. Kao, “the Asian American community in the Bay Area had expressed concern over the possible violation of civil rights in the shooting and the implication of racial bias in the comments made by law enforcement and public officials following the incident.” (Chapter 1) These incidents would not have been scrutinized or investigated had it not been for Asian American social justice groups. Yet, excessive violence against Asian American by police is not a new phenomenon nor does it pertain to a single race as most tend to believe. As a consequence, police misconduct against the Asian American community has created a distrust that of law enforcement will violate their civil rights based on current and past events. Law enforcement officers have demonstrated historically to abuse authority and discriminate minorities, the issue, however, arises when the misconception that Asian Americans due to their “Model Minority” status are exempt from police brutality. This issue becomes especially important for Asian Americans because this false belief, more often than not, leads to more police injustice without any accountability and lacks the attention needed to properly prosecute those who violate their civil liberties. In order to address police brutality we must look at how the policies mentioned above can extend to protect the Asian Americans more efficiently.
Overview of Existing Policies:
These laws were enacted specifically to ensure no persons shall suffer excessive force, sexual assault, intentional false arrests, or the intentional fabrication of evidence resulting in a loss of liberty to another.
- 1. Federal Criminal Enforcement
It is a crime for one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (18 U.S.C 241, 242)
- 2. Federal Civil Enforcement “Police Misconduct Provision”
This law makes it unlawful for State or local enforcement officers to engage in a pattern of practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (42 U.S.C 14141)
- 3. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the “OJP Program Statue”
These two laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion by State and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from the Department of Justice. (42 U.S.C 2000d, et seq. and 42 U.S.C 3789d((c)).
- 1. Police officers:
It is evident that police officers are on the frontlines and interact with Asian Americans on a daily basis. In addition, local police departments must follow federal antidiscrimination policies because they use federal funds to employ and train new officers. For example, Oakland PD and “more than three dozen law enforcement agencies across the state to receive a combined $19.6 million in grants for new hires from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.” (LA Times) Police departments risk losing federal funding if found incompliant.
- 2. Cambodian American Men and Women:
This Asian American group has been shown to be the most discriminated against. Cambodians refugees are forced to live in the worst parts of the US and may come into contact with police more often, thus making the chances of experiencing police brutality even greater. For example, in Providence, Rhode Island, during a police house raid of a Cambodian American family police humiliated and brutalized a 77 year old woman by dragging her from the bathroom. Police mocked and videotaped her and beat her 13 year old grandson in his sleep. As a result, the community banded together to “fight back years of police harassment, deportations and racial profiling of Cambodian youth, many of whom are entered into a police ‘gang database’” (Scoppettuolo).
- 3. Asian American Youth:
Asian American teenager Adam Kim allegedly experienced a direct infringement of his rights on March of 2011. The incident occurred after police stopped a disorderly house party. Kim and about a dozen others were arrested and detained in a police van for 15 hours without proper treatment. According to Kim, the officers not only failed to provide adequate custody, but also used racial slurs and biased treatment in reference to Asian Americans. After an investigation conducted my internal affairs they concluded that there was no evidence of “malicious or discriminatory intent by the officers” (Daily Mail). Just recently in a more extreme case, Danny Chong was wrongfully imprisoned for 5 days without due process and left without food or water in the state of California (Campbell). Youth are at a big risk when coming into contact with police due to much police brutality seen against Asian American youth.
- 4. Asian Immigrants and the Elderly:
An elderly Asian immigrant had his civil rights violated because he was unlawfully detained by police and left in the subway handcuffed for an hour for trying to two translate for two Chinese men he was traveling with. “Austin Whang was entering the subway station in Flushing, Queens, New York, when the two Chinese men he was travelling with were stopped by police officers for allegedly failing to pay their subway fare. Whang, a 50-year old Chinese immigrant, offered to help translate. Police officers responded to his offer by handcuffing him and issuing him a summons for disorderly conduct. Mr. Whang was left handcuffed in the subway station for an hour.” (AALDEF)
On May 8th, 2011 60-year old Wu Yi Zhuo was violently arrested by police for failing to produce a sound permit which granted him permission to play his flute in public. A video captured the altercation between six police officers and the 60 year old Chinese man who was left with a bloodied face and brutally handled. (Lin, Joseph)
These incidents of police brutality illustrate the violation of Constitutional right accorded to Asian Americans. The right to unlawful detention, imprisonment, and due process are guaranteed rights in the Constitution. Current policies that are supposed to protect persons living in the US against these types of infringements have failed to do so. We are prompted to take action against the police misconduct against Asian Americans, by doing so we hope to address the distrust that has culminated as a result of these violations and the violence against Asian Americans.
These policies protect against the violation of rights accorded by the Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment which states under Section 1: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” All of the stake holders we listed under this policy, and those not listed, are protected whether or not they are citizens. No action of the state—the police—can deprive any person due process of the law nor deny equal protection of the laws. These laws are intended to protect the multi-generational Asian American to the newly arrived South Asian immigrant or refugee.
Many Asian Americans and South Asian immigrants live in urban areas where police departments are federally funded. According to SF GATE (2011), “Asians account for 16.7 % of Oakland’s population”. If urban police departments were to lose federal funding it would detrimentally affect the quality of policing already absent in Asian communities like Oakland’s Chinatown, San Francisco’s Sunset District, or Chinatown “where the city’s Asian population, on the other hand, has risen above the 33 percent mark.” (Huffington Post) Additionally, police departments would have to cut on hiring and integration of Asian Americans. John Kapinos, a strategic planner in the county police department’s Office of Research and Support, states: “Our authority and power has to come from the community.” and “It can’t be imposed from outside. Legitimacy is enhanced if the force reflects the community.” (Voice of America)
Antonio Alvarez, Isidro Cabrera, Rodolfo Mendoza, and John Zhang
New Policy Recommendation:
We are currently rebounding from an economic depression that President Barack Obama inherited by the Bush administration. “As police departments across the nation face budget cuts, and are therefore limited in resources and staffing levels, community policing strategies are essential to maintaining effective public safety services within this changing economy”. (Melekian, Bernard K.) Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 we have also suspended many of our rights due to the implementation of the Patriot Act, thus leading to an increase of violations of due process. Unconstitutional acts against South Asians, such as unlawful detentions, are strikingly similar to the ones suffered by our stakeholders. Based on the political climate, we believe in two approaches that would stop Asian discrimination and police misconduct in Asian communities. First of all, by creating stricter oversight over federally funded departments across the US, police departments will be held accountable for acts of discrimination against minorities. Secondly, by integrating more Asian American recruits into disproportionate police departments that do not reflect community demographics, we can begin to eliminate existing distrust and strengthen police/community relations.
Federal oversight of police departments is not a new concept to police departments currently under funding. We want to hold administrators such as: commissioners, chiefs, and captains, accountable for their department’s unlawful actions. Additionally, we also want to hold individuals accountable too for incompliance. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the City of Oakland was under scrutiny for allegations of police corruption in the infamous Riders scandal. Upon surrendering its authority over its command staff, the federal government appointed an officer, “whose official title will be compliance director, would have wide ranging powers to force Oakland to fully comply with a decade-old reform plan that settled the infamous Riders police brutality scandal.” (Atrz, Matthew) Punitive sanctions against police departments sends a clear message that the government will not be complicit in funding noncompliant departments and that the violations of federal mandates prohibiting all forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.
Diversifying police departments to reflect the communities in which they serve would not only create a moral boost amongst Asian residents, but also help create transparency within the departments themselves, thus promoting accountability and equality. According to the JournalTimes.com, on August 12, 2011 Racine city officials expressed concern about the lack of diversity within their police departments. As a result Racine chief of police Kurt Whalen changed the hiring process by eliminating the interview panel because it was too “subjective” and introduced a “standardized” written test. Clearly we can see the benefits that come from adopting policies that help promote diversity. By pushing forth a policy that demands diversity within police departments that reflect their communities “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the OJP Program Statue” would be compliant and strengthen community trust. Because police departments would need to change hiring processes to better accommodate the population its serves, as chief of Whalen did with his cities department, would ultimately help eliminate discrimination on the “basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion” as stated by the existing policies.
There may be a problem with adequately diversifying police departments because Asian groups in the US reflect many ethnic backgrounds and cultures. In the US, there are generational Chinese who have established themselves in California prior and post the Gold Rush era. Japanese Americans have worked the agriculture fields prior to World War II. Cambodians sought refuge during the notorious Khmer Rouge regime and were placed in the most dilapidated areas of large cities. All of these Asian groups have more differences than they do similarities.
There can be no defunding of police departments. We cannot risk lack of funding to affect the quality of policing, just imagine a society without law and order. Chaos would ensue.
One likely candidate who will oppose our new recommendation are Anglo dominated police departments. As mentioned in class, Whites are the dominant group of America and they are the ones who have a major say in public policy. These people have the power, wealth and authority to do what they please. That being said, current police departments will likely prefer to remain the same, having majority of the police force being White in order to maintain authority. Affirmative action was instituted in order to address racial disparities in schools and the work place, if authority were taken away from Whites they would have less power and less say in the police force. Additionally, young white males who already have an advantage in getting into the police force would oppose our new policy because it lowers their chances getting into the police force by having less recruitment. Police departments would also oppose our recommendation as they can argue that there are not enough qualified people to become police officers. According to Police Chief Kurt Wahlen, there is required minimum of 60 college credits for people to become police officers but only a small percentage of black people in the city have college credits. Because of this, it can be hard for African Americans to even become police officers in the first place in order to diversify. The department has yet to hire a Hispanic woman because the five Hispanic women who applied in 2010 failed the agility course. Police departments can make the argument that there are not enough qualified individuals to do the and therefore oppose any diversifying by means of affirmative action.
Antonio Alvarez, Isidro Cabrera, Rodolfo Mendoza, John Zhang