Don’t Ever Think There’s Nothing You Can Do

When I heard the news about the police officers getting mowed down in Dallas, it was early Friday morning, and I was focused on preparing my family to leave for a camping trip by 8 AM. I was still reeling from the events of the week and couldn’t quite process it. The family trip was an easy distraction. The next day we visited the Discovery Center at Big Bear Lake, and I noticed the flags at half-mast. I had forgotten about the police killings and the answer given for my inquiry was simply, “Texas.”

I agree with the statement Chief Sanchez of the Pasadena Police recently made about Texas, that all workers deserve to come home at the end of the day, including his police force, and was moved by him saying he was opposed to all forms of violence, whether it’s domestic violence or violence on the street. I also reflect that flags would always be at half-mast if we honored and respected life equally. Shouldn’t the flags be at half-mast after people are so purposelessly killed by police? What about after a four year old is killed in a drive-by shooting? That also happened last week, in my neck of the woods, Altadena.

I’ve been reading about Lakota values and spirituality, preparing for a sermon on the topic later this month in Santa Monica. Here is a passage by Joseph M. Marshall III about respect from the book “The Lakota Way”:

“Luther Standing Bear, a Lakota and one of the first Native American writers to be published (around 1900), talked about respect as an essential ingredient for balanced interaction among all living things. According to him, the Lakota had developed a respect for the Earth and all forms of life because all were a necessary part of the physical environment. He suggested that some people, and he was politely implicating whites, had lost respect for animals. His biggest concern was that humans who lost respect for animals would soon lose respect for their own kind as well (italics mine).”

It sent a chill up my spine, in light of the mounting tragedies, how far down we have sunk in terms of respect for human life. It made me think of the concurrent unfolding of failed Reconstruction soon after the Civil War, when Standing Bear’s observations were published. A book recently published that traces the roots of white backlash in America to this time period is “White Rage” by Carol Anderson, reviewed as “extraordinarily timely and urgent.” My interest was also piqued on KPFK when I heard part of a speech by Dr. Joy DeGruy about Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome.

In response to these times of civic unrest and tragic violence, we must take advantage of the spotlight, and help educate ourselves and others about how we got here. It starts with the violent commencement of our nation, exterminating Native Americans and centuries of slavery. It continues today as we wage the War on Drugs decade after decade in the poorest neighborhoods of America.

And we shouldn’t stop there. The other day, my friend lamented there was “nothing we can do.” This is far from the case. There is clear evidence that advocating for and achieving greater civilian oversight of police force is the best way to curb unnecessary brutality and killings. Here is a helpful article: 15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality. And here is a helpful update about the city of Pasadena in this regard.

Last Tuesday I showed up at a Human Relations Commission meeting to urge them to pay attention to the Graziano report, which highlights the results of a survey that was taken in 2015 about public attitudes toward Pasadena police. An article, “For Second Time in Two Weeks, Controversial Report on Pasadena Police Goes Unheard, Undiscussed” was published the next day in Pasadena Now.  At the commission meeting, here is part of what I said:

Good evening Commissioners. I’m Rev. Hannah Petrie and I’m here tonight because I’ve worked with the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight for Pasadena Police and am concerned about biased policing in NW and Central Pasadena that is revealed in the Graziano Survey, for example:

  • 72% of African American residents found racial profiling by police a problem. (Up from 52% in the 2006 PARC survey). Latino results stayed about the same at 46%. (page 23)
  • About 25% of both African Americans and Latinos who were stopped by police were searched and experienced use of force. Only 7% of white residents stopped were searched, and only 3% experienced use of force. (page 29)
  • 58% of residents searched lived in NW Pasadena and 30% in the Central area. (page 29)

These figures, when paired with recent studies compiled by a Coalition of California legal and criminal justice organizations, including the Western Center on Poverty, the East Bay Community Law Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, and others, show hard data about the biased effect of police stops.

  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately pulled over more by police, and white drivers are pulled over less.
  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately pulled over without a good reason.
  • Black and Latino drivers are disproportionately searched during traffic stops.
  • Police are less likely to find contraband or other illegal activity in searches of black and Latino drivers, than in searches of white motorists.

As it turned out, the Human Relations Commission cancelled the presentation of the Graziano survey, and there was no discussion or questions after our public comments were made.

But we have another chance to urge the city to take this report seriously (so far they have not, and some have even questioned its validity) this Thursday afternoon, July 14, in City Hall Chambers at the Public Safety Committee meeting, at 4:15 PM, when the Graziano report will be presented and public comment heard.  Any public comment made makes a difference, but it is especially helpful if people of color who have experienced over-policing can testify to support the report’s findings, which are further reviewed below by CICOPP’s Chairwoman, Kris Ockershauser. What is CICOPP, you ask? It’s the coalition whose work you join – our next meeting is this Thursday morning, July 14, at 9 AM at All Saints Church. CICOPP stands for the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police.

Until next time, Do the Hustle! Oh, speaking of hustle, here is a recent article about criminalizing it.

– Rev. At-Large, hustling hope for all you mother fo’s, aka Rev. Hannah Petrie




  1. Graziano 2015 survey of residents of all Pasadena show great majority – 87% – pleased with police services. African American and Latino residents differ: racial profiling, excessive use of force, and stop and search for no good reason cited as major police misconduct affecting them.  One third of all residents surveyed felt police misconduct at least a minor problem in Pasadena
  2. Graziano survey a replica of 2006 PARC (Police Assessment Resource Center) survey,  Pasadena Police-Community Relations Assessment. PARC survey showed satisfaction with police services by a majority of the city, except in NW and Central.  Police misconduct such as racial profiling and being stopped for no good reason was seen as a problem by more than half of African Americans residents and 45% of Latinos (p. 70).
  3. An informal survey in 2011 of more than 600 resident and shoppers in NW Pasadena replicated the PARC survey findings.
  4. Graziano survey results show biased policing: 72% of African Americans and 46% of Latinos found racial profiling a problem (p. 23).  About 25% of both African Americans and Latinos who were stopped by police were searched and experienced use of force.  Only 7% of white residents stopped were searched, and only 3% experienced use of force (p.29).
  5. 58% of persons stopped and searched were from NW Pasadena;   30% were from Central Pasadena (Graziano Survey p. 29)
  6. Studies of a variety of California cities show that police stop and search for no good reason practices are: a) disproportionately targeted at people of color; b) African Americans and Latinos  are disproportionately searched during traffic stops; and c) police are less likely to find contraband or other illegal activity in searches of black and Latino drivers than of white drivers. ( )
  7. People of color are disproportionately stopped, searched and arrested for minor offenses (broken tail light, rolling a stop sign, littering, jaywalking). ( )
  8. If a person fails to pay, automatic fines increase from $100 to $490 to $815.  Drivers License suspension for unpaid fine follows.  Over 4 million in California have suspended DLs, 1 in 6 people.
  9. Predominantly persons of color and low income are affected. (see Interactive Map of DL suspensions, Zip Code 91101, at (  Restitution in full is required to get DL back.  A study reported that 42% with DL suspension lose their job, only 45% find a new job, and 88% of those with a new job receive lower wages.
  10. A recent Supreme Court decision will now allow illegal police stops without probable cause/no good reason if a person has an outstanding warrant. Legal commentary predicts a rise in illegal police stops to search persons. (see Supreme Court Gives Police More Power To Stop And Question People ; Police Injustice: How the Court Fails )
  11. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor ,in dissent of the Utah v. Streiff majority decision:By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”
  12. Ferguson MO police, courts, city administration, city council raised revenue through increased traffic stops, use of force, ticketing and fining, and jail sentences targeted at African Americans. (CNN 3/6/15 “Policing for Profit”)  Who benefits from fines in Pasadena?  (An Investigation of Civil Forfeiture in California )
  13. Pasadena can stop thisA) A state sponsored ticket amnesty program is in effect until March 2017.  Flintridge Center holds monthly clinics on ticket amnesty.  The City could also offer free ticket amnesty clinics.  B) Pasadena PD could cease making arrests solely based on warrants for failure to pay or appear, or for driving with a suspended license for a failure to appear or pay.  C)  Pasadena PD could curtail the over-policing of low income and communities of color.
  14. Civilian oversight of PPD could provide professional, full time oversight of Pasadena’s policing policies and practices, to City leaders and the public, with input from neighborhoods most affected by over-policing.  This could be an effective, low cost way to build trust between communities of color and police, reducing crime within neighborhoods and police misconduct within poor neighborhoods.

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