Panel: Cobb treats minorities unfairly
by Marcus E. Howard
mhoward@mdjonline.com
March 10, 2012 12:06 AM | 5571 views | 57 57 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MABLETON — Panelists and attendees at a recent town hall meeting said Cobb County is unfriendly to minorities and illegal immigrants.

The five panelists came from different interest groups, but many shared a belief that local law enforcement have unfairly targeted minorities and that the local school system has failed students in low-income neighborhoods.

The Cobb United for Change Coalition organized the meeting Thursday night at Trinity Tabernacle Baptist Church on Veterans Memorial Highway in Mableton. It plans to conduct more public meetings on a bi-monthly basis. About 40 people attended and were encouraged to ask questions.

The panelists were the Rev. Lionel Gantt of the Cobb Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Lisa Davis, CobbWorks program services manager; GALEO Executive Director Jerry Gonzalez; educator Dr. Michael Rhett; and Nation of Islam minister Charles Muhammad.

The issues addressed in Thursday’s two-hour meeting included education, jobs, immigration, racial profiling and prisons, topics that at times produced passionate discussions.

“When I live in suburbia and I’m white, I don’t get stressed when I see lights flashing in the background,” Muhammad said. “If I’m Latino or I’m black, I get scared. It’s a reality. It’s a reality in Cobb County and in America.”

Muhammad, who called the prison system a 21st century plantation, said he had no confidence in the ability of police to enforce the law without racial bias, an opinion shared by many in the room. Audience member Carlos Garcia of Marietta said he could personally attest to local police practicing racial profiling.

“They tailgate you and they find any possible reason to stop you and check your immigration status; that is what I call racial profiling,” Garcia said. “They said there’s no racial profiling? I’ve been harassed by police officers in Cobb County, and I’m sick and tired of it.”

The Cobb Sheriff’s Office was the first agency in Georgia to participate in 287(g) program, which gives local governments access to a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement database. Since July 2007, thousands of Cobb inmates have been identified as illegal immigrants.

Gonzalez has been an outspoken critic of the 287(g) program and Georgia House Bill 87, legislation currently under a federal court’s review, which would allow police to investigate the immigration status of a suspect. He said such measures have enabled officers to harass minorities.

“We need to change the make-up of the Cobb County Commission to ensure that they will hold law enforcement accountable to do what they are supposed to be doing, which is to uphold public safety,” Gonzalez said.

“I get a phone call when someone’s house is broken into in Cobb County, not 911. I get a phone call saying, ‘Mr. Gonzalez, if I call the police, are they going to harass me because I’m undocumented?’ Unfortunately, I have to say, ‘In Cobb County, yes.’”

Gonzalez also said he has been working with residents to file complaints against police with the U.S. Justice Department.

On the other hand, Gantt said that his organization has found common ground when speaking to police about residents’ concerns. He stressed the need for all individuals to be held accountable for their actions, regardless of their skin color.

The topic of education also raised an intense debate about what should be done to improve public education. Given the lack of jobs, which has raised unemployment over the national average in black and Hispanic communities, many questioned the current system’s effectiveness in preparing students to enter the workforce.

Davis said her organization, a nonprofit that provides employment and educational resources for jobseekers, has seen children dropping out of school to help their families financially.

Rhett, an Air Force veteran who has taught in Cobb, said one problem that exists in education is excessive standardized testing. “By the time they get to high school and don’t pass any of these tests, then they’re out,” Rhett said. He suggested that more students should be prepared for vocational and technical schools.

Muhammad said the present school system had run its course and that the curriculum is not helping students. He urged community members to come together and set standards for their children’s education.

While he stated that too many school education systems have been undermined by budget cuts, Gonzalez emphasized the importance of education in helping disadvantaged people to improve their circumstances in life.

“We’re pointing externally and saying the educational system is a mess, but we’re not doing anything about it,” he said. “We need to take ownership of the problems we have in education and we need to invest and make sure we can take charge of these problems and make solutions, and not just complain.”

No elected officials had attending the meeting. Many of the panelists urged residents to express their dissatisfaction by voting for better representation on school boards and local government bodies.

“How bad can our problems be when we’re here and I don’t think there’s an elected official around?” said audience member Michael Murphy of the Austell Community Taskforce.
Comments
(57)
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What would Jesus do
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June 13, 2013
What I have notice on every comment made, no one realizes we all are human beings and we all are connected by the blood of God. So why do we put each other down instead of helping each other to be better. Police are to protect and serve the community no matter the race or creed. We should want to be better caring people instead of judging and hiding behind personal feeling towards certain people. One day we all will die and God will judge us all. So live your life knowing God is watching our every step and thoughts.
Kennesaw Voter
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March 12, 2012
folks who gripe about racism are the ones who are racist...this is based on what i have experienced. Law abiding citizens love our police and appreciate their efforts at attacking crime in Cobb...if you don't want law enforcement out doing their job...maybe you should move. I for one don't want gangs and criminals in Cobb.
SG68
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March 12, 2012
Maybe the reason there were no elected officials present is because they didn't want to be associated with a bunch of bigots who have nothing better to do than to blame others for their problems and shortcomings.

The groups that are concerned with being singled out or picked on have only their brothers and sisters who operate outside the law to blame.

They are responding to their experience and their experience tells them that blacks and hispanics are more likely to be involved in criminal activities.

If you had enough guts and pride to gain control of your culture and those in your culture who are causing the problems maybe the cops wouldn't have reason to be so suspicious.

Man up!!!!

A citizen
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March 12, 2012
Excuse me!

Just because most of the prison residents are minorities does not mean that most minorities are criminals.

To the contrary most minorities are NOT criminals, which is why racial profiling is wrong.
SG68
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March 12, 2012
I didn't say that most minorities are criminals. You are absolutely correct, most aren't.

I simply said that you can't blame the cops for either consciously or even subconsciously profiling.

They are the one's out there risking their lives each and every day and they have to use every means at their disposal to do their job and survive.

How can you possibly blame them for that?

It just so happens that most of the lawbreakers they run into are minorities. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact of life.

Many persons of color probably think that most caucasians are prejudiced or even racist.

That's not true!!!

You just naturally remember the ones you have encountered that are, because they make such an emotional negative impression on you. Perfectly understandable. It is human nature.

Would you deny that most of society's experiences with terrorists, both here and abroad, has been with young Middle Eastern men who also happen to be Muslim?

Does that mean that all young Middle Eastern Muslim men are terrorists? Of course not!! Most aren't!!!

But the fact remains, because of our negative experiences, most people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but make that connection.

Most of the time it's not bigotry, it's not racism, it's not prejudice.

It IS human nature, not racial profiling

Nothing more, nothing less.

Just an unfortunate fact of life.

A citizen
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March 12, 2012
Don't be so quick to judge these people for speaking up against mistreatment. Imagine a group of criminals moved into your neighborhood, and now suddenly YOU'RE being treated like a criminal because of it. I bet you'd speak up too. There are middle-class neighborhoods in Cobb County that have a high level of casual teen drug use. What if the police began following YOUR teenagers more closely in an attempted 'crack down'?

I don't think the panel was complaining about police cracking down on crime. Any law abiding citizen welcomes the protection of law enforcement.

The fact is that just because the prisons are predominantly occupied by minorities, does not mean that most minorities are criminals. To the contrary, most minoirities are hard working people that love their families as much as anyone. But because the prisons have a disproporionate minority population, there is a tendency (in some cases a desire) for people to draw the conclusion that most minorities have a criminal bent.

Profiling minorities is wrong because it leads with the assumption that most minorities have a criminal bent.

It is tempting to be lazy when searching for criminals and use a big hammer, squashing the greater number of innoncents in an attempt to target the lesser number of guilty. But I thought we were paying our law enforcement to seek out the guilty AND protect the innocent. I guess we're not really getting what we're paying for.
THE TRUTH
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March 12, 2012
Cobb is a wonderful community with individuals of very diverse ethnic, religious, political and social background living in the same community. When it comes to opportunity, Cobb is very rich and that opportunity exists for all, if they choose to make the most of what is offered. With such diversity and opportunity, it is hard to fathom why such a non-diverse panel was convened to sit in such off-based judgement. A cynic might judge that it is for their own self-agrandizement rather than a serious discussion.
FormerCobbOfficer
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March 12, 2012
Don't you love when people see racism and profiling when their whole job is to look for racism and profiling? That's what is happening here. If they didn't find racism, they don't have a job.

If you look at the criminal statistics of Cobb County, roughly 30% of the crime in the entire county occurs on Six Flags Drive. Six Flags Drive is easily 90% black and hispanic. So are cops not supposed to stop blacks or hispanics on Six Flags Drive? Go down there one day and tell me how many white people you see.

But lets look at some history and statistics here. Black and hispanic males are responsible for a majority of tracked crime in this country (tracked by the FBI). This includes burglary, theft, aggravated assault, auto theft, rape, and homicide. Now why are the majority of criminals arrested black or hispanic males? Black and hispanic culture is the reason.

This is going to get long winded, but back in the day when LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act (after blocking it multiple times just so democrats could pass it, but that's another issue), welfare was created. Welfare made it possible for black families to make more money when the mother was single with no male living in the household. So divorce rates of black families went up, and marriage rates went down. The government essentially broke up the nuclear family. Now this happened to whites too, but since at the time most black families made less income than whites, due to real racism not the perceived racism of today, black children started growing up without a father figure in the home.

Countless of studies have shown that if you take out a strong male father figure from the home, boys are more likely to turn towards crime and girls are more likely to become pregnant. But generations down the road, this trend keeps building. Men without strong father figures have kids, then many do not take the responsibility of being fathers, then their sons repeat the cycle. But the cycle keeps repeating with the girls too, since they keep popping out kids due to the fact that the government keeps giving them more and more money the more kids they have.

Now onto education. There is very little emphasis on education the black and hispanic family. Many hispanics adults, who are legal or illegal, have very little formal education. The men typically work blue collar jobs and the women stay at home with the children (or in more and more cases these days, work as well, leaving the eldest child responsible for the children). Since the parents aren't educated, there is typically no emphasis on completing their education past high school. Also, in hispanic culture, it seems to be more acceptable to start a family earlier than other cultures. Why do you think you see more pregnant hispanic teens than any other race? Its their culture.

Now if you have watched Chris Rock's old stand-up routine, he hits the nail on the head with black culture. He essentially said that black men get more respect from other black men coming out of jail than college. Many uneducated blacks see educated blacks as "wanting to be white." Look at Herman Cain, an educated black man, who was repeatedly called "Uncle Tom" by uneducated blacks. This also has to do with education not being emphasized by black parents who are not educated themselves.

You want to change things? Don't change the police department, change black and hispanic culture. Now the things I described, based off my experience policing in all sections of Cobb County, is probably true for 70% of the black and hispanic population. The other 30% do a good job emphasizing education and working on creating a good environment for their family, and even then some kids fall through the cracks.

Now where you live also influences how you raise your family. I've dealt with many black and hispanic children in East Cobb and West Cobb, who are kids I'd love my children to grow up to be like. But that's because they were raised by good parents, with good values, and an emphasis on education. When you go to the poorer areas of Cobb County, I've met many white children that my kids better not even remotely grow up to be like. Why? Because the parents did not emphasize education.

Its not a police problem, its a culture and parenting problem. If you change the culture, you'll fix the perceived police problems.
Like I said before..
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March 13, 2012
it all boils down to values. live around people who have the same values as you do and life will be fine. it's only when someone comes around with out those same values that life becomes traumatic.

But there are still a number of rogue cops out there. I would contend about 30% do their jobs well and 70% wouldn't be so "tough" without the badge.
anonymous
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March 11, 2012
I just had a panel meeting and determined this panel was full of idiots. My panel wins.
The Messanger
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March 11, 2012
Minority students have less access to advanced courses, more inexperienced teachers and face tougher disciplinary consequences than their counterparts, a new collection of federal data shows, affirming long-held beliefs about disparities in the classroom.

"The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said March 5, 2012. "It is our collective duty to change that."

Much of the reaction to this report in the media seems to place blame on student’s lack of respect for others and ingrained anti-social character traits learned in the home. None blamed teachers or school systems. The same report shows disabled students face similar disparate treatment. I guess disabled students, just like Black and Latino students, have similar ingrained anti-social character traits learned in the home.

It is widely known that today’s youth have a set of media driven values that don’t work in their benefit, but when are we going to get to the crux and look at parental responsibility and the lack of cultural competency training within the ranks of our educators and the extent that may play a role?

I would like to see this group identify a short list of issues to attack along with measurable outcomes and timetable for achievement.

Be Careful
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March 11, 2012
Let me tell your something you may find surprising. I work in public safety. I have MANY police officer friends. What is a fact is that a police officer doesn't WANT to arrest anyone. They don't want to do the paperwork, they don't want to sit in court waiting to be called, they don't want someone claiming harrassment.

They want to work their shift and go home to their families.

They are NOT out looking for reasons to arrest black people or latinos.

But, if they are called to a scene ans witness law breaking going on, they WILL act.

This is not an issue of police abuse, it's an issure of individuals not taking responsibility for their own actions.

If you don't want to get in trouble, don't break the law. That's as simple as it gets.
Pissed in Mableton
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March 11, 2012
I had many officers tell me that as well. They have no problem making an arrest when it warrants but to do it for the sake of doing it, is like working a car accident, PAPERWORK CITY!

I have done ride alongs with several agencies as a citizen. The paperwork they have to do when they make an arrest is large and some agencies require the supervisor to come in and sign off on it to ensure it was done properly. Then waiting for the paddywagon to come and get the arrestee or driving the suspect to the jail yourself. Then having to wait for the Sheriff's jailers to take them off your hand. Oh we can forget, they inspect them before you can go back to the beat. If they have a medical problem, then you have to take them to the hospital (Dekalb PD) before they take responsibility.

truth hurts
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March 11, 2012
If you don't like it, get out!
Pissed in Mableton
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March 11, 2012
They can always go back to Fulton and Dekalb to continue to run amuck. We don't tolerate criminal behavior and activities here. Go to Atlanta if you want to be a THUG and HOODRAT. We actually like going out without having to worry about loiterers hanging out in front of stores, coming home to see our televisions still on our walls, children enjoying the parks without watching drug deals go on and so much more.

If you think we are bad, try something in Douglas County. They truly have zero tolerance
silver dog
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March 11, 2012
Illegals know where the border is located, they should git on their way out of OUR country. Instead you have these cry baby ministers claiming the enforcement of OUR laws is harassment! Deport, Deport, Deport....git out of here, and take your ministers with you!
no matter
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March 11, 2012
One thing I have learned in my life and that is, there will always be people who whine and complain. All I can say is, Boo Hoo. The illegals are not supposed to be here, parasites on the taxpayers and the others can always go home.
tired of it
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March 11, 2012
On a daily basis I see kids in trouble and the parents with every excuse in the book as to why they are in trouble. The longer you give kids excuses for themselves they will never get ahead. As far as being here illegally GO HOME and come back legally. Me along with probably most people have no problem with hispanics or any other foreigner being here as long as you are here legally. The illegal alliens get more benenfits the the ones born here. free healthcare, free handouts from the government, I pay into social security but yet people who have never worked get SSI, foodstamps, welfare people are OWED or so they think and the government should take care of them.. SAD SORRY PEOPLE.
meekiee
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March 10, 2012
Someone who doesn`t gather facts and uses the race card. If he only researched and found out how much of his paycheck goes to illegals he might get upset .we pay for a illegal child to be born here . we pay for that child till that child turns 18. Which includes welfare,schooling ,etc. The parents work under the table which in turn it no money collected for taxes. The illegals in turn spend their tax free money in their ethnic group. Which again does not go back to the legal citizens.
Just Wait
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March 10, 2012
As soon as there is factual evidence of profiling by the police, I will believe it. Simply saying more minorities are arrested than majorities is not a fact. You must consider where most crimes occur and who the perpetrators are. The police really don't care what the color of the criminal is just like they have no interest in revenue generation. They are there to enforce the law. Don't want to go to jail? Don't commit crimes!
Blah Blah Blah
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March 10, 2012
The article fails to mention two important facts: (1) if there is an independent reason for the stop, it is not racial profiling and (2) Cobb has the lowest crime rate in the metro area.

To all the snivelers...don't break the law, and you don't have to worry about blue lights!
Samuel Adams
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March 10, 2012
Three years in and all that Hope and Change isn't working out too good for you guys, huh?

Gee, let us know how all your complaining goes, won't you?

Nation of Islam? Now there's a bastion of diversity, peace and fairness. chortle chortle
West Cobb Resident
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March 10, 2012
These folks are so far off base you can't take them seriously.

Cobb County SHOULD be unfair to illegal immigrants - they're not supposed to BE here!
Concerned citizen
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March 10, 2012
Which part of 'illegal alien' do these folks not understand. If I was found to be illegal in any country I would be locked up straight away with no questions asked.
MELVIN WELLS
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March 10, 2012
I DONT KNOW MUCH ABOUT COBB BUT I KNOW DEFACS TOOK AWAY 2 LITTLE GIRLS FROM THIER PARENTS AND WONT GIVE THEM BACK OVER STORIES THATS BEEN PUT IN THIER LITTLE MINDS, I,M NOT THE PARENT I,M JUST JUST A CONCERNED CITIZEN,I WENT TO COURT WITH THEM AND EVEN THE JUDGE SAID THE CHILDREN WERE COACHED,TO BE HERD NEXT COURT, THATS BEEN OVER A YEAR,THE KIDS HAVE BEEN GONE FOR 2 YEARS SO FAR, THE PARENTS ARE POOR AND NOT AS EDUCATED AS OTHERS BUT THAY ARE THIER PARENTS ,STATE SHOULD NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE THEM MY 2 CENTS
Mr. Grammar
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March 10, 2012
Mr. Wells,

Have you heard of any punctuation mark other than a comma? Maybe a period (.)?
rhl3rd
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March 11, 2012
What does this have to do with racial profiling? Were the parents a minority? Either way it is a sad situation when parents have to be separated from their children.
OMG GEESH!!!
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March 10, 2012
I guess police should just ignore another criminal too if they arrive and discover they are robber, drug dealer, or minor crime.

Illegal Aliens are criminals. There is a process to enter and become a resident of any country. Only in the good old USA are they the victim!

Illegal Aliens BROKE THE LAW. Its plan and simple. LAW IS BROKEN pay the piper when you are caught.
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