02/11/18 Doug McVay

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

The White House has chosen a new drug czar; Oregon legislators are working to set up mental health checkups for all law enforcement officers in that state; and we hear more about the state of civil rights in the United States.

Share on Facebook Share on stumbleupon digg it Share on reddit Share on del.icio.us



FEBRUARY 11, 2018


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century Of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

This week on Century: the White House has chosen a new drug czar. Oregon legislators are working to set up mental health checkups for all law enforcement officers in that state.

But first: Loyal listeners will recall that last week we featured a segment on the state of civil rights in the United States. On this week’s installment of Century of Lies, we continue that examination. First, let’s hear from Desmond Meade. Meade is President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

DESMOND MEADE: Florida currently disenfranchises over 1.68 million of its citizens. All individuals who have previously been convicted of felony offenses, they face a lifetime ban of their civil rights. And what this means is, in addition to the ability to be able to vote, they lose the right to serve on a jury, the right to run for office, and then there are other collateral consequences that have a detrimental impact, particularly on communities of color.

And those collateral consequences include, but are not limited to, the ability to find gainful employment, the ability to obtain occupational licenses, and the ability to find safe and affordable housing.

With these individuals, the 1.68 million people facing these challenges, it puts a severe economic strain on families of those individuals who are directly impacted, and it exacerbates already an environment in which there's definitely not economic parity.

But, we have, you know, we're currently engaged in Florida in the effort to change to change some of that, and those of you who haven't known, or heard, that we have launched a citizen's initiative, a constitutional amendment, that would restore the ability to vote to approximately 1.5 million Floridians.

These are individuals who have already served their time, and have paid their debt back to society, and have been released in our communities, to move on with their lives. We know, for the past couple of years we've been engaging in signature collection.

We had two very important milestones to meet, the first one being that we had to trigger the Supreme Court review of our amendment and ballot summary, title, and language, which we were able to do so by pure grassroots effort. And then we moved onto the second phase, which was collecting at least a million petitions from Florida voters throughout the state that would allow us to place this particular amendment on the ballot for November 2018.

I am very proud to announce that we were able to accomplish that, and last Tuesday, we, our ballot initiative, has been officially certified by the State of Florida, and we have been assigned Ballot Position Number Four for the November election.

And so we are very excited about this opportunity to re-enfranchise a significant number of Floridians. We are also excited about the process in which we were able to accomplish this.

When we started, we, one of our mantras that guided us, was the mantra that a more inclusive democracy is a more vibrant democracy, and a more vibrant democracy is best for all Americans.

And so, as we're moving forward, from this point on, we're really engaging in a massive campaign to educate our citizens, voters, to engage low-propensity voters, communities of color as well, to not only support this initiative, but to really understand the importance of being -- of participating in this democracy.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Next, we’ll hear from Greisa Martinez Rosas, Advocacy Director of United We Dream.

GREISA MARTINEZ ROSAS: My name is Greisa Martinez Rosas. I serve as advocacy director for United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country.

I am also one of the millions of young people who would qualify for the Dream Act, legislation which would protect us from deportation and create a pathway to citizenship. I am undocumented, unafraid, and I am here to stay.

I thank you and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights for convening this important call, for the vital work that you do to advance the rights of all people.

It is important that we speak today on the state of civil rights in this country because last night, the world heard from the leading pitchman for autocratic rule, racism, and brutality. Last night, we heard the dangerous and twisted logic of an autocrat.

Trump said that he will give citizenship to immigrant young people like me only in the country agrees to his white supremacist demands, and if we do not accept, he will deport us all.

It's a Sophie's Choice, by a man whose racist goal is to force millions of people of color underground, kicked off of our border rolls, thrown into jails and out of the country.

Trump created the crisis that immigrant youth are facing. He killed the DACA program. Our lives literally hang in the balance, and millions more are vulnerable. He is now using that crisis to demand the nation accept his white supremacist plans to give more money and more power to the already lawless agents of the Border Patrol and ICE to go after immigrant workers, to build barriers to black immigrants, and slam the door on the people who are seeking refuge.

Trump is demanding an end to family immigration and billions of dollars to build more camps to confine us and hire more agents to tear through our communities with racist vengeance.

He demands more money and blind obedience for men like the Border Patrol agents caught on video dumping water for migrants in the desert and laughing, as if the people who will die of thirst have no value. More money and blind obedience for men who board Greyhound buses in Florida to ask people for their papers, citizens and non-citizens alike, based on what they look like.

More money and blind obedience for agents who in plain clothes and showing no ID demand papers from people walking down the streets of North Carolina, the streets of Texas, and out of our courtrooms.

More people and blind obedience for agents who followed a ten year old girl to the hospital, waited for her to have surgery, and then dragged her to a detention camp because she is undocumented, and Congress still has not passed a Dream Act.

More money and blind obedience for agents who kicked and peppersprayed a young man named Miguel, who would be eligible for the Dream Act just like me, but instead is sitting in one of the Trump detention camps right now, after getting a ticket in his car.

In the 1980s, Trump launched an ad campaign demanding the death sentence for my friend Yusef and the group of black boys who were wrongly accused of murder, and last night, he went after immigrants. He went after me. He went after all of us.

Like autocrats through history, Trump selectively uses the anguish of the few to justify the state sanctioned and independent oppression of the many. This month, United We Dream leaders were followed from city to city by a screaming mob of Trump supporters, one of whom shouted "white power."

Last night, the former grand wizard of the ku klux klan, David Duke, praised Trump's comments about Dreamers. And this morning, we woke up to messages of hate from Trump's mob of misled supporters.

This isn't a history of some time we'd like to forget. This is happening right now. My message to members of Congress and all people of conscience is to resist. In Washington, we need members of Congress to reject the Trump immigration plan, and pass a clean Dream Act.

But action in Washington is only one of the many layers of resistance that must come alive. At the state level, we need policy to build protections against the growing power of the Trump hypocrisy. In cities, we need ordinances limited the ability of Trump agents to harass and oppress our kids and our students as they please. In schools, we need a reaffirmation that those spaces are safe spaces.

We need those with institutional power to use that power to resist, because at this moment, institutional power is either being used to resist a man who threatens our civil rights, or is being used to enable him.

The state of civil rights is under threat today, but the state of the civil rights movement is organizing and it's growing and it's beautiful.

Immigrant youth, black youth, faith leaders, women, and millions of allies, are literally putting our bodies on the line to resist. With one voice, we are declaring that the civil rights gains of the past must not be rolled back, and that we will not be pushed back into the shadows, into the closets, and into fear.

Indeed, the people are rising. We need elected officials, Democrats and Republicans, national and local, to catch up. This is the moment. This is the time. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Greisa Martinez Rosas, Advocacy Director of United We Dream. She was participating in a teleconference on the state of civil rights in the United States. The teleconference had been organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights following the annual State of the Union address.

You are listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Before we go back to hear more from that teleconference, which was sponsored by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, let’s have some headlines.

The White House has announced a nominee to become Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This time around they’re putting up James Carroll. He’s currently the General Counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget. He was a White House Senior Counsel from the start of the current administration until September 2017, when he moved over to OMB.

Prior to working for this administration, Carroll spent nearly a decade working as a DC-based attorney for Ford Motor Company, but most of his career has been spent in government, including a few years in the GW Bush White House. He has no experience in drug policy that I’ve been able to find. Zero.

Carroll has become the acting director of ONDCP pending his confirmation. The last guy this administration tried to nominate, Congressman Tom Marino, went down in flames after stories hit the media about questionable ethics and favors for dodgy associates – I need to clarify I’m referring here to Marino’s ethics and Marino's associates specifically, because let’s be blunt, for this administration to drop a nominee because of ethics, that’s saying something.

Hopefully we’ll hear more about Carroll’s actual positions and thoughts about drug control policy in his nomination hearing. Hopefully. I wouldn’t bet the rent money on it.

Meanwhile, presidential adviser, rightwing activist and spin doctor Kellyanne Conway continues to run White House efforts on opioids. God save the Republic.

Now, let’s get back to that teleconference on the state of civil and human rights in the United States. Next up we have Farhana Khera, President & Executive Director of the organization Muslim Advocates.

FARHANA KHERA: My name is Farhana Khera, and I'm the Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the front lines to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

Let me first say, it is truly an honor to be on today's call, and to join each of you, our truly fearless leaders and advocates, to discuss the state of civil rights in our country today.

For the American Muslim community, the moment we're in is not just about resistance, but it's also about resilience. The American Muslim community is an extremely diverse one, with every racial and ethnic background, native born and immigrants, we are women and men, we are LGBTQ, we are working people, and we are people with disabilities.

An attack on any of these communities is an attack on all of us. And so while my remarks will focus mostly on the issues explicitly targeting American Muslims, it's impossible to separate the impact of the various rollbacks to voting rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, education rights, women's rights, et cetera, from the more -- from our more lived experience as Americans.

And among these significant attacks, this administration has gone to significant and dogged lengths to silence, marginalize, and roll back the rights of Americans, simply because they're Muslim.

President Trump's rhetoric has emboldened anti-Muslim bigots in communities nationwide, and the results are palpable. Under this administration, American Muslims are victims of hate crimes more than ever before. Our houses of worship are being bombed, burned, and vandalized, and the number of anti-Muslim hate groups has tripled since the presidential campaign.

Let's be clear: the Trump administration is engaging in a sophisticated, long-term, and wide-ranging attack that renders our most basic rights to live, work, study, worship, and travel, free from discrimination, more tenuous than ever before.

Now, the public's attention in the last year has largely centered on the legal battles over the Muslim ban, and we know that religious freedom is explicitly written into the First Amendment, but that doesn't stop the Trump administration from going to unprecedented lengths to write anti-Muslim discrimination into the law of the land.

Courts have repeatedly blocked the ban for being discriminatory, and the administration has made slight tweaks to its ban in the hopes of circumventing the courts and the Constitution, and these efforts have resulted in a ban that is in full effect and currently heading to the Supreme Court in the coming months.

But that's just one part of the Muslim ban that's being litigated. Behind the scenes and a bit under the radar, the administration has created an invisible wall of bureaucratic tape and limitations, making it harder for Muslims to enter the US at every single juncture of the travel process.

The results are mind numbingly cruel. At Muslim Advocates, we are representing families and couples who've been torn apart. Disabled grandparents who need their grandson to come and help them live day to day. An engaged couple, who love each other, but are not allowed to see one another. And a man who desperately needs cancer treatment, but cannot come to the US to receive it.

As the courts have become a bulwark against some of this agenda, the administration is also nominating judges who will rubberstamp his narrow view of religious liberty. Chief among them is Mark Norris, a judicial nominee who is now pending in front of the full Senate. He's openly and proudly anti-Muslim, and like Trump, he has had no shame in conflating Muslims and refugees with terrorists.

He has tried to stop Muslims and refugees from settling in his home state of Tennessee, and when Muslims spoke up and voiced their concerns, he dismissed them as quote unquote "paid to foment unrest".

Norris is not the only nominee we're concerned about, but he certainly personifies our concerns, and the radical and dangerous transformation of the courts that Vanita referenced earlier.

That in a nutshell is the state of civil rights for American Muslims, and it's quite dark, isn't it?

Thankfully, there is a silver lining, and that is you, each and every one of you. We've had successes in the past year. It is because of Americans of all backgrounds, coming together, standing up, shoulder to shoulder, against this bigotry. It started at the airports, just one year ago, but it's taking place in communities and living rooms across the country.

People are speaking out against hate crimes, violence, against Muslim ban, and against bigoted public officials.

As Vanita mentioned, each of us was asked to give a specific ask on this call, and here's mine. First, I urge each and every one of you to speak out. And if you've already spoken out against the Muslim ban or any of these other threats and assaults, I want to first of all thank you, but I also want to ask you to please don't stop. We need you to continue to stand tall with strength and courage more than ever before.

I also urge you to call your member of Congress and urge them to speak out against the Muslim ban. We need to keep up the public pressure on the courts on this important issue, and if you are in the DC area this spring, I want to urge you to consider showing up at the Supreme Court when they finally hear our case on the Muslim ban. The exact date hasn't been set yet but we expect it to be sometime in April.

And last but not least, whether you're Muslim or not, I encourage you to visit our Twitter page @MuslimAdvocates, to share our resources with your network of friends, family, colleagues, and specifically our resources online for reporting hate crimes and discrimination. You can help us fight back by ensuring that the victims of this hate and discrimination get the support and the resources they need.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Farhana Khera, President and Executive Director of the organization Muslim Advocates. She was speaking in a teleconference on the state of civil rights in the United States, which had been organized by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

You’re listening to Century of Lies. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Many people experience trauma in their lives, trauma that can have a lasting impact. Law enforcement officers and emergency services personnel experience trauma on a regular basis. It's part of their job. While we expect police and EMTs to meet a standard of physical fitness and health in order to do their jobs efficiently, we pay little attention to their mental health.

If there's an incident, then an agency may force an officer to meet with a counselor or a psychologist, yet unless we’re forced to do so because of some tragedy, we as a society just don’t seem to care. Our law enforcement and emergency services personnel do very difficult jobs. If we want them to do better, then we need to do better by them.

In Oregon, there’s an effort to do just that. State Senator Lew Frederick, a Portland area Democrat, has introduced legislation in this session to require that law enforcement personnel visit with a psychologist or mental health professional every two years. It’s not for cause, it’s not a punishment, it’s just a visit. Senator Frederick appeared before the Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee to explain the bill recently. Here he is.

OR STATE SENATOR LEW FREDERICK: This bill, Senate Bill 1531, is really a simple bill. It connects to much larger issues, however. It's a step, a small step, but a significant step in the right direction, I believe.

It's also relatively easy to explain. I believe the state of Oregon should have every law enforcement officer in the state visit, and simply talk, with a mental health professional at least once every two years. This is not to be an evaluation or a fit for service discussion, simply a talk. It will not be recorded or reported out. It is -- this is a check-in.

Why? Well, first of all, the stress on law enforcement is obvious to everyone. Beyond the lack of enough officers for our ever increasing population in Oregon, the simple truth is that they often see people on their worst day. They see some of the most horrific episodes in our society. They witness traumas every day that would bring to the eyes of everyone here. And they are trained to approach these events with an objective, dispassionate eye and heart.

But despite that objectivity, that distance, they are human, thank god. They are effected by those incidents. They find ways to cope. Those who are self aware enough find enough -- find support systems to help them work through those experiences. Police agencies across the state and across the country try to provide supervisors and others who can identify and intervene when necessary.

But they are human as well. They miss signals. They are not trained to pick out the right times to be there. They often may not know. And, importantly, they are not mind readers.

I'm not asking for mind readers here, or perfection. I suggest a simple, potentially preventative action that ensures that everyone in law enforcement talk with someone once every two years. I think it would help bring down the level of anxiety triggers often associated with trauma. Perhaps it would help officers identify where their concerns might be, on the job or elsewhere. That would include anxiety related to family and other experiences.

A friend, a retired officer, discovered that a certain color blue made him anxious. Whenever he saw that color, his adrenaline level went up and a fear response was triggered, whether the situation warranted it or not. It took him a while. He was self aware enough to talk with someone. He traced that to the color or a t-shirt of a little boy who died in his arms in a car accident.

Right now, as I understand it after talking to several police groups, identifying a stress response can mean both a cultural response by colleagues within the law enforcement community, shunning or worrying about support, and a real threat to a career. We do not right now have the resources we need to address those issues when they are found. But I believe this bill creates an awareness of the issues.

Let me get to the other issues that this bill provides a window to. We do not have a uniform standard of psychological screening for law enforcement in Oregon. Let me make that clear again: we do not have a uniform standard of psychological screening for law enforcement in Oregon.

This was also a surprise to me. But some agencies do not screen applicants for their psychological fitness to protect and serve. That is a concern.

Perhaps bringing this bill forward also spreads light on the mental health entry point for our police officers. As I understand it, we do not have a uniform set of requirements that, once on the force, officers have to maintain physical health and conditioning. That too surprised me. There are exceptions when it comes to certain specialty teams or departments.

I believe this bill also speaks simply to the issue of stigma regarding mental health. Many of you know that because of several people in my family I am particularly sensitive to the stigma associated with mental health issues. I believe that we have not given this issue serious thought, and have relied on an outdated approach that traps us in a punitive pattern, costing us limited family opportunities, loss of talent, and lots of money spent on prison cells instead of effective treatment.

Under Senate Bill 1531, requiring all law enforcement to spend at least 45 minutes to one hour every two years with a mental health professional, no one's left out that way. No one is stigmatized for somehow being unbalanced and needing help. No report is issued except a note that a chat took place. Everyone does it.

We already have a psychological visit following an excessive use of force incident, so there's already a link between both the requirement and a psychological visit. But the bill is only an attempt to bring a small step to the support for police, and by immediate proxy, to our communities.

The thought process goes like this: if police know that we are concerned about them, if we know that they're getting help when needed, at least a tiny bit of support, we all feel a little better about encounters in difficult times, often with high anxiety on all sides.

Now, will this cost money? Yes. But I believe several paths and indicate that it may not cost additional money. I also think a case can be made that it would save money, avoiding the small number but increasingly costly lawsuits and settlements associated with anxiety triggered incidents and other traumas in departments, cities, and county bureaus.

I'll just mention last summer's emergency room incident in Utah as an example of something triggering an out of place response, and a lawsuit that will likely cost a lot of money. One source for paying for this could be already in place in those employee assistance programs that are around. It means that there are already mental health professionals associated with various bureaus and benefit contracts.

Another source, I've been told, involves officer wellness programs, and the grants available at the national and state levels. I understand we may already have some programs in place that would help smaller groups across -- access mental health professionals once every two years.

Now, a single meeting will not solve any stress related issue. It could allow a professional to help the officer navigate to more intense therapy if needed. It only provides a nonthreatening, nonstigmatizing, easily accessible opening for a conversation.

And let me end by repeating the simple nature of this bill, as I see it. The simple idea is trust. I hope this is seen as an example of trust, that we as a state want to see the people who protect and serve our community safe and healthy, especially mentally healthy. And it may generate a renewed trust in the general public that we are taking care of our professionals in a way that -- to bring down the anxiety of everyone in the state while we struggle with difficult situations.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Oregon State Senator Lew Frederick discussing a new bill, SB1531, that would require law enforcement officers in Oregon to meet with a psychologist or mental health professional every two years.

And that’s all the time we have this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at DrugTruth.net. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available via podcast, the URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at DrugTruth.net.

The Drug Truth Network is on Facebook, please give its page a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power. Follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back next week with thirty more minutes of news and information about the drug war and this century of lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

Dean Becker Wants YOU to Call the Drug Czar