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4 People Stabbed On Amtrak Train In Michigan

Fri, 2014-12-05 19:22
Four people were stabbed on an Amtrak train in Niles, Michigan on Friday night, police confirmed to the Huffington Post. A suspect is in custody.

#BREAKING UPDATE: Police say multiple people stabbed on Amtrak train in Niles; 1 arrested

— WSBT (@WSBT) December 6, 2014

While the identities of the three male victims and one female victim had not been released, police told WSBT that one of the male injured was an Amtrak conductor. All had been taken to area hospitals, and no further details on their conditions had been released. A police dispatcher who only identified herself as Nicole said there were no fatalities.

A man in his 40s from Saginaw, Michigan was taken into custody, police told the Huffington Post.

Alleged witness Chris Maynard tweeted a photo showing a man in handcuffs on the ground.

Crazy world we live in. Some man just stabbed 4 people one car away from me on the train

— Chris Maynard (@Chris__Maynard) December 6, 2014

Police reportedly were notified about the alleged stabbing near an Amtrak station in Niles around 7:00 p.m. local time, WSBT reported. Amtrak said the incident happened when the 364 Train was at a station in Niles, en route from Chicago, Ill. to Port Huron, Mich., Reuters reported. Niles is about 10 miles north of South Bend, Indiana.

A statement from Amtrak acknowledged the incident, and said that Amtrak Police would assist in the investigation.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Protests Over Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Shut Down Major Chicago Roadways

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:30
As protesters nationwide took to the streets Thursday night in continued demonstrations against the grand jury decision this week not to indict the New York City police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, protests in Chicago took on an especially impassioned tone as hundreds of demonstrators temporarily blocked multiple major roadways.

Protests began around 5 p.m. in the Loop, the city's business district, and lasted for several hours, as participants briefly marched onto the Dan Ryan Expressway before walking up Michigan Avenue and later onto Lake Shore Drive, where protesters temporarily shut down both directions of the major roadway.

Photo by Minku Media.

Photo by Matt McLoughlin (soit_goes).

Photo by Matt McLoughlin (soit_goes).

Photo by Minku Media.

The demonstration made for a dramatic scene as traffic stood still on the usually busy street.

Photos: protest that tied up downtown Chicago on Thursday via @slow911 and @alexwroblewski

— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) December 5, 2014

This is what it looked like from above:

Lake Shore Drive reopens after #EricGarner protests, no arrests reported:

— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) December 5, 2014

Later in the evening, a smaller group of protesters continued off the drive, staging a die-in demonstration at the intersection of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue, and also running into Bears fans exiting Soldier Field following the team’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Only four arrests, all on misdemeanor charges, were reported during Thursday’s protests in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Die-in at Michigan & Wacker

#EricGarner #Chicago #BlackLivesMatter #ThursdayNightFootball #MikeBrown #Ferguson

— Minku (@MinkuMedia) December 5, 2014

Ball State University Students Are Helping Their Peers Find Love For Class Credit

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:11
Students at Ball State University are taking a twist on the typical college quest for romance.

When junior Albert Jennings pitched a project for his leadership and communications class that would allow his classmates to play matchmaker for a few lucky students, his peers embraced the idea and ran with it.

“I would have never guessed that anyone would have chosen this topic,” professor Mary Moore told HuffPost Live. “The class voted, and ... what the class decided to choose was to spend the semester trying to help two people fall in love and document that experience.”

The class split into four groups, each tasked with creating one aspect of the “Cardinal Chemistry” experiment -- seemingly named for Ball State's mascot, a cardinal -- including everything from crafting potential dates to analyzing the partner dynamics to chronicling results and more.

“Three men from our class volunteered. They were single [and] looking for love. So we had a mixer and invited girls from campus,” said Ball State sophomore Hannah Schneider. “And then they picked their dates.”

Junior Sam Kearney, a participant in the project, said he was hesitant at first, but in the end, he didn’t mind having his peers so involved in his personal life.

“It was a little strange coming into class and telling them how the dates were, but after a while it just became the norm,” he said. “Everything was kind of laid out, and it was just up to me and Shannon, the girl I was dating, to go out and have fun.

Watch the full HuffPost Live segment on the “Cardinal Chemistry” project here.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live's new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!

The Chokehold Is Banned By NYPD, But Complaints About Its Use Persist

Fri, 2014-12-05 15:14

According to the medical examiner who performed his autopsy, Eric Garner’s death could be partially attributed to the chokehold in which he was placed by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, as well as to the pressure applied to Garner's chest. Chokeholds were banned by the New York City Police Department in 1993, although the tactic is not prohibited by New York City law -- or at least not yet (a bill has been introduced in the New York City Council that would make chokeholds illegal).

Some law enforcement experts argue that the chokehold is safe when done properly, and can be useful in subduing an assailant. Applied incorrectly or to a person who is under the influence of drugs or has a medical condition, however, and neck restraints can quickly become dangerous. Garner, for example, had asthma, heart disease and was obese, which the medical examiner said all were factors in his death.

Chokeholds As A Percent Of Police Use Of Force Complaints Are On The Rise

Despite being prohibited by the NYPD, chokeholds are still used by police throughout the city. The 1993 ban prohibits officers from applying any pressure to the neck, but a report from the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board found that judges in internal trial proceedings have weakened the definition of a chokehold, narrowing the definition to a hold that restricts breathing.

Source: "A Mutated Rule: Lack of Enforcement in the Face of Persistent Chokehold Incidents in New York City," New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board

Chokehold Complaints Are Highest In Predominantly Black Neighborhoods

In the last five years, complaints that an officer used the banned restraint have been concentrated in primarily black neighborhoods. The CCRB says it "is not in a position to further explain how these factors could be determinant," but their report recommends a task force or study group be created to look specifically at information from precincts with a higher number of chokehold complaints.

Sources: Chokehold complaints: "A Mutated Rule: Lack of Enforcement in the Face of Persistent Chokehold Incidents in New York City," New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board; Crime offenses: New York City Police Department, totals include seven major felonies, non-seven major felony crimes, misdemeanors and violations; Population percentage: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, five-year estimates

Most Chokehold Complaints Involve Less-Experienced Officers

Pantaleo had been on the force for eight years when he put Garner in a chokehold -- the average length of time an officer has served when involved in a chokehold complaint is 7.9 years. The data indicate officers who are less experienced and male are more likely to be involved in excessive force complaints.

Source: "A Mutated Rule: Lack of Enforcement in the Face of Persistent Chokehold Incidents in New York City," New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board

How A Chokehold Works

Sources: Marine Corps Martial Arts Program; Forensic Pathology, Second Edition

China's Government Is Getting A Foothold On American Colleges, Scholars Say

Fri, 2014-12-05 14:01
WASHINGTON (AP) -- China's authoritarian government is gaining a foothold on American campuses by funding dozens of institutes that project a rose-tinted view of the Asian nation that compromises the academic integrity of U.S. universities, a congressional hearing was told Thursday.

Scholars of China testified that these state-funded Confucius Institutes teach nonpolitical subjects like Chinese language and culture but suppress discussion on sensitive topics like Tibet and the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown on democracy protesters.

The hearing was chaired by House Republican Rep. Chris Smith, an arch critic of Beijing, who questioned whether American education was "for sale."

Students from China now make up 31 percent of all international students in the United States. Last year, Chinese students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $8 billion to the U.S. economy, according to the Commerce Department.

U.S. colleges such as New York University are also opening campuses in China, hoping to tap into the country's enormous, growing pool of students.

Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said China-U.S. educational exchange is carried out on a voluntary basis and respects the academic independence and integrity of all educational institutions.

Perry Link, a China expert at the University of California at Riverside, said independent scholar-to-scholar exchanges with China should be encouraged.

But he said the Communist Party of China opposes the exchanges and prefers to negotiate campus-to-campus cooperation. He said inexperienced U.S. academic administrators, eager for funding, reach protocols with party officials that allow authorities in Beijing to choose teachers and set curricula that provide a rosy "cameo" of China.

Thomas Cushman, a professor in social sciences at Wellesley College, said the Chinese government's effort to forge ties with U.S institutions is part of a more general "soft power" strategy toward the West.

There are now about 90 Confucius Institutes in the U.S., part of an expanding network of more than 400 worldwide. Geng, the embassy spokesman, said the institutes help people learn about Chinese language and culture and strengthen cooperation between China and other countries.

But there has been some push back from scholars and colleges in the U.S. In June, the American Association of University Professors called on universities to cancel their current agreements with Confucius Institutes, and this fall the University of Chicago and Penn State ended their relationships with the institute.

The Chinese state-funded outreach comes amid growing restrictions on scholars at home as President Xi Jinping's government has tightened controls over a wide range of society since he took power early last year.

"For decades, the primary strategy of the CPC in censoring its own people has been to induce self-censorship," Link said, referring to the Communist Party of China. "Now the CPC, stronger and wealthier than before, is looking to project these battle-tested methods onto the world stage."

Cushman said U.S. scholars of China are careful what they say in public so they can keep visiting. He said that leads to a "beautified" version of China that avoids the realities of repression.

Link said he's been blacklisted since the mid-1990s and gets two or three inquiries per month from younger scholars wanting to know what they should avoid saying in order not to be barred.

Cushman also contended that professors on U.S. campuses may avoid discussing sensitive tops about China in their classes out of fear of negative evaluations by the growing number of Chinese students.

Most Potential Ebola Cases In The U.S. Turn Out To False Alarms, According To CDC

Fri, 2014-12-05 13:48
NEW YORK (AP) — A new government report counts hundreds of times U.S. doctors and hospitals raised false alarms about possible Ebola cases, finding that fewer than one in five warranted even additional investigation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report — released Friday — looked at Ebola-related calls the federal agency received this year from doctors, hospitals, and state and local health departments. In most calls, it turned out the patient had neither traveled to an Ebola-affected country nor had contact with an Ebola patient.

Of 650 patients flagged to federal officials, four ended up testing positive.

But health officials say there was a national learning curve for Ebola — even for doctors and nurses — and they had no complaint about all the nervous phone calls.

Health care workers "had a high degree of vigilance about Ebola and a low threshold for requesting public health consultation. That's exactly what we want," said Dr. Alexa Oster, a CDC epidemiologist who was the study's senior author.

The CDC report looked back at Ebola-related calls the federal health agency received this year from doctors, hospitals, and state and local health departments. It covered the period July 9 through Nov. 15, and included calls from 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Only 18 percent of the flagged patients had signs or symptoms consistent with Ebola or some risk factor that warranted further investigation, the report found.

In some cases, doctors leapt straight to Ebola as a possible diagnosis and initially did not test for malaria or other illnesses that might explain certain symptoms, the CDC found.

The calls peaked in October, following the first-ever diagnosis of an Ebola cases in United States — a Liberian man who grew sick after traveling to Dallas and died there. Two Dallas nurses who cared for him caught the illness. They recovered, but the appearance of the once-exotic deadly disease spurred a wave of fear.

Calls to the CDC have fallen off since, probably for a couple of reasons, Oster said: Through months of intense public interest and media coverage about Ebola, health care workers and other Americans have become more familiar with the signs, symptoms and risk factors for Ebola. Also, more and more state and local health departments have begun testing for Ebola, and the CDC is not necessarily seen as the main source for help with Ebola questions, she said.



CDC report:

45 Years Later: Remembering Fred Hampton and Mark Clark

Fri, 2014-12-05 13:31
Forty five years ago, in the early morning hours of December 4, 1969, lawyers, law students and staff from the four month old People's Law Office were summoned to a west-side Chicago apartment to bear witness to unmistakable evidence that one of their most respected young clients -- the charismatic Black Panther leader Fred Hampton -- was murdered in his bed by the Chicago police. In what was later termed by an independent Commission of Inquiry as a "search and destroy" mission, Hampton and Peoria Black Panther leader Mark Clark were slain in a hail of police gunfire from a machine gun, shotguns, and handguns, while several other young BPP members were wounded, and all seven of the survivors were arrested on bogus charges of attempted murder.

After spending almost two weeks at the apartment gathering evidence of the crimes, the PLO embarked on a crusade to discover and expose the full truth about the murders, a sobering odyssey that continued for the next 13 years. Pursuing a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Hampton and Clark families and the survivors of the raid, the PLO unearthed evidence which conclusively established that the raid was orchestrated by the FBI's secret and highly illegal Counterintelligence Program which was designed to "disrupt," "discredit," and" destroy" the Black Panther Party and its leaders. After an 18 month trial which was dubbed the "trial of the decade" by the Chicago Reader, and that saw PLO lawyers Jeff Haas and Flint Taylor jailed for contempt, and an appeal that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the PLO obtained, in 1982, what was then the largest settlement of its kind on behalf of the Hampton and Clark families and the survivors of the raid.

Similar to the wanton police killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Eugene Ellison, Roshad McIntosh and countless other victims, the killer cops who murdered Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were never charged with murder or attempted murder, and never spent a day in jail. We can only hope that the current nationwide uprising against racist police violence will be successful in having a lasting impact on how police - - - and the entire criminal (in)justice system - - - deals with people of color.

Taylor is one of the lawyers for the families of slain Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and together with his law partner Jeffrey Haas was trial counsel in the marathon 1976 civil trial. For more information on the Hampton/Clark case, the history of Black Panther Party, and the FBI's Program to destroy it, visit

Owl Coolly Swims Through Lake Michigan After Falcon Attack

Fri, 2014-12-05 13:24
Owls are remarkable and intimidating creatures: They can fly near silently. They have excellent vision and hearing. They're fierce hunters that can swallow prey whole. Their unique markings and front-set eyes give them a mysterious and wise look.

And apparently they're pretty good swimmers.

While birdwatcher and photographer Steve Spitzer was at Loyola Park Beach in Chicago Sunday, he caught a great horned owl swimming in Lake Michigan. The owl was forced into the water by two peregrine falcons, according to WGN, and Spitzer captured a few moments of its surprisingly graceful swim on video.

Spitzer told MLive that the owl swam for about 15 minutes before reaching shore. It flew into a tree after resting on the beach, where Spitzer caught it looking more enigmatically bored than tired:

WLS reports bird rescue groups kept an eye on the owl for a bit.

A similar incident happened just a few years ago. Back in 2011, the director of a wildlife rehabilitation organization described an injured great horned owl swimming across a Chicago creek better than she could.

Rauner's union leader dilemma

Fri, 2014-12-05 13:21
When Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination for governor on March 18, he abruptly dropped one term from his campaign vernacular: "union bosses."

Long an outspoken critic of public sector unions, Rauner first entered the governor's race in 2013 with a campaign built largely on a message of blunting the influence of "union bosses" on the political process in Springfield...

Beginning with his victory speech on election night, Rauner has gone a step further, urging bipartisan cooperation as he prepares to take office and dropping any negative comments about any topic except the state budget. On that subject, Rauner was outspoken this week as he described the current budget in a variety of highly negative terms.

Read more about Rauner's relationship with unions at Reboot Illinois.

Rauner has been considering how to work with other kinds of leaders, too. On Dec. 4, the governor-elect travelled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Illinois congressional members and President Obama and Vice President Biden, plus other members of the administration. Learn more about Rauner's trip to the nation's capital at Reboot Illinois.

A Look At The Obama Library Proposals

Fri, 2014-12-05 13:00
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three U.S. cities that President Barack Obama once called home are trying to outdo one another as the competition to host his future presidential library comes to a close.

Next week, a handful of Obama's oldest friends and associates will start judging proposals from two universities in Chicago and one each in New York and Honolulu, and by the end of March, Obama and the first lady will announce the winner. Knowing the future library will be a prominent tourist attraction and historical site, each community is offering Obama prime real estate, financial backing and grand visions for what his library could look like.

The Barack Obama Foundation has requested specifics on a host of items, including local zoning and transportation, architectural design and management plans. But the foundation's board, which includes Obama's sister and his former campaign manager, has made clear that a university's ability to help pay for the project will also be a factor.

All three cities' mayors are actively encouraging Obama to pick their communities. But the proposals, due next week, are confidential, and the competitors have been wary of tipping their hand by disclosing all the details.

Likewise, Obama has been careful to say no city has an advantage. But Chicago, where Obama rose to prominence and had his children, is believed to have an inside track. Chicagoans make up half of the foundation's board, and Michelle Obama's former chief of staff is running the bid by the University of Chicago, where Obama taught law before becoming president.

Only one city will host Obama's actual library, where government archivists will preserve his documents and artifacts. However, Obama could follow President Bill Clinton's model and house his library in one place and a presidential institute or foundation elsewhere.

That prospect has led all four universities to discuss possible collaborations, although each school is still expected to submit an independent bid for the entire project.

A look at what each school is proposing:



The private school on Chicago's South Side is proposing to build in one of the poor neighborhoods bordering its campus in Hyde Park, where Obama's home is located. At least three proposed sites include Chicago park land, the park district's board chairman has said.

The university commissioned a study estimating the project would create 1,900 permanent jobs, with $220 million in annual economic impact and 800,000 annual visitors. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff, the city has worked with both of the competing Chicago universities to explore possible transportation and infrastructure upgrades at the winning site.



The public university has proposed two sites on its Chicago campus, plus a third in North Lawndale, a heavily black neighborhood on the city's West side. That site would be in partnership with a community organization and would include a 23-acre park. The school's head librarian said a dozen university officials and volunteers worked on the proposal.

The school has sought to show how each location is intimately tied to Chicago's rich history on civil rights and community activism, hoping to tap into themes in Obama's life that the library would aim to highlight. Appealing to Obama's economic ideals, North Lawndale leaders are billing the site as a chance for Obama to help drive growth in an impoverished area.



The Ivy League school where Obama attended college has said almost nothing about its proposal, and the university declined to answer questions. But in a statement, the university said it wants to put the library in Manhattanville, also known as West Harlem, where Columbia is currently expanding with a satellite campus.

People familiar with Columbia's proposal, who weren't authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity, said Columbia is also considering hosting just a part of the broader library project. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed to suggest his city could be satisfied under that scenario when he told reporters at the White House this week, "We would obviously love to host a piece of it."



The showpiece of Honolulu's proposal to build the library in Obama's birthplace is a 7-acre plot of undeveloped, oceanfront property in a gritty corner of Honolulu called Kakaako, not far from downtown and the hopping Waikiki tourist zone. Visitors would have panoramic views stretching from Diamond Head, Honolulu's iconic volcanic crater, to the island's lush, fog-tipped mountains.

Drawing on Obama's foreign policy emphasis on Asia, the university is pitching Hawaii as the ideal place for Obama to engage on global issues after the presidency, and wants to build a think tank and a young leadership academy into the project. The school has already raised money from Hawaii's legislature, residents and local companies.

What The Justice Department Finds When It Investigates City Police Is Truly Disturbing

Fri, 2014-12-05 12:41
On Thursday, the Justice Department released the results of a 20-month investigation into the use of force by Cleveland police. The review was unequivocally damning, finding the department responsible for an alarming pattern of excessive and sometimes deadly force, as well as other forms of misconduct and a general failure among supervisors to respond to this behavior.

Cleveland -- where a police officer recently shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black child who was holding a toy gun -- is only the latest city to have its police force subject to DOJ scrutiny following allegations of chronic misconduct. In the months and years leading up to the Cleveland investigation, the city's police were responsible for a number of highly publicized incidents involving alleged brutality. In particular, the DOJ report notes a 2012 incident in which a prolonged police chase involving 62 cars ended with Cleveland officers firing 132 rounds into a car containing two unarmed suspects. The suspects, both black, died after each suffering more than 20 gunshot wounds.

The Justice Department doesn't bring a case against state or local police unless it has reason to believe officers are systematically depriving citizens of their rights -- which means reviews are often compelled by particularly egregious allegations of law enforcement violations, or at the request of an official or a group that has collected complaints from the community. This process has been used to investigate dozens of police departments across the nation. Only a handful of these reviews have focused on cities, but when they have, they've found disturbing parallels regarding the widespread use of excessive force by police. The fact that it often takes a highly publicized tragedy for the Justice Department to get involved raises questions about just how pervasive this issue is in cities across the United States, given that such incidents may not always receive national attention.

Below are excerpts from the reviews of five city police forces investigated by the Justice Department. The details found in the complete reports are far more unsettling.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Riot police launch tear gas toward activists in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, following a 10-hour protest against police shootings on March 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

Following a string of controversial Taser incidents and officer-involved shootings, including 25 shootings in a two-year period between 2010 and 2012, the Justice Department stepped in to investigate the Albuquerque Police Department. Earlier this year, they released the results of their review, which covered four years of incidents in the city. Here's a synopsis of what the DOJ found.

We have reasonable cause to believe that officers of the Albuquerque Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including unreasonable deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Section 14141 [of the U.S. Code]. A significant amount of the force we reviewed was used against persons with mental illness and in crisis. APD’s policies, training, and supervision are insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that is safe and respects their rights. The use of excessive force by APD officers is not isolated or sporadic. The pattern or practice of excessive force stems from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy. Chief among these deficiencies is the department’s failure to implement an objective and rigorous internal accountability system. Force incidents are not properly investigated, documented, or addressed with corrective measures. Other deficiencies relate to the department’s inadequate tactical deployments and incoherent implementation of community policing principles.

Read the whole report here.

New Orleans

Police clear out the crowds on Bourbon Street just after midnight for the end of Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans, March 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In 2011, the Justice Department released a review of the New Orleans Police Department that examined incidents from the previous two years. While the police department's image had been tarnished by a number of high-profile cases -- such as the Danzinger Bridge killings in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- there was no one particular incident that prompted the administrative action. Rather, then-incoming Mayor Mitch Landrieu had asked for a federal review at the beginning of his term in 2010 over concerns about police behavior. Here's part of what the Justice Department found:

We found that the deficiencies that lead to constitutional violations span the operation of the entire Department, from how officers are recruited, trained, supervised, and held accountable, to the operation of Paid Details. In the absence of mechanisms to protect and promote civil rights, officers too frequently use excessive force and conduct illegal stops, searches and arrests with impunity. In addition, the Department’s culture tolerates and encourages under-enforcement and under-investigation of violence against women. The Department has failed to take meaningful steps to counteract and eradicate bias based on race, ethnicity, and LGBT status in its policing practices, and has failed to provide critical policing services to language minority communities.

Read the whole report here.

Newark, New Jersey

The Justice Department opened its investigation into the Newark Police Department in 2011 after receiving what it says were "serious allegations of civil rights violations." The review, covering six years' worth of incidents, was released earlier this year. It stated that the Newark Police Department had shown a pattern of unjustified and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

In more than twenty percent of the NPD force incidents reviewed, the force as reported appeared unreasonable and thus in violation of the Constitution. Further, there has been substantial underreporting of force by NPD officers, and most NPD use of force investigations have been too inadequate to support reliable conclusions about whether an officer’s use of force -- including deadly force -- was reasonable.

Read the whole report here.

Portland, Oregon

In 2012, the Justice Department released its findings in the investigation of the Portland Police Bureau, which was mounted in the face of a high number of officer-involved shootings of people with mental illness. The review, which spanned years of incidents, was less harsh on broader uses of force by police, but did find significant issues with the bureau's treatment of the mentally ill:

Most uses of force we reviewed during this investigation were constitutional; however, we find reasonable cause to believe that PPB is engaged in a pattern or practice of unnecessary or unreasonable force against people with actual or perceived mental illness. This pattern or practice is manifest through the excessive and inappropriate use of [electric control weapons] and by using more force than necessary to effectuate arrests for low-level offenses.

Read the whole report here.


A Seattle police officer scuffles with a protester during an Occupy Seattle May Day rally on Tuesday, May 1, 2012. (Stuart Isett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A Justice Department investigation into the Seattle Police Department released in 2011 described "routine and widespread use of excessive force by officers." The review, which covered two years of incidents, was prompted by a spate of high-profile confrontations between officers and people of color. Here's a portion of what it found:

We find that SPD engages in a pattern or practice of using unnecessary or excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14141. Deficiencies in SPD’s training, policies, and oversight with regard to the use of force contribute to the constitutional violations. Officers lack adequate training or policies on when and how to report force and when and how to use many impact weapons (such as batons and flashlights). We also find that, starting from the top, SPD supervisors often fail to meet their responsibility to provide oversight of the use of force by individual officers. Command staff does not always provide supervisors with clear direction or expectations of how to supervise the use of force.

Read the whole report here.

Christmas Baking Rap 'Let's Get Burnt' Shows You How To Bake Like A Boss

Fri, 2014-12-05 12:28
Her gingerbread house should be on MTV's "Cribs."

Actor and writer Shantini Klaassen isn't just going to tell you about her baking skills. She's whipping up a sick beat, she's cooking up the freshest lyrics, and she's ready to bust a smooth flow not unlike the cream added to that cookie mix. "Let's Get Burnt" is the illest baking rap this holiday season.

Check out more of Klaassen's stuff on Twitter and go get your holiday bake on.

Side Chick Complains: "He's Disrespectful During the Holidays"

Fri, 2014-12-05 10:58
I'll allow you a moment or two to wrap your brain around that title you've just read.

Yes, the Side Chick, aka the willing Mistress of an unavailable man, has complained that her man acted shady during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Here is the question recently submitted to our relationship chat.

Don't judge me. I've been in a relationship with a man who is married, for 3 ½ years. Our tradition is that he has an early evening dinner with his family, and then he spends Thanksgiving NIGHT with me. This Thanksgiving I prepared his favorite meal and waited for him but he didn't show. He didn't call. And when I called him, his phone went straight to voicemail. I was worried sick about him. And I was this/close to driving past his house just to see if his car was there. Imagine my shock when he called the following day like nothing ever happened! I am very patient with him, given our circumstances, but I feel it was DISRESPECTFUL for him to stand me up on our Thanksgiving night. So my question is, at what point is waiting around for him disrespectful?

As you can imagine, frank responses poured in, and continued on our Facebook page hours after the relationship chat ended. I was pleasantly surprised by how respectful most of the commenters were.

Here are a few of the tough love responses that are sure to resonate with someone out there who may experience the same feelings of disrespect when Christmas rolls around.

Keion Martin: "Find someone that wants to spend the holidays with you only, no secrets, no lies, no hiding and you wouldn't have this problem."

Ketty Joazard Gelin: "Disrespectful? Where's the respect for his wife and family? And most importantly, where's your dignity and self-respect?"

Pam Lynch Durham: "My momma would say if they do it with you they will do it to you."

Nicola Dennis-Brown: It's NEVER disrespectful because YOU'RE THE OTHER WOMAN! You don't get to pick and choose when, where, how, and why!"

Tracy Williams: "It became DISRESPECTFUL when you entered the equation and realized he had a wife."

Dayna Mishel Smith: "You're the side chick you can have no expectations; you have agreed to take what he gives you; the leftovers."

Shelvia Stewart: "Stop being the other woman. Get into a relationship where you are first and spend your time with him on the holidays... the cosmos will always set things right in the universe."

By the way, if you know a woman in a complicated situationship, pick up the phone and check on her; the holiday season can wreak havoc on her heart and ego, especially if she's spending it alone.

Youth Jobs Program Linked To Drop In Violent Crime, New Study Says

Fri, 2014-12-05 10:02
CHICAGO (AP) -- A summer jobs program that engaged mentors to help troubled kids stay on track is linked with a big reduction in youth arrests for violent crimes.

The results suggest that a low-cost public program can reap big benefits. But they also support arguments that employment alone cannot resolve poverty-related ills.

Study author Sara Heller, an assistant criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said the research offers one possible way to prevent violence among disadvantaged youngsters, and it's a strategy that other cities should consider. "It means adolescence isn't too late" to change destructive behavior, Heller said.

The study was released Thursday by the journal Science.

Working with the University of Chicago Crime Lab and police data, Heller studied the city's eight-week program the year it launched, 2012, and followed participants for up to about a year after their jobs ended. They were compared with a control group of teens not involved in the program.

About 1,630 kids were involved, all from violence-prone Chicago schools. Most were black and from low-income families. They were randomly assigned to the jobs program or the control group.

Kids in the program worked 25 hours a week as camp counselors, community garden assistants, office clerks and similar jobs. They earned minimum wage - $8.25 an hour, or an average of $1,400 for the summer, received bus passes if needed, and one daily meal. The cost to the city was $3,000 per kid.

Participants all had job mentors, adults who kept in close contact and helped them work out transportation troubles, conflicts with supervisors or family struggles that could have kept them from going to work and being successful on the job.

About half the jobs participants also got lessons from counselors in managing social and emotional difficulties, and setting goals. This extra help didn't affect the rate of violent-crime arrests, which was about the same as the jobs-only group.

In the end, there were 43 percent fewer violent-crime arrests among the jobs group during the follow-up than among the control group.

Adjusting for factors involved in the study design, violent-crime arrests among the jobs group totaled 37, or an average of about 5 arrests per 100 participants. By contrast, violent-crime arrests totaled 82 in the control group, or about 9 per 100 kids. The crimes were mostly assaults.

There was no difference between the two groups in arrests for crimes involving property or drugs, although rates were low.

Heller said previous research also found employment has little effect on non-violent crime. Reasons are unclear but violence often results from "interpersonal conflicts," which Chicago's program aims to help kids overcome, she said.

Patrick Owens says he had run-ins with the law and wasn't doing well in school until he got involved in the summer program two years ago. Now 19 and a freshman at Central State University in Ohio, he says job mentors helped set him straight.

They offered motivation, and the program "gave me something to look forward to," Owens said. "It made you want to work harder to just do something positive for yourself."

Robert Apel, a Rutgers University expert in the link between employment and crime, said the study results "are certainly encouraging, and worth close scrutiny."

Previous evidence on summer jobs programs is scant but suggests they don't have promising results, partly because they tend to offer more menial tasks than in the Chicago program, he said.

But Apel said what made the Chicago jobs program a success might have had little to do with the work, and may have been the mentoring.

Dr. M. Denise Dowd, an ER physician and injury prevention researcher at Children's Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, said the mentors likely provided crucial guidance to keep kids on the job and regulate disruptive behavior. Knowing there's an adult who cares can give at-risk kids resilience to deal with adversity, Dowd said.


Journal Science:


AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner can be reached at

These Pictures Show The Response To Police Injustice Is Nationwide

Thu, 2014-12-04 21:41
Thousands gathered in New York Thursday for a second day of protests after a grand jury announced its decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner.

Massive crowds of protesters demonstrated in Foley Square, in Lower Manhattan, as well as in major cities, including Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston and Washington.

The Garner decision came nine days after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, chose not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Both of the officers were white, while those who were killed were black, heightening tensions between the black community and police.

Garner, who died on July 17, was placed in what appeared to be a prohibited chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo before he was heard, on camera, repeatedly telling officers, "I can't breathe."

Protesters chanted Garner's last words as they took to New York's streets Thursday night in an attempt to address policing issues that have plagued the city for years.

"Our voices have to be heard, because there's been injustice twice in one week," Jasmine Taylor, an African-American woman from Harlem, told The Huffington Post. ""Enough is enough."

The grand jury decision sends a message that "it's okay for cops to shoots us, as long as they're cops," Taylor said.

The protests in New York were generally peaceful. Cops did not directly interfere and instead trailed behind protesters in cars. However, a line of police in riot gear protected the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, where protesters blocked traffic after last week's decision in Ferguson.

Adu Matory, a black, 19-year-old who lives in Brooklyn, said he came to Thursday's protest "in light of recent events."

Matory said it seems like there's been a "snowballing" of injustice. He said he wasn't surprised at the decision in Garner's case, but added: "There's always a little bit of hope."

Take a look at some of the protests -- in New York and nationwide -- as demonstrations continue to unfold:

College Students Greet Eric Garner Decision Already Primed For Protest

Thu, 2014-12-04 17:23
An estimated 400 students and staff at Princeton University participated in a campus walkout and die-in Thursday, according to the demonstration's organizers. It was just one of many campus protests across the country in response to the announcement Wednesday evening that a grand jury would not indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July 17 choking death of Eric Garner.

"As black students at an elite university, our black bodies are not safeguarded from police brutality," said Wilglory Tanjong, a Princeton undergrad and activist, in a statement. "We are one interaction, one bullet away from becoming another hashtag. When a black man is murdered on camera, and nothing happens, it is time to end any spirit of complacency."

Thursday's demonstrations came after last week's protests over a separate grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August. Students have continued to organize in protest of that decision, staging die-ins, walkouts and moments of silence.

Students at the University of Texas at Austin held a massive protest and die-in Thursday. Demonstrators invoked the name of Larry Jackson, an unarmed black man who was killed in June 2013 by Charles Kleinert, then an Austin police detective. Kleinert retired from the force that October and was indicted this May for Jackson's death. His pre-trial hearing has been postponed four times, according to The Daily Texan. Jackson's sister is scheduled to speak on the UT campus Thursday evening.

Center of UT campus closed #BlackLivesMatter Pressure on Austin DA Lehmberg to put APD Detective Kleinert on trial

— Ben Carrington (@BenHCarrington) December 4, 2014

Image sent to The Huffington Post via Snapchat from user anaalicia83.

Can’t recall an event like this at @UTAustin in a long time. Proud of these students and allies. #BlackLivesMatter

— Dr. Richard Reddick (@DrRichReddick) December 4, 2014

And on this day, I've never been so proud of being a Longhorn \m/ #BlackLivesMatter

— Ashley Spencer (@theTrackQueen) December 4, 2014

At Hampton University, a historically black school in Hampton, Virginia, students marched to City Hall chanting "Hands up, don't shoot," and staged a die-in outside the building. Hampton Mayor George Wallace came out to speak to protesters.

Hampton University stands up with a purpose. Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Don't let anybody stop you from making a difference. #hamptonuniversity #handsupdontshoot #blacklivesmatter

A video posted by goziii (@ngwagwa) on Dec 12, 2014 at 12:51pm PST

Image sent to The Huffington Post via Snapchat from user jmcgull.

Here are images from some of the other campuses participating.


@HuffPostCollege students at Missouri State University protest.

— Nate Slaughter (@NateSoGreat08) December 4, 2014


Protest here at UNT's library mall #BlackLivesMatter #MomentOfSilence

— Justin (@_JToni) December 4, 2014


Mike Brown Protest in progress on Liacouras Walk, students speak out against #FergusonDecision #BlackLivesMatter

— Temple Update (@TempleUpdate) December 4, 2014


Students leave the library in silence at today's #BlackLivesMatter protest @penn_state to applause. @HuffPostCollege

— 3rd Way Collective (@3rdWayCo) December 4, 2014


@HuffPostCollege Hofstra university die in

— Sara-Rivka Bass (@sarivka) December 4, 2014


Students and #Emory community members lie on the ground in a die-in protest as part of #BlackLivesMatter

— Emory University (@EmoryUniversity) December 4, 2014

White America's Silence Enables Black Deaths

Thu, 2014-12-04 17:18
Let's be honest, the word white often makes white people uncomfortable. Many of us who are white, when asked to describe ourselves do not say our race in our personal descriptions. A typical white person's description of their self will likely include their gender, their ethnicity, and their looks. For example my description would sound something like this, "I am male, of Italian and German descent, 5' 8" and bald." Notice how race is not often mentioned.

The reason many white people don't often think in terms of our own race is privilege. It is privilege that makes it so we don't have to think about our race every single minute of every single day.

In 1989 a professor named Peggy McIntosh wrote a paper titled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. In this document she lists many privileges that white people have been taught to ignore and just accept as normal without even thinking twice about them.

Here are a few I selected from her list that are incredibly relevant for today:
  • I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

  • If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

  • I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

  • I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

  • I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.

  • If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.

  • I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

Her list goes on. She wrote this piece 25 years ago and all of the items on her list still ring true today. In light of the events over the past few years in Ferguson with Mike Brown, Sanford with Trayvon Martin, Cleveland with Tamir Rice, Brevard Country Florida with Jordan Davis, Beaver Creek Ohio with John Crawford and New York City with Eric Garner I added a few more to the White Privilege list:

  • I (as a white person) can wear a hood, buy skittles, and walk down the street in the evening without fear of harassment from police or "neighborhood watch".

  • I can listen to loud music in my car without being told to turn it down.

  • But if for some reason I was to be told turn my music down I could be assured in knowing that no one would shoot at me because of it.

  • My son could play with a toy gun in the park (even though I hate toy guns) and I know no one would call the cops on him.

  • My son could play with a toy gun in the park and if a police officer saw him playing with a toy gun he would not shoot and kill my son in under two seconds.

  • I could rest assured knowing that if ever my son was ever shot someone would attempt to perform CPR on him.

  • I know I could walk into a Wal-Mart pick up a BB gun since they are sold there and walk around the store not be shot.

  • I can choose not to speak up when black people are being murdered by police and racist "Stand Your Ground" laws in this country and go about living my daily life, like America really is the land of equal opportunity.

It is this last privilege that I really want to focus on. We white people have the privilege to live in a bubble. We can choose to live in areas that are all or nearly all white.

We can share stories of that one time when we were in a "dangerous" (i.e. black area) of a city and how we made sure to lock the car doors and not get out of the car and then afterward joke about that "scary" situation back in the safety of our suburb, rural area, or safe (white) part of the city that we live in.

Beverly Tatum a scholar on race compares racism to breathing smog. "Sometimes it (racism) is so thick it is visible, other times it is less apparent, but always, day in and day out, we are breathing it (racism) in."

Whether we accept it or not, racism is very much alive and going on at all times around us. By not choosing to actively resist and fight back against it we are actually promoting racism and prolonging its very existence.

Lisa Delpt another scholar on race wrote a letter to her daughter when she was eight years old titled "Dear Maya". In the letter she says, "As much as I think of you as my gift to the world, I am constantly made aware that there are those who see you otherwise. Although you don't realize it yet, it is solely because of your color that the police officers in our predominantly white neighborhood stop you to "talk" when you walk our dog. You think they're being friendly, but when you tell me that one of their first questions is always, "Do you live around here?" I know that they question your right to be here, that somehow your being here threatens their sense of security."

In much the same way I now will write a letter to all of the white people I know who are not or don't know how to speak up about the legalized killing of black people in our country.

Dear White People,
Over the past two years very extreme and public examples have come out about police and regular citizens using certain laws to kill unarmed black people in the name of self-defense. Some of you have expressed outrage, some of you said nothing, while others of you advocated for the police and the laws that allowed these tragic events to happen.

Just because a something is legal does not make it just. Just because it is a law does not mean it should be allowed.

Most of us are not comfortable talking about race since it is not something we often need to talk about. We get defensive or afraid we might say the wrong thing. But we must start talking about race as uncomfortable as it might be. It cannot wait any longer.

We must start reading authors and educators who are helping to teach us about our own whiteness. We must sit down and read Lisa Delpit, Theresa Perry, and Beverly Daniel-Tatum as a start.

We must actually spend real time with people who don't all look like and have the same experiences as us.

And once we actually sit down and talk and listen to someone who does not look like us we actually have to listen to and not dismiss their experiences.

I'm writing this as someone who grew up in a small town that was nearly all white outside of Ann Arbor Michigan. I'm writing as someone who chose to work at a YMCA in a predominantly black area of Toledo Oho while I was going to college. I'm writing as someone who chose to live on the South Side of Chicago in one of the few racially diverse neighborhoods of the city. I'm writing as someone who has spent the last eight years successfully teaching in schools that are nearly all African-American.

I'm writing this not to say I still don't have a lot to learn about race, institutionalized racism, and my own whiteness, but I am writing to say that if we really want too we can start to truly understand how our skin color impacts our daily existence.

This letter could go on, but this is a start.

We must start and we must start now.


#AliveWhileBlack Highlights The Ugly Discrimination Black America Knows Too Well

Thu, 2014-12-04 16:54
Protests spread around the country Wednesday night after a grand jury decided not to bring charges in the July death of Eric Garner, a black Staten Island man who died when a police officer placed him in a chokehold. The non-indictment came just over a week after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, amid an impassioned national discussion on race in the U.S.

Adding to that debate, Twitter users have begun sharing stories of racial discrimination using the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack. Many have described instances of unfair treatment at the hands of police officers, who they say have stopped and questioned them for merely shopping in a store or driving a nice car.

The tweets present an appallingly sharp image of everyday indignities faced by black Americans. While another hashtag that has exploded on Twitter since news of the grand jury's decision, #CrimingWhileWhite, reveals the privilege white Americans sometimes enjoy in their interactions with law enforcement, #AliveWhileBlack provides anecdotal evidence of the broken relationship between police officers and black Americans.

We had a new luxury car & were driving in Iowa. Cop pulled us over, demanded to know what my parents did for a living. #alivewhileblack

— Markeya Thomas (@MarkeyaThomas) December 4, 2014

Went to police station to report that a white man had sexually assaulted me. Was lectured about how I could ruin his life. #AliveWhileBlack

— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) December 4, 2014

#AliveWhileBlack that time the store clerk in Crabtree & Evelyn call cops because I shopped too slowly. 29 & a postdoctoral fellow

— R.A. Scientist (@CoquiTalksTrash) December 4, 2014

My mother, a registered nurse, has had patients try to refuse care from her because of the color of her skin and her accent #alivewhileblack

— kelz (@kelechialways) December 4, 2014

Got into an ivy league school with a 3.9 GPA. Told it was affirmative action by a legacy kid who's parents are donors #alivewhileblack

— Christina Blacken (@CBlacken) December 4, 2014

rental car broke down during a BAD rainstorm police accused me of stealing the car left me in the rain to run the plates #alivewhileblack

— lovelyti (@lovelyti) December 4, 2014

Can't count number of times I've made appointments to see apartments, arrived, and been told there are no more apartments #alivewhileblack

— Alexis G. Stodghill (@lexisb) December 4, 2014

I've been "complimented" on almost every job interview by employers that were so "surprised at how well spoken I am". #alivewhileblack

— Ace Chapman (@Ac3ofSpad3s) December 4, 2014

My dad & I were pulled over after leaving an open house in affluent neighborhood. Questioned why we'd want to move there. #alivewhileblack

— Christalyn Solomon (@ChristalynPR) December 4, 2014

Cop stops me for going 45 on a 40 zone. Asks why I was speeding, Told him I was on my way to law school. Cop laughs. #alivewhileblack

— The Raisin Man (RKM) (@RealDealRaisi_K) December 4, 2014

Watched my dad get stopped without cause by cops for driving a "nice car" when I was a child. #alivewhileblack

— jamiaw (@jamiaw) December 4, 2014

3rd grade when some1 wrote "niger" on a piece of paper & put it in my desk. Was asked what I did to make some1 write that. #alivewhileblack

— Robert Mitchell (@RLM_3) December 4, 2014

Those police asked where I live. When I pointed behind me at my house where they had called me from they said "no, really"

— الشريف M. Ömer (@KTownsVeryOwn) December 4, 2014

The claims in the above tweets have not been independently verified by The Huffington Post.

Jane Krakowski 'Peter Pan Live!' Audition Tape 'Leaked' To Funny or Die

Thu, 2014-12-04 16:53
Never grow up, Jane Krakowski. Please, never grow up.

"Peter Pan Live!" starring Allison Williams and Christopher Walken airs Thursday night on NBC, and already the (fake) leaked audition tapes are popping up all over the place. Funny or Die presents this audition footage of "30 Rock" star Jane Krakowski really getting into her audition as the legendary Peter Pan.

Krakowski is a method actor, which means she needs to get into the head of Peter. Is he a pixie dust addict? Do Peter and Wendy ever get together? If so, would that make Peter straight, or a lesbian? These questions are important for her process!

The Day My Faith in America Died

Thu, 2014-12-04 16:40
"Do you think the Surgeon General is behind it?" Sean joked with me this morning, "I mean there were cigarettes and cigarillos involved in both so maybe they just really don't want us to smoke."

Sean's attempt at humor masked the deep pain he is feeling as a black man in the wake of the Eric Garner grand jury decision in New York. Sean told me that when he heard the news he was by himself in his living room and broke down and cried. I heard the same from many of my friends who were absolutely devastated by the news.

I didn't cry. But when I heard the news about Eric Garner, my casual faith in America died -- and I am thankful for its death.

My casual faith in America is the part of me -- thoroughly grounded in white privilege -- that has believed without overmuch reflection that our country values equality of all races at its core; that our laws and policing are color blind in their practice; that the efforts of politicians, business leaders and clergy are sincerely geared towards serving all the people; and that America is steadily progressing on the path towards a 'more perfect union,' to quote our president.

My 'faith' in America was based on things hoped for but as yet unseen (to borrow from Hebrews 11:1). But more importantly, it was based on things hoped for, but not worked for -- at least not very hard. Contrary to much that I intellectually knew to be true about the vicious, pernicious nature of racism, I held onto a lazy faith that racism in America would slowly erode itself through some kind of magical process of good will that required little of me aside from a friendly disposition and a hopeful spirit.

That faith, which was blind and useless, died when I watched the video of Eric Garner being choked to death at the hands of an officer who has now been let off without even a trial.

I thank God for my loss of faith.

Because one thing I know is that blind faith is dangerous -- by what it does and what it leaves undone. In this case, my blind, casual, easy 'faith' in America stood by while daily violence was done to my black sisters and brothers and I did essentially nothing to help. The image of Eric Garner's outstretched hand as he was being suffocated reaches out towards all of us bystanders with an unanswered plea for help, for mercy, for justice.

Well, as the song says, I was blind, but now I see. My sight is stunted yes, but at least I, along with millions of other white Americans, have seen with my own eyes the brutality and lack of consequence exercised by our police and criminal system. We have now witnessed the reality that African Americans have known all along.

And we can't un-see what we have all seen.

The question for me, and for all America, is what will we do about it. The first thing I need to do is let it sink in, let it shake me, and trouble the waters of my soul. Only then will I be ready to take the steps I need to take to be a part of the solution to the problem of racism. Only then will I be able to rebuild a faith in our country based on my own tears and sweat and risk.

My friend Dr. Jennifer Harvey teaches at Drake University in Iowa and has just written a book on race and repentance called Dear White Christians. Jennifer told me that the most important thing a white Christian like me can do right now is show up, and shut up. We need to put our bodies on the line, and we need to listen to the stories and the goals of our black neighbors and act together in solidarity.

The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis is the Senior Pastor at Middle Collegiate Church, which is a multi-racial congregation in New York City. She told me that, in addition to calling up NYC Police Commissioner Bratton and showing up for rallies, members of her congregation are holding structured conversations this Sunday and continuing all winter that will focus on ending racism with a close engagement with the other:

We are calling them Courageous Conversations, in which we ask ourselves what does this mean to us? How will we get past the fear and the suspicion?... We are not going to get to the promised land, we are not going to over come, if we continue to work segregated silos on our faith, which means cross racial and ethnic conversations and also inter-religous conversations. Let's build relationships so we can understand the particular uniqueness of each individual.

Rev. Anthony Lee has been walking this walk for a long time and he talked to me about the work it took for him and Community of Hope AME , his large African American congregation in Prince George, Maryland, to build positive relations with the local police force. The largely African American area around his church at one point had the highest rate of killing of civilians by the police in the nation. But after a federal investigation and visits from the governor, and changes of leadership and hearts at the police department, change has come to Prince George.

Last week, after the Ferguson grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson, Rev. Lee invited Police Commissioner Mark Magaw and his senior leadership to his church and prayed with him at the altar. Rev. Lee told me the moving story of a very young child who drew a picture of Rev. Lee blessing Commissioner Magaw and the powerful impression that could make on that young person.

He emphasized the work that went into creating that moment for that young person where they could see the police and not react with fear. That is the kind of work that I want to be a part of. Getting involved in community policing, transforming the systematic causes of racism, and connecting with others in a way that inspires mutual dignity and respect.

And if I truly work for it in solidarity with my sisters and brothers from every part of this country, and if we can effect real change so that our criminal system, policing and education is free from racism, then maybe, just maybe, I will regain my faith in America.

At one point this morning I asked my friend Sean what he hoped might come out of all of this. He looked at me and asked: "Is it too much to say equality?"

No, that seems about right to me.