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Public Corruption in Chester County, PA

I believe an unlikely mix of alleged drug trafficking related politicos and alleged white nationalist related politicos united to elect the infamous “Bloc of Four” in the abysmal voter turnout election of 2005. During their four year term the drug business was good again and white nationalists used Coatesville as an example on white supremacist websites like “Stormfront”. Strong community organization and support from law enforcement, in particular Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll has begun to turn our community around. The Chester County drug trafficking that I believe centers on Coatesville continues and I believe we still have public officials in place that profit from the drug sales. But the people here are amazing and continue to work against the odds to make Coatesville a good place to live.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

District Attorney Joe Carroll speaking at the Community Information Meeting Second Baptist Church, May 8, 2010

“Good afternoon and thank you for coming today. I attended a meeting yesterday with law enforcement, city officials, Coatesville NAACP and Coatesville Minister's Alliance with thoughts about the investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Rasheem Butcher and what would be the best way to communicate with the community about what has happened and how the investigation is going. 

My request was that we do it today rather than next week because I wanted that communication as soon as possible. I am grateful to those who made this opportunity possible today and for the speakers who are here for the State, at least. 

I also hope to do something next week for people who didn't hear about today's meeting in time or could not attend with such short notice because of some other obligations. We can do this again if you find there are others that will benefit from this type of gathering. 

I have a few things that I want to accomplish today:

First I would like to extend my sympathy to Rasheem's family and friends and to the entire community that has been affected by his death. Everybody knows that Rasheem was a thirteen year old child. He shouldn't have been driving around in a stolen car and I wish one of his friends or an adult who saw him driving during the three days before his death had taken the keys or told the police where that car was when Rasheem wasn’t in it. Had that happened he would probably be out in the park with his friends today doing things thirteen years old's do rather than being prepared for his funeral.  But like everything else here I don't care anything less about Rasheem because he was doing something wrong on the day he died.  Every parent including me knows that thirteen year olds make mistakes and we don't love them any less because of it. 

Second, I want to provide as much information as possible concerning the investigation at this point. Most of the.. is going to be coming from the State Police, who are the primary investigative agency involved here and they are definitely the right group to be conducting this investigation. 

I don't doubt that the Coatesville Police have the capable officers who could do such a thing but there's such an obvious conflict of interest that it's better that it be an outside agency. 

Sometimes my office gets involved doing this kind of thing but my office does not have the ability to do accident re-construction and some of the other technical tasks that are necessary in this particular instance. So it's good that the State Police have volunteered to do that.  

I would like to tell you today, exactly what happened, but I can't. Some things I know because the scientific tests have started and the autopsy has been completed. But other pieces of information are still unclear. And a thorough investigation takes a while. This investigation will be just as through a police officer had been taken. The best I can do now is tell you where we stand at this point and allow the State Police to do that, update that information periodicity and then at the end of this entire process have another public opportunity to disclose not just what my conclusions are but what was discovered during the course of the investigation. 

And I’ll pledge to finally, through some of my background perspective and tell you how I am going to evaluate the evidence in this case. 

I know that many of you have come here today simply to get some firsthand information instead of reading the newspaper or seeing what you can on television.  But I also know that some people are here today because you have concerns that this incident won't be handled properly. I also realize that there is a trust issue between the community and law enforcement that has some racial implications. I'm very aware of that and I will do everything I can to take that out of the equation. 

I think that for the most part most people who meet me feel comfortable with me. Some of you, those who are older than sixty, may remember me as the guy who made pizza in the window of Buddy’s pizza at First and Lincoln Highway back in the seventies. Or coaching basketball and swimming at the YMCA also during the seventies. Many of you have come to my home on Eight Avenue after I moved here last year or maybe met me on the street since that time. But for many of you all you know about me is that, I'm white and I'm a law enforcement officer and I've been both for a long time. 

But I want to tell you a little bit about how I think. One of the ways I can do that, I think, is by reading a portion of the comments that I made at the dedication ceremony of Zachariah Walker Memorial at 2006…

Here is what I said:
It boggles my mind that race is a problem in our society. The racial differences between us are so insignificant compared to all of the things we share in common that I have trouble figuring out why we care; especially since it has nothing to do with the human spirit, the value of one's life. The things that all of us admire about others like personality, intelligence, love, compassion. But we all know that it’s a problem.

I’m going to give you my ten descriptions of the many different types of prejudice that I have seen and suggest an approach that differs based on different types of prejudice

There is prejudice based on hate and other prejudice based on ignorance. It's all harmful and it can all be hurtful. But it may be more effective to deal with different types of prejudice in different ways.

Even without hate racial prejudice can flow from a simple comfort level with what is familiar. The things in common that people favor organizations and groups to which they feel some connection. How many of us years after we graduate root for out old high school or college team. We might like to see our old high school or the local basketball team win a championship even though we have no connection to it. And even though we have no idea whether the young men and women competing on that team are as deserving as the athletes against which they compete. And if we root for the Eagles, Philly’s or Sixer’s just because they’re from Philadelphia. And as we watch the Olympics hoping that the United States athletes do well just because they are Americans. We don’t know whether they worked as hard as their foreign competitors. We don’t know whether on some absolute basis they are as deserving of the gold metal as someone else. But we would like to believe that the people with whom we have some connection are the best. I think that if you are a student of his work you are more likely to root for an individual regardless of his nationality. But if you know nothing about the athlete you are more likely to support the person who reminds you of you.

It’s a funny quirk of human nature that we look for something of ourselves in others. When we find it we feel more comfortable. Perhaps we’re predisposed to find something we like about that person. Another way to say that, we discriminate based on prejudice. I don’t think too many people would waste time worrying about what sports team people support nor are they likely to find something immoral or evil about that decision making process. But things can get ugly in a hurry when we use the same selection process looking for something of ourselves in others and discriminate in more important matters.

I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong in feeling comfort with people like ourselves. We all grew up in families were everyone else in the household had a similar background and experiences as our own. In most households there is likely only one race represented, probably only one religion, probably only one language and probably only a few national heritages of significance.

Is there something wrong or immoral about someone of Polish decent wanting to go into a Polish American Club? Is there something inherently evil about an Italian Social Club?  Is a Catholic organization like the Knights of Columbus subversive because it requires you to be Catholic before you can join? Is there something wrong with an organization that wants to promote the welfare of one race or nationality or gender or religion while ignoring the welfare of others who pay the same price? 

Even men and women of good will disagree on exactly where desire to be with people like ourselves flows from innocent pride and simple comfort or something harmful.

Racial prejudice can take many forms. In its simplest and most evil incarnation some people hate others because of their race. I don’t think that’s the natural course that God intended for us but we all know people like that exist. Maybe they hate because they have been taught to do so by people that they trust. Maybe they feel they were mistreated by a member of a different race and assume because people have a similar physical appearance and similarities other members of that race will do likewise given the opportunity. 

I don’t know how to un-teach hate. I think we may have to leave that to God. There are of course many stories where former prejudiced person changes his ways. But it usually takes an event that can’t be staged. An event where certain things are beyond our control, where perhaps the power of God works through someone who shows love and concern when the person expected hate and contempt.

But hate is not the only cause of prejudice. Though not as highly objectionable; people sometimes have a fear for their safety based concern of others prejudiced against them because of their race. I know white men and women who seem to be in their daily lives to be completely color blind. Nationality and race don’t seem to affect their choice of friends or their future lovers. Yet I know that some of them would be apprehensive walking Merchant Street at midnight. They may explain that they read the crime statistics and note that violence is more likely there than in their own neighborhood. But I wonder sometimes if they don’t feel that they are a little less safe in a black neighborhood because they are white.  Not because they have any animosity towards blacks but because they feel a black man will have it against them.

I think that all of us at one time or another might have worried about whether we would be accepted if we were a very small minority in a certain situation.  I can imagine how a job applicant would feel approaching an interview in a company that had no other members of his race on the staff. They might wonder whether there was some racially related reason for the apparent discrepancy between the makeup of the company and the makeup of society as a whole and if someone in that position did not get the job they applied for it’s understandable that they might question whether the interviews reaction to their race conscious or unconscious played a part in their decision.

I know that some people even those who are not prejudiced themselves become apprehensive when someone not of their race is going to make an important decision that affects them. Perhaps a black or Latino defendant would become concerned that they won’t be treated fairly by a white prosecutor or a white judge. Even though that prosecutor or judge has never done or said anything to communicate any type of prejudice and the defendant knows nothing about them. And I asked them, is that a rational reaction to something that had happened to others the past or is a prejudice against that individual based on race. And in the finial analysis, does it matter?

Finally we have the unconscious evaluation based on racial factors. Many people may treat people equally in customary forms of race, yet find members of their own race more attractive or desirable from a dating standpoint. Maybe job interviewers really don’t even realize that they are making evaluations based on fashion or tone of voice or some other factor that really has nothing to do with the job. They might be trying very hard to be fair and would be happy to change if they only realized what they were doing.  But it is very difficult to control or cure that which you cannot see.

In my course of my duties as District Attorney I see all types of prejudice every day. I like to think that I am fair but I am sure I have blind spots I don’t recognize too; although I do what I can to overcome that possibility.

I can tell you I am pleased that race is not a factor in the decisions that I have to make. If there is a claim of excessive force by someone who has been arrested I know that the case will be less emotionally charged if the alleged victim and the police officer are of the same race. Since that isolates that factor, no one will be suspicions of a missing part in the decision making process.

In respect to the decision making in the office generally I don’t ask what race victims or the defendants are. I don’t even ask the names because I think that could be sometimes a clue to what their racial background is. Sometimes I know because I see them in court or maybe they pass me on the street... but to the extent that I can I deliberately avoid racial discrimination. There are situations when I wish that I was black or Latino because it would give me instant credibility, probably because of prejudice that I would have in certain situations.

I must tell you that I don’t think best way to eliminate suspicions of prejudice is to get enough black attorneys in my office that the black community feels they are represented. It’s working out that way because of the way I recruit. But I don’t think that does much to help racial issues. If a member of the black community feels that he needs a black prosecutor to be treated fairly, I have failed. But, if I can demonstrate over a period of time that my prosecutors of every race will treat everyone fairly regardless of race than I might have done something to improve things.

I wonder sometimes why God has created different races.  It seems to be the root of so many problems in our society. So why did he saddle us with this curse?  Then I imagine a world where everyone was the same and I think it would be as dull as an all grey rainbow. We are blessed with diversity. We just have to learn to live with it.

I know that many in our society still make decisions about others based about others based on their color more than their character. We no longer have the obvious racism sanctioned by government which was the embodiment of our segregation laws. But the fact that racism is no longer so obvious above the …does not make it any less real and no less evil.

I firmly believe that men of good will speak every language, belong to all races and worship all Gods. We need to replace fear of one another with trust. Hate with understanding. And I believe that the need that precedes that understanding...
President John Kennedy said over forty years ago, ‘So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved... For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.’
The world may yet see a time when the weak are safe and the strong are just and everyone is treated fairly without regard of race, creed or color. But don’t wait for somebody else to make that happen.

We are all part of one society with the responsibility to participate in finding solutions to the problems that we encounter.

I tell you all this because I know that I'm the one on the spot. And the decision that I make will be more that a determination of whether there is any police misconduct. I know that decision could affect race relations in the City for years. I have probably not made a more important decision in my entire career. But I'm not going to let that knowledge affect the outcome. I'm going to analyze the evidence in this case. The same way that I would if the police officer was black and the thirteen year old child was white. Because that I know that in the long run it is much more important for the District Attorney to be right than to be popular. So whatever the outcome I better get it right and better be able to explain it clearly so that people can...in that decision.

In order to do that, I need your help. I need everybody in this community who knows anything about this incident to talk with the police. I've seen some of what people have said on television and whatever they told they told the newspaper reporters. But for the most part I don’t learn much from them. I can't tell whether they are reporting what they saw or what they heard. 

We have conflicting reports with respect to some of the information. I need to figure out who is right and who is wrong. And unless people are willing to talk with police and to me I really can't do that. I want to get this right and I can't do that unless I can consider the evidence of every witness in addition to the scientific evidence that’s there.

By the way that scientific evidence is likely to help us a good bit in this case. Among the things we will have is the accident reconstruction, examination of the weapons carried the police officers. An examination of the stolen car and the autopsy and I’m sure we’ll come up with other things we can measure as well.

 Realize it's not quite like TV where there is a scientific test for everything and it gets done in about an hour. 

We work quite differently. If the police car has any significant impact on the stolen vehicle there will be a transfer of trace elements through the paint or metal from one vehicle to the other, we're going to be able to tell. We are also likely to be a computer box in both cars that is going to tell us an awful lot about the last 20 or 30 seconds before those vehicles came to rest. They're going to help the investigators find out whether there was a collision.

We can determine what happened if everyone tells us what they know. So let’s do this together.

I want to thank you for your time.”

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