News Ticker

You Cannot Heal Dysfunction By Creating More Dysfunction

My mother used to say that the problem with Black people is not going to church; it’s their Pastors connection to God.

Before I continue, I want to set the record straight. I am a 32-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections. I have served 13 years as a Union Delegate for the Westchester County Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA). I have participated in the Contract Negotiation, Welfare Fund, and Labor Management Committees.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Thurgood Marshall Institute, recognizes me as a Law Enforcement Expert. I have given classes and advised on examining the coalition of police policies, procedures, police union collective bargaining agreements, and how it relates to transparency and accountability of Law Enforcement.

I am also recognized as a Law Enforcement Expert by the United Nations International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the U.S. Prison System, and Human Rights. On behalf of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, my recommendations were part of the ICERD 2014 Shadow Repot.

In 2020, representing Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, I co-sponsored with United Nations Southern New York Division for May 2020, “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR) of its domestic human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

When speaking about police and community relations; I am not speaking from emotions; I am speaking from a position of qualifications and examining the facts as I see them.

For the record, when discussing officer wellness, officer morale and officers having the proper working conditions is not defending the so-called bad cop. Studies have shown that improving officers’ work conditions and raising morale, giving officers a respectable pay grade improves officer productivity and creates better cops for the community that they serve.

The fact of the matter is, as I wrote in the press release that Bishop Edwers approved:

The main concern of the police officers is that the city wants to change the officer’s work schedule from steady work shifts to rotating shifts while ignoring the fact that 72 percent of police agencies in the US now operate on steady shifts, according to policofficer.org.

A study commissioned by the Chicago Police Lieutenants Association states that officers who rotate frequently are more often fatigued, suffer an increased level of sleep disorders, are more likely to have traffic accidents, and are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Changing our officers’ work schedules is a significant disruption to their lives and families. For this reason, Mayor Shawn Patterson-Howard, the Mount Vernon City Council must establish policies to mitigate officer fatigue, not create officer burnout.

So let’s continue.

What I witnessed at the United Black Clergy Press conference Monday, March 7, 2022, was supposed to support the hard-working police officers turned into total dysfunction and disrespect of those men and women in blue who put their lives on the line every day for the city of Mount Vernon.

I’m my unfortunate experience, everytime that I have met with Black pastor to collaborate to address an issue publicly, and the day that we are supposed to address the problem, the Pastor then says it’s a day of healing instead of what was discussed; they sold you out!

As I have much love for my brother Pastors, I still keep faith that they will be like Jesus one day and speak truth to Ceasar instead of being co-conspirators of dysfunction in the name of healing, all along forgetting that you cannot heal until you have and stand on truth. This also reminds me of another saying my mother always said, if you make a mistake in public, or you show your dysfunction in public, you get corrected in public. She was a very wise woman, and I aim to follow her advice.

But let’s turn the clock back a week. The issue began when police ticketed a few Black churches on Sunday, February 27, 2022. The video of Rev. Darren Morton, the pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church who’s also the City Comptroller, speaking about the tickets went viral, and many people were upset. Mount Vernon PBA President Nicholas Mastrogiorgio took full responsibility.

Seeing that I reached out to the PBA President and suggested he meet with the Black Clergy, I always believed that if there is a misunderstanding, you at least have one attempt to solve the misunderstanding; it not you agree to disagree and move forward.

After speaking to United Black Clergy of Westchester President Rev. Troy Decohen, I set up a meeting with the PBA President for Thursday, March 4, 2022. Pastor Troy Decohen, Bishop C. Nathan Edwers, and Bishop Errol O’Savio were in attendance on the meeting day. The Pastors and the PBA President spoke for almost two hours and agreed that the ticket issue was behind them, and they agreed with the issues that the PBA presented and that it was an issue of public safety in the city.

It was Bishop Edwers’ idea to have a press conference, and the Pastors would address the officers’ grievances and what the officers need to support the community. Bishop Edwers asked me to do the press release. Why? I don’t know, but in the spirit of support of the police officers, I agreed. But what the PBA President and I didn’t realize is that you can’t solve dysfunction with more dysfunction.

The next day, Friday, March 4, 2022, Bishop Edwers sent me a flyer and asked me when the press release would be done. On Saturday, I finished the press release and sent it to the PBA President and Bishop Edwers for approval and approved by both.

By Saturday, March 5, 2022, the dysfunction began. Many of the Pastors that were on the flyer dropped off the flyer. Why? Bishop Edwers stated that Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard got to Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson and some other pastors saying she was being attacked because she was a woman. So, I took the names off the flyer and sent it to my partner AJ Woodson, and we did an article.

If the belief that the officers of Mount Vernon are overworked, under-respected, and underpaid, then why would the members of the Black Clergy not want to come out and support the officers? Unless they didn’t believe that the police needed their support. And what the hell does any of this have to do with the mayor being a woman? Absolutely nothing!

If my memory serves me correctly, from Ernie Davis to Clinton Young, back to Ernie Davis, to Richard Thomas, especially Richard Thomas, all these mayors were criticized one time or another for what was going on in the police department. The critique was not of the person; it was of what actions and decisions from the seat of the mayor.

Ok, back to the story!

By Monday morning, March 7, 2022, I heard the dreaded saying by Pastor Decohen that the press conference was a day of healing. But little did he know, or as a Pastor, my brother should have known that God was in charge and what he thought was healing ended up being nothing but more dysfunction because their intentions by the press conference were not for the officers; they did not keep their word!

The Pastors did not address one grievance they agreed to at the meeting. Neither Pastor Decohen nor Bishop Edwers addressed any of the issues in the press release that Bishop Edwars approved when it was sent to him. All you have to do is check the video.

Did they talk about how the change from steady shifts to rotating shifts will negatively affect the officer’s sleep patterns and personal life? No!

Did they address the need for better equipment and working conditions? No! 

Did they address how the officers and their families are affected going five years without a raise, and the last two years working in a pandemic was a traumatic experience for police officers and still no real talk of being paid? No!

To add insult to injury, the Black Pastors allowed Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard to speak and give her narrative of the issues from the Employer’s perspective. I was also told later that the Pastors invited the mayor to speak. This was not part of the agreement at the meeting on Thursday, nor did they advise the PBA President or me.

With all respect and love to Madam Mayor, the Black Pastors should not have allowed her to speak. It was about the officers who put in the hours to keep the city safe, working their asses off throughout a global pandemic while the average worker was home on Zoom meetings. Officers that are overworked in poor conditions but still keep the city safe. They have earned the right to allow the public to know their side of the issue. It was a time for the Employees to speak, not the Employer. You can not clear up the dysfunction with more dysfunction.

Furthermore, to have MVPD Commissioner Glen Scott read from a pre-prepared statement of a homicide arrest was just more disrespect to the officers because it dismissed what the officers had initially been there for. That should have been done in the City Hall rotunda. Since he did read the statement, he could have at least recognized and thank the officers who conducted the investigation, but I digress..

Some people took issue and thought it was disrespectful when the PBA President gave the Malcolm X hand motion to his members to leave when Police Commissioner Scott was speaking at the press conference. If it were me, as PBA President, I would have left once the mayor stood with us at the press conference because that’s not what was agreed on at the meeting with the Black Pastors. As I stated earlier, I’m a union man through, and though; I give the PBA President respect that he stayed that long. It was one of the most embarrassing press conferences in the history of Mount Vernon.

The Pastors had an opportunity and blew it that day. But we must not be dismissive of the issues. Many variables can influence officers’ motivation levels, including supervisors’ attitudes, job environment, and personal factors—individuals experiencing family problems, health concerns, financial issues, or negative social experiences. Elected officials, police management, and community leaders who seek an improvement in police work in their community should also understand this basic psychological process.

So what’s the moral of this dysfunction? First, whether you like police or not, in a city like Mount Vernon, police are needed, and as a community, we have yet to prove we can stop crime and violence without them. This gives more reason why all parties should come to the table to make with an honest intention for fair bargianig. If everyone else can get raises, rights and benefits why shouldn’t the police. Second, never invite the Publisher of a newspaper to a meeting and don’t keep your word of what you said at the meeting. You should of known I was going to write about it!

Comments

About Damon K. Jones (219 Articles)
Damon K. Jones is an Activist, Author, and Publisher of Black Westchester Magazine, a Black-owned and operated newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Jones is a Holistic Health Practitioner, First Aid in Mental Health Practioner, Diet, and Nutrition Advisor, and Vegan, Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Mr. Jones is a 31 year Law Enforcement Practioner, New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Mr. Jones has been a guest commentator on New York radio stations WBLS (107.5 FM), WLIB (1190 am), WRKS (98.7 FM), WBAI (99.5 FM), and Westchester's WVOX (1460 am). Mr. Jones has appeared on local television broadcasts, including Westchester News 12 “News Makers” and Public Television “Winbrook Pride. You can now hear Damon every Wednesday at 830 AM on WFAS 1230 AM, Morning with Bob Marone Show.
%d bloggers like this: