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Some deaths are more politically useful than others.
Twenty years ago this week, the Clinton administration ordered a tank assault on the Mount Carmel community, killing 39 racial minorities, 26 of them black. The Clintons and the media suppressed the racial data so rigorously that I doubt even Al Sharpton knows about the black dead at Waco.
A year ago Feb. 26, neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and within a month every sentient person on the planet knew “Trayvon” by name.
What they did not know was Martin’s background. Sanford Police Department (SPD) investigator Chris Serino, for instance, said publicly of Martin, “This child has no criminal record whatsoever.” He called Martin “a good kid, a mild-mannered kid.” The media almost universally sustained this tragically false narrative.
Martin had the seeming good fortune of attending school in the Miami-Dade School District, the fourth-largest district in the country and one of the few with its own police department.
For a variety of reasons, none of them good, elements within the SPD and the Miami-Dade School District Police Department, or M-DSPD, conspired to keep Martin’s criminal history buried.
As part of its mission the M-DSPD was allegedly trying to divert offending students, especially black males, from the criminal justice system. As the Martin death would prove, the M-DSPD diverted offending students to nothing beyond its own statistical glory.
The exposure of M-DSPD practices began inadvertently on March 26, 2012, when the Miami Herald, the one mainstream outlet to do real reporting on the case, ran a story on Martin’s background.
The Herald’s headline, “Multiple suspensions paint complicated portrait of Trayvon Martin,” should have caused the other media to seek the truth about the very nearly sanctified Martin.
It did not. What it did do was to cause M-DSPD Police Chief Charles Hurley to launch a major Internal Affairs (IA) investigation into the possible leak of this information to the Herald.
At the end of the day, Hurley rather wished he had not. The detectives questioned told the truth about Martin and about the policies that kept him out of the justice system. Hurley would be demoted and forced out of the department within a year.
We now know what the detectives revealed thanks to a recently fulfilled Freedom of Information Act request filed by the dogged researchers at a blogging collective known as The Conservative Treehouse. The “Treepers” have literally done more good work on the Martin case than all the newsrooms in America combined.
On Feb. 15, 2012, 11 days before Martin’s death, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools put out a press release boasting of a 60 percent decline in school-based arrests, the largest decline by far in the state.
“While our work is not completed, we are making tremendous progress in moving toward a pure prevention model,” Hurley told the Tampa Bay Times, “with enforcement as a last resort and an emphasis on education.”
Hurley’s detectives, all of them veterans with excellent records, told a different story under oath when questioned by Internal Affairs. They knew the shell game was about to be exposed upon first learning that Martin was one of their students and outside agencies would be requesting his records.
“Oh, God, oh, my God, oh, God,” one major reportedly said when first looking at Martin’s data. He realized that Martin had been suspended twice already that school year for offenses that should have gotten him arrested – once for getting caught with a burglary tool and a dozen items of female jewelry, the second time for getting caught with marijuana and a marijuana pipe.
In each case, the case file on Martin was fudged to make the crime less serious than it was. As one detective told IA, the arrest statistics coming out of Martin’s school, Michael Krop Senior, had been “quite high,” and the detectives “needed to find some way to lower the stats.” This directive allegedly came from Hurley.
“Chief Hurley, for the past year, has been telling his command staff to lower the arrest rates,” confirmed another high-ranking detective.
When asked by IA whether the M-DSPD was avoiding making arrests, that detective replied, “What Chief Hurley said on the record is that he commends the officer for using his discretion. What Chief Hurley really meant is that he’s commended the officer for falsifying a police report.”
The IA interrogators seemed stunned by what they were hearing. They asked one female detective incredulously if she were actually ordered to “falsify reports.” She answered, “Pretty much, yes.”
Once the top brass understood that the Martin case had the potential to expose the reason for the department’s stunning drop in crime, they told the detectives “to make sure they start writing reports as is; don’t omit anything.”
“Oh, now, the chief wants us to write reports as is,” said a Hispanic detective sarcastically, “and not omit anything, as we have been advised in the past?”
The IA investigation delved into the paranoid concern that the M-DSPD was sharing information about Martin with other relevant police departments as it routinely did in other multi-jurisdictional cases.
The one detective who sent information to the Sanford PD came under heavy fire. He was appalled. “Currently, our department is functioning and operating out of fear,” he told the IA. “It is tragic to see that I’ve been disciplined at the direction of Chief Hurley.”
As it turned out, Hurley need not have worried about the SPD. As the Conservative Treehouse reports, the information sent by the M-DSPD “disappeared down the rabbit hole and was not included in the final victimology report filed by Sanford Detective Serino.”
Serino was the Martin-friendly detective who had insisted that Martin “has no criminal record whatsoever,” calling him, “a good kid, a mild-mannered kid.”
In Hurley’s defense, school districts across the country had been feeling pressure from the nation’s race hustlers to think twice before disciplining black students. Last year, the White House formalized the pressure with an executive order warning school districts to avoid “methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools.”
Jesse Jackson brought this nonsense home to Sanford during a large April 1, 2012, rally. He implied that Martin had been profiled by his high school for being a black male and suspended for the same reason. “We must stop suspending our children,” Jackson told the crowd.
In a way, Jackson was right. Martin should not have been suspended. He should have been arrested on both occasions. Had he been, his parents and his teachers would have known how desperately far he had gone astray.
Instead, Martin was “diverted” into nothing useful. Just days after his non-arrest, he was allowed to wander the streets of Sanford high and alone looking, in Zimmerman’s immortal words, “like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.”
At the end of the day, Martin had avoided becoming an arrest statistic, only to become a statistic of a much graver kind.