Best Practices: Doing it right in Dixieland

In the mid-’90s, a TV producer was making the rounds visiting child protection agencies around the country. When she got to Alabama, she witnessed something unusual. Paul Vincent, then-director of Child Protective Services at the Alabama Department of Human Resources, remembers the producer telling him that caseworkers in this agency “talk about their families like they like them and respect them, and we’re not accustomed to hearing that.”
That’s exactly what Vincent wanted to hear. The agency was in the midst of a federally mandated overhaul of its system. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law filed a class-action lawsuit against the human resources department in 1988, claiming it was failing the children in its care.

Police-involved shootings among African Americans on the rise

The news: During the first quarter of 2012, 610 shootings were recorded in Chicago, a 40.9 percent increase from the same period in 2011. Twenty-two of those shootings involved Chicago police officers, according to a quarterly report from the Independent Police Review Authority.Behind the news: The percentage of African Americans injured in officer-involved shootings in Chicago is on the rise, according to data from the Independent Police Review Authority. In 2011, 80 percent of the 60 injuries resulting from police shootings—including injuries to officers—involved African Americans compared with 66 percent of 61 injuries in 2009.Flint Taylor, founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, said he finds the increase “startling,” but it’s reflective of a predictably biased criminal justice system, he said.“We’ve had and continue to have a 43-year history of dealing with racially based police brutality and violence against predominantly African-American and also Latino and Latina victims,” he said. “Systemic racism is unfortunately alive and well in the Chicago Police Department, as it is in other aspects of our society. It makes you think about the correlative numbers of young African-American men who are behind bars, who have been routed into the criminal justice system.”Taylor believes a better disciplinary system is needed for officers who use excessive force.