In a Multi-Ethnic society, the Police force must be “of the people”

Ravi Batra, eminent attorney and Chair, National Advisory Council South Asian Affairs, addressed the 15th Anniversary Conference of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities’ Recommendations on Policing in Multi-Ethnic Societies. It was held in Vienna on November 5. He spoke at the panel “Recruitment and representation of national minorities in police services in order to improve operational practices, trust and accountability when preventing and managing conflict”. His presentation was titled, “Lessons Learned for National Policing from BLM and January 6th Insurrection: United States Passed the Stress Test”.

By Ravi Batra

I attended the Permanent Council yesterday, and heard the comprehensive report of the HCNM (High Commissioner on National Minorities). I am honored to support HCNM’s Recommendations on Policing in Multi-Ethnic Societies. Indeed, it is clear that there is an undeniable nexus between the 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) the UN General Assembly adopted in 2015 and the Recommendations of 2006 we celebrate at this conference.

Indeed, today’s topic isn’t about Human Rights, but how to have better peace & security. We cannot have a better and more sustainable future if we don’t give due deference to: Mother Nature, to resolve Climate Crisis; the power of the silent Cultural tsunami – created by a mixture of place, language, ethnicity, gender, religion and history – on the efficacy of laws we enact; and the co-dependency between Law & Order and Justice, so our societies can have both public safety and public peace.

Let me show how police officers are needed for the public to be safe: for over 20 years, I have served as pro bono legal counsel to the National NYC Police Department 10-13 Organizations, to better serve the needs of retired NYPD officers. The killing of Brian Watkins, a 22-year-old Mormon tourist, senselessly killed in NYC in 1990 proves the importance of police officers and public safety. Then NYC Mayor Dave Dinkins and Council Speaker Peter Vallone created a “Safe Streets, Safe City” program to hire more police officers, and I was delighted to play a small role in its passage as a New York state law.

After the Crown Heights race riot of 1991 in Brooklyn, an organization named Blacks & Jews in Conversation was formed to bring school children of both communities to the Courts and interact with judges and bar leaders. After a few years of my involvement, I was invited to be a Co-Chair, and the name was changed to Not Just Blacks & Jews in Conversation. The power of conversation surely well exceeds the power of ignorance in a multi-ethnic society.

I come from the USA, a nation unique in human history as it has exceptionalism rooted in the Declaration, and then, concretized in our separated-powers regime embedded in our Constitution in 1787.

The United States has come a long way from Built Better in 1787 to Build Back Better in 2021. We have just witnessed the birth of a movement, Black Lives Matter, in 2020 after the pent-up – actual or perceived – systemic injustice was lit on fire by the breathless death of George Floyd, a predicate to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better.

And, then, we had an Insurrection on January 6th of this year, but we passed the stress test and Joe Biden was lawfully and peacefully inaugurated POTUS. We have not had such an event since our war of 1812 with our British cousins when the White House was burned down.

The shrinking majority feeling threatened by Equality worries me; and causes me to reach out with compassion to all: white and black, yellow and brown, straight or not. Equality is a utopian goal but is no easy panacea.

We need to be sensitive to the needs of each community, be they majority or minority.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Meeks’ letter

Individual Rights versus Public Good

If governments are to be legitimate and to survive, they must be “of the people,” “by the people,” and “for the people.” Lincoln’s Gettysburg recipe is a covenant, a promise, by the government to the governed, which I submit, remains the only sure pathway to achieving these recommendations on Policing Multi-Ethnic Societies.

The self-immolation of the street vendor in Tunisia that caused the birth of the Arab Spring was a cultural bite-back to gender equality. The problem remains, however, how to un-package and apply that to our social media-infused societies – each of which has different cultural norms. I believe BLM was American Spring.

Our societies are now a vortex of competing certainty – misinformation is now a weapon, used by enemies foreign and domestic to pierce our sovereignty and destroy the public peace – and traditional media has been beaten, and the salutary benefits of their editorial intermediation lost to the mob rule of any active fractional group with SM-certainty. Short of God, there is no perfection.

My revolutionary hero is Thomas Jefferson who penned the Declaration. My Hero was imperfect, as all of us, even today is. Yet, Jefferson’s statue is being removed from the NYC Council Chamber. This is wrong. We ought not to burn our forbearers’ pictures or remove statues because they were not perfect like God. This is Hubris.

Lincoln famously said: “It is better that people think of you as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubts.” Today, social media gives no deliberative time, as there is a premium on being fast and furious.

The Right to be wrong or insult is believed to be protected by the First Amendment, when there is no such right against our fellow citizens, as that right exists only against our Government. There is no First Amendment right against your fellow citizen.

Indeed, libel and defamation laws provide proof that there is no 1A immunity or inviolability. Indeed, I sued Dick Wolf, creator of Law & Order TV show, and NBC, in “Batra v Wolf” for “libel in fiction” and won a landmark decision confirming such a right. So, nations must educate about speech – and that insult, while at times a basis for great comic relief – can be unlawful if it leads to violence or breach of the public peace as Hate-Speech does.

Qualified Immunity in Policing

16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot and killed on April 20 this year by a Columbus, Ohio police officer Nicholas Reardon answering a domestic dispute call. When Reardon arrived on the scene, he saw a woman wielding a knife and someone else at risk of being hurt or killed. Surely, Reardon ought not to be charged with murder. Sometimes, a Police Officer does wrong, and matters end up in court.

There the legal doctrine of “Qualified Immunity” works to shield the defendant-police officer from being sued and causes dismissal of the lawsuit – unless a clearly established right was violated.

No society can hire and retain any police officers if we don’t protect them from legal liability when they risk their lives to keep us safe and have to make life and death decisions in the blink of an eye. To protect the majority of good police officers, the bad ones must be justly disciplined.

I have defeated the government’s claims of Qualified Immunity in federal courts, including, the lofty United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals, as in Biswas v Kwait (City of New York).

Conclusion: Depoliticize Issues to Permit Merit-Based Resolution. To help reduce policing errors, have a police force that is multi-ethnic, and “of the people,” “by the people” and “for the people.” Just as different flowers make a flower garden more beautiful, so does diversity make our society better. Policing is good law-enforcement, when it is free of politics, merit-based, delivering equal justice for all.


Images courtesy of (Photo: OSCE/Micky Kroell) and thesatimes |

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