NEVER FORGET

Dear friends,

I recently shared with you my vision to try to bring about local change. I am pleased to now share with you the official letter that is being submitted to officials within my local community.

I am a man of action. I hope each of you will also be men and women of action, and seek to bring about change within your respective communities.

If you support my proposal herein, you have my consent to copy my letter to fit your message to your local officials. And should you respectfully disagree with my proposal, no offense taken.

I urge you to come up with your own proposal and pursue local change. Don’t just disagree and do nothing. That is the easy, convenient path of apathy.

We are change agents. Just DO SOMETHING!


June 19, 2020

Re: Proposed Action to Demonstrate Commitment to Racial Inclusion

Good morning,

I respectfully write to you – the public leaders of Charlottesville and Albemarle County – on the day marked for commemoration of the emancipation of U.S. enslaved people – Juneteenth.

As a preliminary matter, in full disclosure, I have posted this proposal on social media. I have also forwarded a copy to the editor of The Daily Progress.

A brief introduction is in order. My name is Shenandoah Titus. I am a resident of Keswick, VA. My wife is a professional educator in Charlottesville, VA. Hence, we are stakeholders both within the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

But note that my wife – while an ardent supporter of racial equality – has absolutely no official affiliation with this proposal. This is my sole initiative.

I am an attorney, licensed by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. I am a former police executive, Boston Headquarters. I formerly served with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC Headquarters.

I am an African American and Native American male. As a former police executive and national security official, I believe in law and order – carried out professionally, ethically and without prejudice or bias.

The blatant murder of Mr. George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020, has garnered the attention of the world. Many powerful and well-meaning statements have been issued by politicians and scholars nationwide, rightfully condemning this egregious, evil act.

Yet the African American community has grown weary over many decades of sympathetic speeches, and well-crafted letters following yet another needless death of an unarmed black man by white police officers.

I thus present to our local officials an opportunity to lead with action, even if symbolic, that will reverberate across the nation and perhaps even the world.

PROPOSAL:

I hereby propose that the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, respectively, dedicate a street or road in honor of George Floyd. 

RATIONALE:

Although in the past there have been, tragically, many similar incidents of fatal police bullying against unarmed African Americans, no incident has galvanized the nation, and indeed the world, quite like the murder of Mr. George Floyd. For nearly nine minutes, the world witnessed this atrocity in real time.

Naming a street or road after Mr. Floyd in no manner diminishes the value of other victims. On the contrary, it honors other victims.

Mr. Floyd has become a worldwide symbol of what African Americans have been saying for centuries regarding the disdain our communities receive from law enforcement in general, versus the favorable treatment afforded to middle class Caucasians.

By naming a street or road after George Floyd, citizens – and especially police officers – will be prompted to remember this racial divide every time one takes “George Floyd Road/Street.”

The City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County already have plenty of streets and roads after the namesake of Caucasian males who – arguably – have done absolutely nothing to advance racial inclusion locally or nationally.

Charlottesville and Albemarle County have before it now an opportunity to set the national stage. To be thought leaders.

I respectfully urge you to adopt this proposal forthwith, and thus make it clear that our community is committed to racial inclusion beyond lofty words.

Furthermore, if my proposal is adopted, I ask that the new George Floyd Street/Road be placed within mainstream travel, rather than relegated to some obscure backroads area or within a largely impoverished community.

The true objective is to give this human symbol of police – minority relations high visibility. We as a local community – indeed as a nation – must be reminded of where we are – and the arduous journey ahead.

Thank you kindly for your consideration. I wish you peaceful reflection on this solemn day in American history.

Let us never forget!

Regards,

Shenandoah Titus, Esq.

www.warn-honor.com

Policing and Bullying: Making the Connection

*This article printed by The Daily Progress Newspaper in Charlottesville, VA

As an internationally recognized subject matter expert on anti-bullying, it has been suggested that I write a piece connecting the George Floyd atrocity to bullying. Initially, I rebuffed this request. How could I, an African American/Native American man, even approach such a tragedy without discussing race – which is historically at the very core of police brutality in America?

Yet I am buoyed by the fact that the racial issue will be addressed in the media. Thus, I am now able to commit pen to paper and draw parallels between the George Floyd tragedy and bullying.

But first, what are my unique qualifications to discuss policing in America and bullying? As to the former, unlike most commentators, I actually have law enforcement experience. I served for five years as the Deputy Director of the Transit Police Department, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Boston Headquarters. I served as a police executive and a member of the Command Staff, where I oversaw community policing within a department with virtually statewide jurisdiction – one of the largest Transit Police Departments in the country.

As to the latter issue of bullying, I served as the Anti-Harassment Unit Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters, Washington, DC. I established the unit and investigated complaints of harassment, bullying and retaliation across DHS Headquarters. And to make matters personal, having experienced bullying myself by DHS management, I successfully filed legal action against DHS, reached an honorable settlement, wrote a book about my experience and founded the Whistleblower Anti-Bullying Resource Network (WARN).

Having solidified my qualifications to address this issue, what then is at the very core of bullying within any context – work, school, academia, home (as in domestic violence), and yes – policing? You may think the answer is “power.” But that is a common misconception.

There is nothing inherently wrong with possessing power. In the context of law enforcement, we as a society need to bestow a certain degree of power on police officers in order to perform their job and keep us safe.

For instance, society does not want to see a police officer, while observing a drunk driver speeding towards a school zone, politely ask the drunk driver to slow down, go home and sober up because children might get injured or killed by the drunk driver’s vehicle. We want to empower the police officer to activate her cruiser’s lights and siren, command the drunk driver to pull over, and – acting professionally and within the law – arrest the drunk driver so that he will not pose an immediate threat to children, staff and parents within the school zone.

The same principle applies in criminal investigations. If someone has been kidnapped, we want to empower police officers to act – professionally and within the law – to do everything possible to rescue the kidnap victim and possibly save the victim’s life.

Therefore, you see, power alone is not the issue when it comes to police bullying. Rather, the issue – as is the case with bullying within any context – is the UNACCOUNTABLE ABUSE OF POWER!

The subsequently jailed police officers in the Rodney King incident decades ago beat Mr. King to a pulp because they felt that their power was to be used totally at their discretion, fearing no accountability from their department or the public. As police officers, they knew that the power imbalance weighed tremendously in their favor.

If the victim were to fight back in self-defense against an unlawful use of force, the police officers could then either add charges of “resisting arrest” or “assaulting a police officer.”

Worse yet, they could escalate the situation to justify – in their mind – the use of deadly force. And, yes, in America, where the citizen defending himself is African American and the police officer applying unlawful deadly force is Caucasian, it would be an easy sell.

The major difference between the bully cop and the workplace bully – typically a manager bullying a subordinate – is that the bully cop can bring about immediate deadly consequences. Often with impunity, sadly.

Prior to serving as a police executive, I had the honor of serving as the Human Rights Director of Amherst, Massachusetts. In that capacity, I investigated civilian complaints of police bullying and harassment. That was one measure used by local government to prevent the abuse of police power, and to ensure police accountability.

Also, in my capacity as the Human Rights Director, I served on panels that hired police officers. I distinctly recall two interviewees – one, a Caucasian male who volunteered his opinion that all citizens deserve police protection – “except for gays… I look down on them.” Another interviewee – a dark complexioned African American male – shared with us that if it were the police chief’s policy to racially profile minorities (it was not the chief’s policy), then, just to “fit in,” he would racially profile if hired by our police department.

As the Human Rights Director, I was delighted to strike from the realm of possibility these two police candidates ever wearing a badge in Amherst. Both police officer candidates demonstrated their likelihood of becoming bully cops. As for the candidate who despised gay persons, a key element of the bullying psyche is that only his/her opinions matter in the universe.

His worldview reigns supreme.

As for the African American candidate, he exhibited a disposition that is more common in the workplace – coddling (kissing up) to the bully boss. If the police chief’s agenda was to abuse the badge by bullying racial minorities, then the African American police officer candidate would surrender his own morals, abuse his power and bully members of his own racial community in order to curry favor with the bully in charge.

As I find my hand and mind growing weary from writing this piece – struggling mightily to refrain from discussing a racially charged video that the world has seen, but that I find too heart wrenching to view as a Black man – a Native American man, a former police executive and former Human Rights Director – allow me to conclude on a hopeful note. I have spent many years with police officers in large cities, broken bread with them and attended training with them.

Most police officers seek to perform their duties honorably, and strive to prove themselves worthy in the eyes of society to wear the badge. They are mostly decent men and women who take the commitment “to serve and protect” seriously – and not just serve and protect middle class whites.

We know that there are corrupt, racist, bully cops out there. But the good news is that society does not have to merely stand idly by, mourning the loss of yet another human being at the hands of deadly bullying cops. Society creates police departments and determines, through laws enacted by elected officials, what range of authority to grant police officers.

Soon, unfortunately, the George Floyd story will fade to the back pages of the media, and the back corners of our collective memory. The question, then, is what can we as a society do now before this atrocious event evades us.

We can take back control. I have shared my experiences as a police executive where I helped train police officers in building community trust. I have also shared my prior experience as a city Human Rights Director, where I investigated alleged bully cops, and helped weed out bully cops as a member of the hiring committee before the bully ever got to wear the badge.

This is a model that any county, city, town, or village can follow, without hiring new personnel in hard economic times. I firmly believe that in every community, there are capable citizens ready to volunteer to help ensure that prospective bully cops are never hired – and cops proven to be bullies will soon be fired.

We must stop weeping and start working! Working towards a society where all law-abiding persons – not just privileged whites – will come to trust the ubiquitous promise of police officers: “To protect and serve.”

___________

Shenandoah Titus, Esq., is Founder and CEO of the Whistleblower Anti-Bullying Resource Network (WARN). He is author of The Whistleblower: Defeating Bullies, Harassers and Management Gang Retaliation. Visit www.warn-honor.com for more information.

The HR Myth

First and foremost, Happy New Year to all! I wish you peace, good health and joy in 2020.

In my book, The Whistleblower: Defeating Bullies, Harassers & Management Gang Retaliation (available on Amazon), I speak rather forthrightly about the realities of the Human Resources (HR) system. To cut to the chase, I contend that most – though thankfully not all – HR offices in the public and private sector are nothing more than pawns of the management gang. 

After my book was published, I braced myself for a wave of pushback from the HR community. I anticipated an avalanche of angry rants: 

“How dare you say such a thing about the HR community! We are dedicated to protecting employee rights and ensuring that bullying, harassment and retaliation do not occur in the workplace! You should be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Titus!”

To my utter surprise, I have actually received just the opposite feedback from HR professionals. Rather than scorn, I received praise for my stance on HR:

“Attorney Titus, you are a blessing! Thank you for boldly speaking the truth.” 

One individual lamented:

“I have always wanted to be a Human Resources professional. I thought I could help a lot of people in that capacity. Instead, what I have found is that office politics rule the day. If an executive wants a particular person hired for a good job – usually his/her friend or due to a favor owed – HR will make it happen whether that person is actually qualified for the job or not. It’s just a matter of posting the job announcement in a way that fits the friend’s background.

Oh, and forget about harassment and bullying complaints. If it’s brought against a favored manager, we (HR) might conduct a pseudo investigation just to put it on the books that the agency “takes these matters seriously.” But unless there’s a smoking gun in terms of evidence, the complaint will almost always be “unfounded.” 

And then I pity the poor soul who brought the complaint against the manager. HR will help management find ways of “dealing with” that “troublesome” employee. That sort of gamesmanship and ugly politics was not why I went into HR work. It made me feel very ashamed.”

I have heard from HR professionals who, having tried to do the right thing in these situations, found themselves out of a job due to “poor performance,” notwithstanding the fact that prior to their principled stance, they were considered “high achievers” and held a spotless record. For such noble souls, I always felt the worse because they represented all the good that Human Resources is supposed to stand for.

Throughout my professional experience as a public servant and executive over 22 years, I have witnessed much corruption in the HR system. Where I formerly worked as the first-ever Anti-Harassment Program Manager, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Headquarters, one of the adverse parties in my successful legal action was, get this, the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer!

Can you imagine the sad irony of that? The Anti-Harassment Program Manager takes legal action against, essentially, the personnel office for harassment, bullying and retaliation! Being a pretty decent lawyer, I prevailed in the action and reached an honorable settlement. 

Yet it is most sad, indeed pathetic, that such an action was necessary in the first place against the very office established to protect the integrity of the workplace. Yet that is what happens in the real world when power goes unchecked, and accountability is nonexistent.

HR equality is a myth. Most HR offices in the public and private sector are arms of the management gang. I stand by my assertions.

Yet this does not mean that all HR professionals are corrupt and devoid of principles. On the contrary, I truly believe that most people enter the HR field with good and noble intentions to help people, and to do the right thing. 

Yet somewhere along the way, the weak and faint of heart surrender their values to the system – to peer pressure and politics. They are rewarded with salary increases and bigger titles. Yet they become hollow shells, having abandoned their original sense of purpose. 

The valiant HR professionals continue to do what they can to help people, with what little authority they have left. They often become the targets of the management gang – bullied, harassed, retaliated against. 

Their so-called friends at work have long since abandoned them, out of cowardice and preservation of their comfortable suburban lifestyles. The noble souls often feel alone.

If there is a central theme to my book, it is just that – You are not Alone. You Deserve Better.

I firmly believe we can work together to make things better. What do you believe?

 

Attorney Shenandoah Titus is the Founder and CEO of WARN (Whistleblower Anti-Bullying Resource Network). To learn more, visit: 

www.warn-honor.com

Daily Progress Commentary

From The Daily Progress – Charlottesville, Virginia 

With the current national — indeed international — media frenzy surrounding the White House and apparent whistleblowers, I will try to shed a little light on the whistleblower concept while delicately avoiding political landmines.

What are my qualifications to speak to this issue? I am a whistleblower myself. I formerly served as the first program manager for the Anti-Harassment Unit at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington.

I then was asked (cajoled, really) to engage in conduct that I found to be inconsistent with both my oath as a public servant and my personal honor. I vehemently refused management’s request, and I subsequently reported the matter to Congress.

Like many whistleblowers in the public and private sectors, I suffered fierce retaliation, bullying and harassment.

Yet unlike many whistleblowers, I fought back legally and prevailed to my full satisfaction. I subsequently authored a book sharing my experience as a whistleblower and rendered insights on how one might combat workplace bullying, harassment and retaliation — whether or not one is a whistleblower in the conventional sense.

Despite public rhetoric in some circles branding a whistleblower as a “traitor” or “spy,” whistleblowers do not deserve such nefarious labels. Indeed, whistleblowers are a unique breed of honorable men and women who value service above self, and whose staunch commitment to serving the public good often places them at risk of losing their employment, health and even families. The whistleblower will certainly lose his or her “friends,” as people run and hide in fear rather than stand by the person they once called friend.

Nevertheless, the whistleblower stands tall because he or she feels compelled to do the right thing. This is not at all a new concept. Honoring and providing protection for whistleblowers has a long history in the U.S.

The true whistleblower — as opposed to someone whose sole agenda is to cause public embarrassment to another — is the noblest of souls. Think about it this way: As a hardworking taxpayer, would you want to see your tax dollars subjected to fraud, waste or abuse at the sole discretion of public officials who have no fear of accountability?

In the private sector, would you want your loved one to drive away from a garage with shoddy brakes because the company placed profit over safety, with no fear of accountability? Would you want a pharmaceutical company to issue a loved one unsafe drugs, having bribed health inspectors to write fraudulent reports with no fear of accountability?

And what of your children? It is a sad fact that institutions designed to educate or provide spiritual guidance have harbored officials who would prey on innocent children. Among the fearful and silent adults, who would hold the child molesters accountable for their crimes?

Enter the whistleblower. This is the man or woman whom fraudsters fear will keep them accountable to the public. To the people. To the rule of law.

And so, as you wade through the political tsunami these days surrounding a possible whistleblower, there will of course be those who will vilify whistleblowers and, conversely, those who will elevate whistleblowers to sainthood. In the existing political climate, whether the whistleblower is feared or revered may very well come down to one’s political agenda.

In truth, the legitimate whistleblower is neither a saint nor a villain. This is simply a man or a woman who, notwithstanding inherent human flaws, believes in doing what is right for the common good.

It’s not about politics — liberal or conservative. It’s about honor and courage — hopefully not obsolete principles.

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