‘Denial’: Not just a river in Africa

Does the Black community enable delinquency within its ranks?

Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 11/29/2018, midnight
In 2002, (then Lieutenant) Peter Whittingham assembled a dozen or so members of the..

“In the psychological sense, denial is a defense mechanism in which a person, faced with a painful fact, rejects the reality of that fact.

They will insist that the fact is not true despite what may be overwhelming and irrefutable evidence.”  

—By Dr. Stephen Juan for the (United Kingdom) Register, Sept. 29, 2006.

In 2002, (then Lieutenant) Peter Whittingham assembled a dozen or so members of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Area Gang

Impact Team to serve a warrant in the Crenshaw District’s Baldwin Village apartment complex, notoriously known as the “Jungle.” As they executed the warrant in this stronghold of the Black P-Stone street gang, a neighborhood elder of perhaps 70 or 80 years old began hurling allegations of police harassment at them.

Seeking to neutralize the situation, Whittingham crossed the street to explain the situation, and attempt to pacify the irate citizen. Refusing his overtures to have a civilized conversation, she remained on her second floor balcon spewing contentions of racism and unfair treatment as the officers completed their duties. The suspect, wanted for armed robbery and a gang-related shooting, was apprehended (along with firearms recovered from both his apartment and car) and later convicted, but the incensed matron remained dissatisfied.

Whittingham’s experiences with gangs go back to his native Montego Bay, Jamaica. His brother, a member of one of the many gangs that frequent that resort area, was brutally beaten by law enforcement after he refused to inform on his associates. Alone with his battered sibling on a tropical street, young Whittingham cried in vain for assistance. This traumatizing episode prompted him to escape this caustic environment, and with the intent of improving become a lawman himself, first in Jamaica, and then in the United States with the LAPD.

Recently retired as a captain, Whittingham believes that community denial is a significant obstacle to improve relations between law enforcement and the citizens needing their services. He attributes this to the (justifiably) horrendous reputation peace officers have garnered over the past decades. Reforms, a staple in recent years, are hamstrung by resistance within organizations charged with the public’s welfare.

Within the LAPD, denial rears its contrary naure as well, as Whittingham elaborates.

“...it looks better for everybody to show that all the money they are receiving/spending on gang reduction efforts/strategies is working,” he says of the massive federal, municipal and state funding endowed annually to police.

Avoiding the bite off reality

“There is an immutable fact about denial: it does not work—long term.

Reality always wins. And when it does, the next step in the process is blame, which shifts responsibility onto someone or something else.

 —Carl Alasko Ph.D. for “Psychology Today,” April 23, 2012.

In this, Whittingham is in agreement with gang interventionist Skipp Townsend, who notes the vast fortunes allocated to community improvement. Too much of the money. Townsend contends, gets into the hands of well meaning but ineffective academics that place emphasis on an overly clinical approach in stead of focusing on grass roots issues. The lion’s share of this funding, Townsend says, is spent on research and salaries.