https://www.buzzfeed.com/albertsama...ork?bftwnews&utm_term=.yeqXzqMQAm#.dxKamDOo17 Great longform piece over at Buzzfeed profiling a rust belt town that's showcasing many of the issues that we're seeing pop up all over the US today.
It started with a noise complaint. Don Hansbury, who is 78 years old and white, went to the doorway of his home in Troy, New York, that August night in 2013 to see what was going on. ”Cop was talking to a guy with loud music playing from his car, colored guy," he said. ”I knew something was gonna happen."
Jurors didn't buy that story. They acquitted Ratley, who testified that Officer Comitale had pulled up outside his home and immediately begun cursing at Ratley as he sat on his porch with some friends and relatives. When the group got up to go inside, Ratley said, the officer shoved him against the building and kneed him in the face and chest. Ratley sued the department and received a $60,000 settlement last year.
It was a familiar story in Troy — where, over the last six years, at least seven black residents have been acquitted of resisting arrest and then paid by the city over claims of police brutality — and evidence of a nationwide trend driven by demographic shifts shaking the country. As black and brown people leave major cities to raise families in areas that were once predominantly white, they're encountering police departments that are slow to reflect those population shifts and all too eager to placate longtime white residents who equate change with rising crime. To those white residents, the officers serve as a final line of defense against the outsiders marching onto their land, uniformed allies paid to protect them from the dangers they feel closing in around them.
A Rust Belt city of 50,000 about 150 miles north of Manhattan, Troy, 92% white in 1980, is barely two-thirds white today, a transformation sweeping suburbs and small cities as a result of old barriers of enforced segregation dissolving, opening new lanes of migration. From 2000 to 2010, the black population declined by a total of nearly 300,000 people in the US's four biggest cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston; Atlanta's black population dropped by 30,000. This disbursement, combined with a fast-growing Latino population, has turned formerly all-white places into merely majority white places — and formerly majority white places into places where whites are outnumbered by people of color: Of the US's 100 biggest metropolitan areas in 1990, 25 cities and 5 suburbs were majority black, Latino, and Asian; by 2010, that had increased to 58 cities and 16 suburbs.
From 2000 to 2010, the number of black residents in Troy grew by 46%. Yet the police force remains 95% white, with just four black and two Latino officers on a staff of 120 — a common proportion in these quickly changing cities. In Balch Springs, Texas, where last month a white police officer responding to a complaint about underage drinking shot and killed 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, the police force remains nearly all white even as the city's white population has drastically declined, from 63% in 2000 to 51% in 2010 and likely even lower today.
The result is a combustible mix: a white population anxious about its new black neighbors, and a white police force unprepared and ill-equipped to handle the thickening racial tensions.
In 2011, the city of Antioch, California, where the white population declined from 65% in 2000 to 49% in 2010, settled a class-action lawsuit filed by black residents who accused the police department of racial discrimination. In 2016, locals filed a lawsuit against 13 suburban counties outside St. Louis, whose combined white population dropped by more than 30% from 2000 to 2010, accusing the towns of ”extorting money" from black people through discriminatory traffic stops.
The most famous recent example of the consequences of white protectionism is Ferguson, Missouri, where the population transformed from 99% white in 1970 to less than 30% in 2010. The Justice Department, investigating the city after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, discovered that 93% of those arrested over a two-year-stretch were black. The police department that year was 94% white.
Within the last decade, the Justice Department found evidence of racial bias by law enforcement in at least eight other cities and counties with rapidly growing minority populations in New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Mississippi. Similar investigations seem unlikely under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has made clear his belief that the DOJ should not aggressively push for changes in local law enforcement agencies.
In Troy, black residents say police harassment and racial profiling are an everyday fact of life — and seem to be increasing. Black people, though just 16% of the population, made up 39% of those arrested in 2010, then 51% in 2016, according to a BuzzFeed News analysis of the department's arrest records. In 2016, 90% of minors arrested for marijuana possession were black, up from 56% in 2010.
After the manufacturing industries began to decline decades ago, Troy's population dipped from its peak of 77,000, where it had hovered from the 1910s to the 1950s. But walk around Troy today and you'll see little resemblance to the hollowed-out old boomtowns that dot the Midwest and Northeast. There are few vacant storefronts along the main streets, where young people pop in and out of restaurants serving Asian fusion cuisine and bars with craft beer on draft. The county's unemployment rate is below the state average. This is not a place dripping with despair. The signposts that people tend to associate with social turmoil — blight, filth, visible disorder — are absent, making all the more incongruous any assumptions that this is a dangerous place.
Troy adapted to the US manufacturing decline better than most Rust Belt towns. Two hospitals and four colleges offered job opportunities that drew many of the newcomers of the last two decades. As old black families built roots and new ones moved in, the city's racial composition began to shift, its once-small black community expanding past previous boundaries, slowly integrating the city in the 1990s and 2000s.
While the number of Troy's white residents decreased from 2000 to 2010, its overall population rose slightly, thanks to the influx of black and Latino people — the city's first decade of population growth since the 1940s. These newcomers arrived to find a climate of resistance.
BuzzFeed News spoke to dozens of Troy residents: While nearly every black resident interviewed said that the city's biggest problem is police harassment, many white residents said that the city's biggest problem is rising crime.
In fact, the city's crime rate in 2016 was its lowest in at least a decade. This false perception of danger among white residents was so pervasive that in 2013, Chief Tedesco penned an op-ed for the Troy Record to address the ”confounded interpretation of the true statistics," writing, ”Recent outcries about the ‘rising crime rate' in Troy have been grossly exaggerated."
The white fear simmering in Troy is a familiar one. Residents in changing white cities all over the country, but especially across the Rust Belt, seemed to express their anxieties in the 2016 presidential election, turning to a candidate whose message targeted white people nostalgic for days long gone, before the ”American carnage" Donald Trump described in his inaugural address. It's a vision of the country that calls on police to suppress the forces that threaten the old order. ”Our country needs more law enforcement," the administration states on the White House website. ”Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter."
The country is not in a state of heightened danger: 2015 had the third-lowest violent-crime rate of any year since 1970, according to FBI statistics. (Complete 2016 data is not yet available.) Rather, the most visible threats to the old order are racial.
Harvard political scientist Ryan Enos found that white people who had previously voted for Barack Obama were more likely to vote for Trump if they lived in cities with fast-growing Latino populations. In places like Macomb County, Michigan; Kenosha County, Wisconsin; Porter County, Indiana; and Northampton County, Pennsylvania — which all flipped by at least 10% from the Democrat presidential candidate in 2012 to the Republican in 2016 — black and Latino residents doubled in number from 2000 to 2010, expanding to more than 10% of their county's population.
Indeed, the residents of Rensselaer County, a third of whom live in Troy, voted for the Democratic candidate in every election from 1988 to 2012, when they elected Obama by a 12% margin. Last November, they swung to Trump.
The complete article is really long (This is only excerpts from the first 2/5ths, except for the final one) and detailed and well worth reading in full.Hansbury remembered when Sam Ratley moved onto his block in 2009. He eyed Ratley and his family with suspicion. ”I know the kind of people who live up on that side," Hansbury said. ”Drugs and prostitutes, things like that."
Ratley, who had arrived from Brooklyn, worked in a warehouse and had no criminal record. To Ratley, the block he'd found in Troy was an affordable, clean, quiet place to raise a family. But he felt differently after the incident in 2013.
When Ratley and his family moved to a different neighborhood, Hansbury was glad to see them go.
”They all got put out," Hansbury said. ”The cops cleared it up."