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Dopebusters

Dopebusters Drug Patrols

In the Spring of 1965, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology published a work on the threat of the Nation of Islam (NOI) to the police. A summary of the NOI of Islam beliefs was given. The religion centers on the idea that the ruling white man is destined for a fall. The members do see whites as the devil, but G-d has predetermined the end of the white man’s rule. Blacks are to separate and become an independent state before the fall to avoid catastrophe. So the movement has no reason to attack the police directly. The NOI was deemed not to be a direct threat to the police as a whole. The security/militia force Fruit of Islam (FOI) my resist police in small incidence, but there was no rebellion planned.

The reputation of the Fruit of Islam grows from the 1960s to the 1980s and residents at the Mayfair Mansions take notice. Violence and the drug trade had enveloped the community that was now nicknamed “Little Beiruit.” The Nation of Islam begins selling their paper in the complex and residents notice the drug dealers leave while the NOI was present. A group of concerned citizens asked the Nation of Islam to patrol the area to stop drug dealers. Abdul Alim Muhammad, leader of DC’s Mosque #4, agreed and the “Dopebusters” were born in 1988.

Police Chief, Maurice Turner, reluctantly agrees to work with the NOI Drug Patrols. The story of the Dopebusters drew national attention and continued violence at the Mayfair would draw negative attention to the city. Council members and many constituents in the Mayfair publically supported the effort. Turner decided that the NOI would only patrol and call authorities when they saw something. The guards were not to use any violence.

The problem in District 6, which included the Mayfair, was a small police presence. They had 235 officers patrolling the district, which led to the smallest ratio of officers to residents. [2] Because of increased attention from media, the chief agreed to concentrate his force at the Mayfair.[3] So those that used to deal at the Mayfair moved to neighboring housing projects.[3] The citizens at the Mayfair were grateful to have peace in their neighborhood, and they praised the guards for granting them peace. The NOI was allowed to fly their flag over the projects, as the Islamic Caliphs did in the old days. [3]

On April 19, 1988, a man with a shotgun confronted an NOI guard. The guard disarms the man by kicking the gun out of his hand. Ten men proceed to beat the man unconscious. An NBC news team catches the melee on film. The guards see that they are being recorded and began to attack the cameraman to ensure the footage is not aired on television. One of the guards was arrested along with the man that welded the shotgun. The story made headlines and Mosque #4 had to issue an apology. Residents of the Mayfair picketed in support of the guards. [17]

Dr. Alim Muhammad gave a press conference on April 30, 1988. Accompanying him were hundreds of supporters of the Nation of Islam patrols. In the speech, Alim Muhammad chastised the media in elevating the one instance of overreach, and not the fact they ended open-air drug sales in less than a month. He invites Christians, Jews, and fellow Muslims to join in the Patrols because they would soon expand to Paradise Manor. The most inflammatory aspect of the speech was the accusation that many police were involved in drug sales. This accusation that could not be proven hurt the ability of the security forces to work with the police.

The beating of a news crew was not the only instance of overreach. An apartment building manager accused the guards of attempting to extort $5,000 from her company.[6] However, the NOI guards would find other ways to finance their patrol in the way of government contracts.

The success from Mayfair made FOI guards a hot commodity in many low-income housing areas. The NOI Security Agency – Washington was incorporated in 1990 to win government contracts in security. In the same manner, other NOI security agencies emerged in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The DC agency expanded its patrol to Clifton Terrace and Potomac Gardens.

The Clifton Terrace Patrols began in May of 1992. Most of the residents supported the new patrols. However, there was also vocal opposition. A group of men threatened the guards with violence on May 5. In response, a guard allegedly attacked resident James Earl Keech. Later that day, the unarmed guards encountered gunfire. Police were slow to arrive but arrested Taino M. Granum who had a stolen gun on his person. The event shows how cooperation between police and the guards began to break down. Both sides gave different accounts to the police. The public housing authority ended the security contract a short time later.

The American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) both took issue with an anti-semitic group getting government contracts. The ADL published a report in 1995 detailing contract discrepancies in the NOI security contracts. The ADL claimed that the NOI security agencies were directly connected to the NOI. Most of the evidence in the report came from the NOI newsletter, <u>The Final Call</u>. In the paper, the NOI praises the work of the security agencies as a victory for the Nation of Islam as a whole.

The report sparked outrage from the public. Bob Dole and Peter King, both Republicans, launch a senate investigation. If the security firm violated procurement law, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would have to terminate the contracts. Peter King wanted the NOI listed as a hate group even though the American Civil Liberties Union did not list them as such.

HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros defended the decision to award NOI security firms contracts. Many members of The Congressional Black Caucus also supported the NOI effort. The firms were not legally linked to the Nation of Islam religious organization, and to Cisneros’ knowledge, the guards did not proselytize on duty. Therefore to deny them contracts would be religious discrimination. It is important to remember the Republicans had recently won both houses.

The six-week investigation concluded in March of 1995. There was no evidence of large-scale proselytizing while guards were on duty and the investigation confirmed the security firms were not linked to the Nation of Islam. There was also no evidence that the firms discriminated against non-Muslims or women. Most of the interviews with residents of the areas the security firms patrolled said the guards are more courteous than other private guards. Residents, white and black, both agreed their neighborhoods were markedly safer.

After the investigation Nation of Islam security wins a contract to patrol Potomac Gardens. The original contract was awarded under emergency conditions for two weeks at $30,000. Again most residences wanted the guards, but there was also strong opposition. One woman interviewed by the Washington Post said that she shielded a man from an NOI beating. The guards yelled “Black Power, Black Power” after the incident. [109]

On May 12, 1995 NOI guard James Baldwin was allegedly stabbed in the chest by resident Paul Sparks. The event was the third violent event during the two weeks Potomac Gardens had a patrol. Earlier an NOI guard was struck with a bottle. The guards retaliate by assaulting a resident suspected of throwing the bottle. The incidents sparked City Council to visit the project.

During the visit Councilman Frank Smith had this to say:

“There’s no question about the fact that the people who live over there see this as a form of relief from the drug sales…The sale of drugs around public housing complexes is ultimately a police problem, and it will not be solved in a lasting way at Potomac Gardens or anywhere else until a new police division responsible for public housing is created”.[112]

After the City Council visited they decide to extend the emergency contract another two weeks. The guards did stop open-air drug sales, even with a few instances of over-reach. By June 6, the emergency contract would end and the NOI would need to win the contact under normal bidding circumstances. Unfortunately, the Nation of Islam Security Agency flies for bankruptcy protection in June of 1995. The firm claims $620,000 in assets and $760,000 in liabilities. Of the liabilities, $53,000 was back taxes to Washington, DC. The DC Housing Authority had to take into account NOI Security’s financial state during the contract bid, and they lost their bid.

The Potomac Garden patrol was taken up by off-duty police officers. The officers were paid overtime with the same Federal funds that would have been used for the private guards. Ultimately, the responsibility for reducing crime fell back on the police. With increased police presence, the crime problem in Washington, DC subsided.

Sources for Dopebusters Articles

Dopebusters outside Washington DC

New York

It was December 28, 1991. Sean “Puffy Daddy” Combs had organized a charity celebrity basketball game at the City College of New York. At this point, Combs was a skilled promoter and had connections at the hottest hip-hop radio stations which he used to advertise his event. He sold 5,000 tickets to a gymnasium that can seat 2,700 patrons. In addition to the ticket holders, people show hoping they can buy tickets at the event.

City College decided to hire twenty Pinkerton Guards, and the student union supplemented the force with 20 guards from X-men security. X-Men is not officially affiliated with the Nation of Islam, but they hire mostly NOI members. The guards also wore traditional Muslim garb of the suit and bow tie while on duty. The city provides over sixty police officers. Unfortunately, there is still not enough security. At 6:55, guards at the main entrance leave to escort two women holding money trays from ticket sales. Once the entrance was left unguarded 150 people stampeded to enter the gym. In the commotion, nine people were crushed. This event was the second deadliest crowd control failure in US history.

A 1992 investigation by Mayor Dinkins’ office discovered that police responded to the failure in an insufficient manner. More police should have been on the scene. In addition, City College officials include security personnel should have vetted the event promoters to understand how many people would show to the event. X-men security was not blamed for the event, but the episode shows the limits of private security.

X-Men security got a chance at redemption in July of 1993. They won a $300,000 contract to secure a 360 unit apartment complex called Ocean Towers in Coney Island. In eighteen months the firm completely turned the complex around. Residents and the apartment complex managers hailed the firm as saviors.

Unfortunately, Brooklyn Assemblyman Jules Polonetsky, a Democrat, wanted the contract ended because the group spread Louis Farrakhan’s message of hate. In addition to selling the NOI’s newspaper, The Final Call, they sold bean pies and other Muslim paraphernalia while on shift. The vast majority of residents were not bothered, yet a small minority complained. Even Polonetsky agreed the firm provided stellar security services; they had to go due to their stance on whites and especially Jews.

The statistics were on the side of X-men. Vacancy dropped from 30% to 1% in the time they patrolled the complex. The increase in residency was primarily due to improved security. In addition, 53 of 61 residents reported the guards were doing a good to an excellent job. Residence loved the security so much they protested outside of Polonetsky’s office in support of the guards. Ocean Towers Management ended the contract on October 10, 1996 and replaced them with a firm that hired many of X-Men’s former guards.

Residence also wondered why Polonetsky was so adamant about the firing of the X-men while ignoring their previous pleas for help in stopping the drug trade in their building. Polonetsky said he stood on principle and could not let an anti-Semitic group get government money. Conrad Muhammad, leader of the mosque in New York, proved him right by calling Polonetsky a “rookie” and a “snotty-nosed Jewish Politician.”

The Ocean Tower Tenants Association and the Nation of Islam attempted to sue a group of state officials including Polonetsky for religious discrimination. The case was thrown out because the private management company made the final decision to end the contract. Since the state was not directly responsible, they could not technically discriminate against the X-Men.

Los Angeles

The Oakwood neighborhood in Los Angeles was home to the Holiday Venice Apartments that were overrun by Shoreline Crips. Various tenant and neighborhood associations pushed for the Nation of Islam (NOI) to guard the area. The local housing authority had closed-door talks about hiring the local Nation of Islam Security Agency.

Once word got out on the talks, the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Defense League protested. The Oakwood neighborhood is overwhelmingly Black and Latino, so there is no immediate threat to any Jewish people. However, the historical anti-Jewish rhetoric of NOI leaders was enough to inspire the Jewish groups to slow down the contract process. Nation of Islam Security Agency won the bid in July, but protests from Jewish groups prevented the patrols from starting until November. The contract ordered 256 apartments patrolled for $50,000 per month.

The patrols could not have started at a better time. US Marshalls seized one of the Holiday Venice Apartment buildings because the owner was not doing enough to stop drug sales. The owner was ordered to improve lighting, install fencing, remove abandoned cars, and install an alarm system. The first month of NOI patrols are a huge success; drug arrest went from 32 per month to 8 per month. However, over time, the patrol became less aggressive.

One problem with the patrol was they were not 24 hrs except for the first and fifteenth of the month when welfare checks arrived. Drug dealers would wait for guards to be off-duty and return to the projects. While the NOI was patrolling the dealers were pushed into the street and arrests were easier. But eventually, guards had to fight with dealers in the open. Because the guards were unarmed they often lost, one guard was even shot. In August of 1993, a video surfaced of a drug deal going on in front of a guard, that was a death nail. Also, some citizens complained that the NOI intimidated them to prevent them from complaining to authorities. The most egregious violations were the guards being slow to open the gate for police in fear of gang retaliation. The contract ended in 1993.

Baltimore

Councilman Lawerence Bell first proposed the idea of Nation of Islam security for Baltimore public housing in 1992. He met with NOI official Abdul Arif Muhammad as part of a massive effort to clean up the worst housing project in Baltimore, Flaghouse Courts. The movie Malcolm X was released in November of that year, and the mystique of the NOI was at its height. Bell felt that the NOI would be more respected than police or other private security.

The effort to clean up Flaghouse was called Operation ECHO, Extraordinary Comprehensive Housekeeping Operation. It involved a drug sweep utilizing 72 police to evict squatters and drug dealers. Renovations were conducted by 352 maintenance works that included painting, minor renovations, cleaning, and planting a garden. A health truck was stationed out front to provide services like drug counseling. The city also built a fence and installed checkpoints at the entrance.

Going forward, all guest at the Falghouse had to check-in at the front desk. Someone with an ID badge had to come to the lobby to escort the people up. Many at the Flaghouse felt these security measures were intrusive at first.

Improving security was not the only improvements at the Flaghouse. Residents founded a Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop and various other community activities were started for older children. Residents were able to obtain healthy food from a food co-op. Ultimately, the plan to improve security was holistic.

Learning from the failure in Los Angeles, the contract between the NOI Security Association – Baltimore was for twenty-four-hour coverage. Each of the four building would have 3 – 9 guards. The contract awarded to the firm was for $865,000 per year for sixteen buildings with 6,000 residence. The patrol began June 02, 1993.

The Nation of Islam Security Agency – Baltimore started under an emergency no-bid contract. The original agreement lasted form 1992 to May 1993. Later in 1993, NOI Security Agency – Baltimore won the bid without being the lowest bidder. The firm also hired some non-Muslim guards to show that they did not discriminate. However, friction developed and most of the non-Muslims got fired.

The complex saw an over 50% decrease in crime. However, that did not deter detractors. The Senate investigation began in 1995, and the issue of NOI security became a political quagmire. Many came out in support such as the Congressional Black Caucus and Kweisi Mfume specifically. Maxine Waters defended the NOI in Congressional hearings. Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke also publicly supported the security detail. Unfortunately, their efforts were not enough.

The 1993 contract was terminated because in the procurement paperwork the NOI Security Agency – Baltimore referenced work in Washington, DC that was done by a separate company, NOI Security Agency – Washington. Also, 29 of the 173 guards were found to be former felons, and the firm did not do initial drug testing. The firm also agreed to pay guards $11 / hr and most of the guards only got $6/hr. Guards also claimed not to be paid overtime.

Upon the firing of the Nation of Islam Security Association – Baltimore, Wells Fargo guards won the contract. Almost immediately, residents in the high rise complained of lax security. Guards were no longer escorting visitors to rooms. Also, residence saw dealers return to the hallways. Police claimed there had been no change in crime in a town hall meeting in February of 1996. Later that month, an eight-year old boy, Marvin Wise Jr, was killed by a child molester. Wells Fargo Guards lost their contract in 1997.

In November of 1995, the Nation of Islam filed an injunction against the Baltimore Housing Authority. Abdul Arif Muhammad, lawyer and spokesman, claimed the Federal Branch of HUD conspired with various Jewish Groups to end their security contract. HUD defended itself with the fact that the NOI Security Agency’s bid was $1.1 million higher than Wells Fargo’s bid. Also, NOI Security Agency – Baltimore referenced work done by a separate company, NOI Security Agency – Washington. HUD never claimed NOI did a substandard job. The case was dismissed in 1996 for failure to make a case. A lawyer for Wells Fargo claimed the NOI never took a deposition or engaged in the pre-trial proceeding unless for publicity. [102]

The city of Baltimore demolished Flaghouse Courts in 2001.

Philadelphia

Abbottsford Homes of Philadelphia was famous as one of the pilot tenant ran and managed housing projects. It was infamous as an area dense in drugs and violence. The management association decided to have Nation of Islam Security Inc conduct their famous security patrols in the area. Their contract was awarded in July of 1992 for around $200,000 to protect 3,000 residents in 700 units.

As usual, the Anti-defamation League stood in opposition saying that the NOI is a fundamentally racist organization. However, this time another Jewish group came to the NOI’s defense. The American Jewish Committee said they would not stand in the way of the contract and the people of Abbottsford Homes had a right to self-determine.

The first lawsuit came in April of 1993. Clarence Timmons, Craig Muse, and James Parker accused the guards of beating them on fours separate occasions. The suit filed against the management of Abbottsford claimed that the guards use intimidation to establish dominance. In conjunction with the suit, an organization called Abbottsford Concerned Tenants issued a statement saying the guards violated resident’s privacy. The charges by the Concerned Tenants ranged from enforcing curfews on adults and videotaping residents without consent.

The second lawsuit had to do with how the security contract was awarded. Wayne Hood was a member of the Abbottsford Management and allegedly an NOI member. He was accused of telling the NOI bidders the price the other bidders submitted so the NOI could undercut them.

The author could not find articles written on the conclusion of this case.

Chicago

The Chicago Housing Authority was looking for a group to provide unarmed security and management to the Rockwell Gardens Housing Development. In 1994, A joint venture for security provided by New Life Self Development and management from William Moorehead and Associates won a contract to manage the complex. The apartment complex had 4,000 residents in 14 buildings. The contract was awarded for $3.6 million. The contract could not have started at a time security was needed more needed. That March, six children under 14 yo were killed in and around Rockwell Gardens.

Leonard Muhammad was the president of New Life, and he believed in a holistic approach to security. He and the guards stayed in the buildings to get to know the residents. In addition, Muhammad advocated for improved fencing and other barriers. Police cooperation and communication was essential to his scheme. The most important aspect was to bring jobs back to the community. Ultimately, Muhammad saw security as bigger than only increasing guards it was a community effort.

Almost immediately, the Illinois Department of Regulation launched and investigation into how the contract was awarded. The Chicago Tribune also launched a separate investigation. The investigations revealed a massive scandal.

In 1993, Chicago Housing Authority Chairman Vince Lane was in financial trouble. He was heavily invested in Continental Plaza Mall, which was $3 million in debt. Leonard Muhammad agreed to meet with Lane to discuss options. Lane need to land a new vendor for his mall to keep creditors at bay. Muhammad agreed to lease space in the mall for a grocery store at $10,000 a month. Then Muhammad needed a partner to manage the building. Lane delivers William Moorhead and Associates. New Life still needed relevant experience, so they used letters of recommendation from the Nation of Islam Security Agency – Washington, which they were unaffiliated. To ensure all the paperwork was approved by the state, Lane had a woman that was a part-owner in Continental Plaza Mall conduct the review.

Lane and Muhammad also discussed the security contracts for the Housing Authority at the meeting. Muhammad did not have the proper state licensure to guard residences. Lane introduced Muhammad to a company that did have the license, Citywide Detective Agency, and New Life became their subsidiary.

The security force did face a few problems. In June of 1994 two “suburban looking” men were stopped and handcuffed by security guards. The guards accused the men of soliciting prostitutes and detained them until police arrived. The suburban men then accused the guards of impersonating police. The guards were tried and acquitted January of 1995.

Also in 1994, New Life guards saw a group of Traveling Vice Lords beating a woman. The guards intervened to save the woman. Later a group of Vice Lords beat a guard. New Life Supervisor Tyrone Muhammad then shot Vice Lord Robert Jones in retaliation. Muhammad was convicted of murder in 1996.

There were other problems to come. In July of 1994, New Life guards were forced out of an apartment by gang members. Residents began to complain that guards were harassing other residents more than gang members. Audits showed that New Life did not have the number of guards on shift required by the contract. Guards were also not being paid and a third were not registered with the state. Most likely guards were not registered because they were ex-felons. The audit by the Chicago Tribune showed that ten of the thirty were felons. There were incidents of guards being asleep at their station. Later that year a man was shot and it was rumored that a New Life guard was responsible. Due to these problems the security guards were replaced.

Sources for Dopebusters Articles

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