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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sheriff Morgan Revives "Racist Speculation" "Urban Legend," and "Junk Science," to Smear All Young Black Males in Escambia County as 'Super Predators'

"This was predicted, oh gosh, five, between five and ten years ago and they predicted what's called a 'rise of the super predator.'  And these are children of the generations coming up, you know, you've heard me speak of the 'no faith-family-community nation' type of thing.  And it's, it's on us."  Sheriff David Morgan on David Outzen's WCOA Pensacola Speaks radio show, April 7, 2015, starting at 3:02.  HERE

Sheriff Morgan Sees Keshown Stallworth and All Young Black Males as "Super Predators"

Rick Outzen opened his April 7, 2015, Pensacola Speaks radio show with this comment:

"We're seeing a rise, Sheriff, in more and more young crime committed by teenagers.  Of course, the big story is the one who was shot last month and the car he was in was set on fire.  Forensics were able to identify him this past week.  I've talked to Commissioner Luman May and he's concerned that there just seems to be more, that we have a new, younger, more violent set of teenagers that are coming out on the streets now."  HERE

Given this "softball" opening, Sheriff Morgan dove right in and revealed the racist mind-set he and presumably his deputies have regarding all young Black males in Escambia County.  Importantly, Sheriff Morgan based his department's perspective on criminological information provided by his wife, Susan, an instructor at Pensacola State College.  She earned a Master's degree in 1988 in Police Administration from Eastern Kentucky University and a Master's degree in 1991 in Public Administration from Troy State University, according to her interview with the PMOAA Beacon in June 2014.  HERE

Here is Sheriff's Morgan statement starting at 3:02 and ending at 3:45:

"That's true Rick and its not a surprise to us in law enforcement.  This was really predicted some time ago by the specialists in this area.  One of the nice things about having a wife that's a college instructor is that, who teaches Criminal Justice, is that I get to keep up to date on all the stuff.  This was predicted, oh gosh, five, between five and ten years ago and they predicted what's called a 'rise of the Super Predator.'  And these are the children of the generations coming up, you know, you've heard me speak of the 'no-faith-family-community nation' type of thing.  And it's, it's on us.  It's almost a dissociation from society."  HERE

Now, if Sheriff Morgan really "keeps up to date" on the latest research in criminology because his wife teaches Criminal Justice at Pensacola State College, then he needs a new source of information because the state of her current knowledge is about sixteen years out of date and what she is passing on to the Sheriff is a racist, demeaning, demonizing stereotype rooted in white supremacy.

The Myth of the Rise of the Super Predator

The term "Super Predator" originated in 1995 (not five or ten years ago as Sheriff Morgan claimed) by Princeton professor John Dilulio, along with the conservative academics James Fox (Northeastern University) and James Wilson (UCLA).

Writing in 1998, then PhD candidate in Sociology at City University of New York Robin Templeton explained:  "Much of their work is the functional equivalent of racist speculation about criminality popularized by eugenicists a century ago.  Demography is destiny, the theory goes, and today's press and politicians employ it to keep the suburbs afraid of young men of color in the inner cities.  For its proponents, the beauty of the 'superpredator' concept is its convenient adaptability.  Whether the report of the hour says crime is up or down, whether youth crime rates soar or plummet, the 'superpredator' threat warrants ever-tougher tough-on-crime measures."  HERE

Templeton also explained that even at the time (1998), the theory of the "Super Predator" ignored the consistent finding that the more young people in society, the less violent crime in society.  She wrote that in the previous 25 years, according to FBI crime reports, the correlation between the rate of violent crime and the number of young men aged between 15 to 24 was negative, meaning that "more young people in the population has meant lower rates of violent crime."

Templeton pointed out that according to a June 1997 article in the Wall Street Journal that Professor Dilulio was having second thoughts about punishing youths as adult criminals, though he had not abandoned his theory.

The New York Times, which presented a documentary report produced by the Retro Project called The Superpredator Scare, pointed out that "Murders committed by those ages 10 to 17 fell by roughly two-thirds from 1994 to 2011, according to statistics kept by the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  Mugged by reality, a chastened Mr. Dilulio has offered a mea culpa."  The 10:35 minute documentary is also at this website.  HERE

Steve Drizin, a professor of clinical law at Northwestern University's School of Law, wrote in September 2013 in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin's murder about the theory of the "Super Predator":  "The 'superpredator' was one of the most demonizing words ever used to describe young people in the history of the United States.  In the mind of Princeton Professor John Dilulio, who coined the term in 1995, superpredators were 'subhuman,' 'amoral,' 'feral' creatures ready to maim, rape, and murder Americans without a second's thought" [emphasis added]  HERE

Drizin also pointed out in the same article that in 2001, "the Surgeon General of the United States issued a report declaring that there 'is no evidence' that young people engaged in violence during the 1990's 'were more frequent or vicious than youth of earlier eras.'  The word virtually disappeared from public discourse and the 'superpredator' was relegated to the ranks of 'urban legend.'  But urban legends die hard..."  Or so Professor Drizin thought.

Indeed, this dead "urban legend" is alive and well in the mind of Sheriff Morgan and his Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Writing one year later, Professor Drizin noted that the "'superpredator' myth was premised on junk science and inaccurate predictions based on demographics."  Commenting on the New York Times film The Superpredator Scare, Drizin noted that "In the film, Professor Dilulio, now at the University of Pennsylvania, issues a mea culpa, admitting that 'demography is not fate and criminology is not pure science.'"  HERE

Concluding Observation

Sheriff Morgan's assertion that his belief in the existence of "Super Predators" in Escambia County is based on "specialists in this area" and that his wife, who teaches Criminal Justice, "keeps him up to date on all the stuff" is pure unadulterated racist nonsense.

Sheriff Morgan's concept of a generation of "Super Predators" that is now "on us" is based on what real experts call "junk science" based on "no evidence" and having the validity of an "urban legend" rooted in "racist speculation."  Reduced to its essence, it is just "scientific racism."

The concept, "Super Predator," wielded by Sheriff Morgan is a term of art meant to demonize and denigrate young Black males living in Escambia County as being "'subhuman,' 'amoral,' 'feral' creatures ready to maim, rape, and murder Americans without a second's thought."  This very characterization is exemplified by Deputy Holcombe's description of the behavior of pregnant Shaquita Middleton and her super-power-walking mother Mrs. Lucille Middleton covered in a previous CJ's Street Report.  HERE

Is it any wonder that the Black community perceives Sheriff Morgan and his deputies as dangerous to their well-being and lives?

Professor Drizin noted that this mentality may have lurked behind George Zimmerman's reflex to kill Trayvon Martin:  "When the adult George Zimmerman saw Trayvon, perhaps he saw a 'superpredator.'... All of these features--the cold, long hard stare, the suspicion of drug use and weapon possession, the hoodie, his age, race, and criminal propensity--fit the profile of Dilulio's superpredator.  But they also fit the profile of many innocent young kids on our city streets, kids who are just walking back from the corner store with cans of pop in their hands and Skittles in their pockets."  HERE  "Furtive movements," anyone?

That Sheriff Morgan sincerely believes and promotes an "urban legend" based on "junk science" containing "no evidence" and amounting to little more than "racist speculation" about the presence and grave danger of the Black Super Predators living in Escambia County should set off alarm bells regarding the temperament and suitability of the Sheriff and his deputies.  Is this Sheriff really intellectually and morally fit to serve a third term?

UPDATE (4/12/2015: 1838h)

At the 9:20-9:25 mark, Sheriff Morgan made a correct statement regarding the decline in juvenile crime.  The Sheriff stated, "Now, contrary to what we believe though, our juvenile crime, and we tend to mirror national averages, has been trending down."

A January 1, 2014, report in the Pensacola News Journal noted that between "2008-2009 and 2012-2013 fiscal years the number of juveniles arrested in Escambia County decreased 32 percent, from 1,923 to 1,311."  Thus, the trend Sheriff Morgan cited and the corroborating data completely undermine his assertion that the "rise of the Super Predator" is "on us" in Pensacola.  But, as noted above, this trend undermining the validity of the "Super Predator" thesis had been present for decades.  This is not a new finding.

However, while there is another trend of less incarceration of juveniles in Escambia County, the fact remains that Escambia County leads Florida, the United States, and the world in incarcerating juvenile offenders as adults.  Again, the trend may be towards less incarceration of juveniles, but Sheriff Morgan's attempt to paint a rosy picture of our goal is "rehabilitation, not incarceration" is again undermined data.

An in-depth report published April 12, 2015, by InWeekly and written by Shelby Smithey, relied upon data and analysis from the Southern Poverty Law Center's Monique Gillum.  Gillum reported that "Florida sends more youth to the adult criminal justice system than any other state."  Smithey reported that "transferring children to the adult system increases recidivism.  Yet, Escambia transfers more of its kids per capita, 4.3 percent, than the state average, 3.5 percent."  Keyontay Humphries, Northwest Florida ACLU organizer, told InWeekly, "Escambia County incarcerates more children per capita than any other county in the state of Florida.... There are children who remain in the juvenile justice system, but then there are also children who are transferred to the adult justice side."  Amir Whitaker, an attorney with the SPLC, told InWeekly that Escambia County "is one of the worst places to be a kid in the state of Florida and in the country."  HERE

Escambia County's high incarceration rate of juveniles compared to all other counties in Florida and all other states in the United States has a devastating effect on our children in terms of losing the right to vote--an essential feature of democracy.  The SPLC's Monique Gillum told InWeekly, "Youth are losing the right to vote before they even have it.  We have to take a real close look at how we are treating our children."

Keyontay Humphries, the Northwest Florida ACLU organizer, told a mid-March 2015 town hall meeting of the Escambia Youth Justice Coalition, that "The U.S. leads the world with a per capita incarceration rate of 336 per 100,000 youth, and Florida is virtually tied with California as the juvenile incarceration 'leader' in the U.S.  This makes Escambia's shameful juvenile prison commitment rate not only the leader in the state, but the U.S. and world," according to a report in The Pensacola Voice.


  1. Interesting...I am a criminologist and this is indeed junk science.

  2. Interesting...I am a criminologist and this is indeed junk science.

  3. The Sheriff's comments all seem to be aimed at making him sound good to the electorate. Perhaps those who know better need to be more vocal with their vote.

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