The Challenge Before Us
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has understandably sparked outrage throughout the United States and the world. The callousness and disregard shown for Mr. Floyd is sickening and leaves everyone, including police officers across this nation, shocked, appalled, and infuriated. Mr. Floyd’s death is a painful reminder to all who strive for justice of the work that remains before us.
Understandably, protests and demonstrations have taken place throughout the nation. Protestors have raised legitimate concerns regarding policing policies and practices, ranging from use of force, to bias in policing, to police accountability and transparency. These are issues that are rightly at the heart of any community’s relationship with its police department and must be addressed.
Unfortunately, some protests devolved into acts of violence and destruction which have only served to distract from these concerns and further harm communities that are already suffering. Officers throughout the country deserve recognition for their efforts to contain the purposeful and directed agitation, capitalizing on the opportunity presented by well-intended protests. The officers’ unwavering courage and dedication to public service is a credit to them and emblematic of the true values of the policing profession.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that we not let violence and destruction distract us from the real challenge before us. Determining how we move beyond the pain and frustration to identify, develop, and implement systemic solutions to build safer, more just communities.
While difficult to recognize right now, policing has made significant advancements in recent years. Police leaders have acknowledged the misdeeds of the past and have sought out community partners to build a better future.
These efforts have led agencies throughout the nation to increase transparency, revise policies to enhance procedural justice, recruit and hire officers which reflect the community they serve, significantly reduce use of force by officers and focus on eliminating police cultures that prevent officers from holding each other accountable.
Despite these advances, there is clearly more work ahead. Police leaders, and the officers they command, will need to embrace the concerns and criticism that are being given voice during these protests and reexamine their policies and approach; further, we will need to work tirelessly to earn and keep the trust of communities.
At the same time, while policing is the focus, community members and elected officials must realize they play a crucial role in moving constructive efforts forward. Collectively, we must be willing to listen and discuss the realities of policing, identify meaningful solutions, and understand that police officers have literally dedicated their lives to protecting their communities.
Attaining success in these efforts will not be easy; it will require unconventional partnerships, commitment, dedication, and an unyielding willingness to learn from the past. We must work together to build a future that ensures fairness, respect, dignity, security, and justice for all.