A Strong, But Needed, Prescription

UnknownI have made this argument in the past and I will continue to make it.

I strongly believe we must  acknowledge the evil of our system of criminal justice in which most all of us have willingly or unwillingly participated and make apology.

This is a tough subject in which to talk about, let alone move forward.

We must realize our past and present system of justice and its practices have tended to work against poor people and people of color and others who are vulnerable in our society.

And now it is time for us to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, and then work to improve the system so it works for everyone — a big order, but a necessary one.

The way forward into a future together must begin with those of us who are and were its police!

Can we be courageous enough to take the first step?

Former Montgomery, Ala. Police Chief Kevin Murphy did. And he did it while he was on active duty.

images-1If we who serve, or have served as police, see ourselves as professionals this is what we will do — we will apologize, seek forgiveness, and work for reconciliation.

  • Apology is simply the right thing to do. And now is the right time.
  • I have made and will continue to make my apology.
  • Will you make yours? 


  1. I am having significant difficulty with this suggestion, as will many police officers across America. You describe the criminal justice system as evil. That would mean that our system is profoundly immoral and malevolent. There are significant flaws in our system of justice that cry out for correction, but to characterize that system, and by implication the people who operate that system, as immoral and malevolent is quite simply wrong. This belief seems to be part of an anti-police narrative that has been emerging since the events in Ferguson, Missouri. The list of people who want to throw the police under the bus is long and distinguished. And if we are going to lay down in front of the bus who is going to join us, legislators, jurists, prosecutors, public defenders, prison officials, etc…? Throwing ourselves under the bus will not correct any of the flaws in our system of justice. I’m sorry, this is a bus ride too far.

    I returned to a 1986 interview with Eldridge Cleaver. I know many of the readers of this blog may have been born after 1986, and probably don’t know who Eldridge Cleaver was – they can Google it. When speaking about police conduct during the civil rights demonstrations of the sixties Cleaver said, “When you talk to police now who participated in that, you find out that they were in the same position we were in – just trying to find the right formula.” Eldridge Cleaver recognized that the police are part of a larger system and that they have very little control over that system. Policing desperately needs to attain professional status, and that will significantly reduce the flaws in policing but will do nothing to ameliorate the other flaws in our system of justice. I am willing to step forward into the future toward professionalizing policing. But we can’t do that from under the bus.


    1. Absolutely. I, too, have pressed for the elusive goal of “professional.” Moral police, supported by the Constitution, can be of great benefit to a free society. I remember Cleaver’s comments and also those of James Baldwin in “Nobody Knows My Name,” in which he characterizes cops in Harlem as having to walk in two’s and three’s because they cannot or will not relate to those whom they police/control.


  2. A question I need help with.. How does one apologize for wrongs committed by systemic oppression? I do benefit from white privilege that I did not ask for nor want yet it feels awkward to apologize to those who are systemically oppressed. I don’t want to burden the “other” with my guilt and shame for getting more than my fair share.


    1. It worked for Chief Murphy in Montrgomery. And it has worked in South Africa and Rwanda. Apology is the first step… And it is a process which hopefully leads to forgiveness and reconciliation. I think we in America must begin this journey. An historical “remembrance” might help — from days of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, housing “red-lining” in the north and so on… I have benefited from this, it is shameful, but I wish for a better future for our children — white and black. As Dr King reminded us: we either live together as brothers and sisters or die apart as fools…


  3. My Point Exatly;
    Endangeing Lives;

    Finally, said like a state trouper.
    Take a little off the greedy and pass it down to the poor and you will give them hope.
    All the men and equipment in the world will not work to save lives if you keep people suppressed, in slavery and begging for bread.

    Keep up the good work.
    Maybe someone someday will get it.


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