2020: Will be a year we all will remember.
What we actually will learn and put into practice remains to be seen. But after being a cop, watching and studying them for most of my life, I am learning a few more things myself.
I am learning police matter even more than I once thought — and they matter greatly in our diverse society. Citizens watch everything they do all the time. Police matter because when they badly it is often seen as a failure of our system of government; our way of life.
When citizens see police acting disrespectfully and uncaring it sends a signal that things are not right. When a person dies at the hands of police, it becomes a shock wave across the nation.
Police are like canaries, that in the past, coal miners carried with them into work. When the canary, highly sensitive to changes in air quality, struggled to breathe, it signaled danger and time to get out.
That is why one, separate event of police violence in a city far away drives people, especially people of color, into a crisis — “This could happen to me, this could happen to my son!” These names are all too familiar: Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, George Floyd… and in my own city, Tony Robinson.
This situation has gone on for far too long without a reduction in the number of people killed each year by police. Since 2014, when journalists (not government!) started counting persons killed by police, the number remains around 1,000; two deaths every two or three days.
Each death is a shock wave. That’s why improving our police is a duty all of us need to undertake if we are to live and thrive as Americans. Dr. King warned us that unless we learn to live together, we will die together as fools! It’s time to stop our foolishness!
For a template, read the 2015 Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing, read my book, “Arrested Development” (you can download a free copy here), and dig into this blog. Get informed about police and bring your findings to your community — officers, to your agencies. We can fix this if we all work together!