Stop me if you have heard this before, a police department is under investigation for a death of a suspect in custody. Freddie Gray died in Baltimore in police custody April the 12th. This adds to the growing list of names such as Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Jason Harrison, Tamir Rice and, Walter Scott. The news coverage of these stories has been constant, and local and federal investigations have followed these and other similar cases.
Let me begin by saying this opinion piece is not passing judgment on any police officer or suspect in any of these cases. The cases above and many like them are so complex, this pastor realizes that he does not posses the information or the ability, needed to pass judgment for or against anyone.
I have great admiration for the men and women of law enforcement. I also have great respect for the civil rights of all individuals just as all good police officers do. Again, this piece is not meant to pass judgment, but it is meant to encourage the discovery of the truth and to encourage dialogue on difficult questions.
I have followed the news coverage of these cases like many of you through television news, online articles, and other opinion pieces. I have been shocked at how one case seems to follow another. Then I read an article on CNN, which stated that police using lethal force is NOT on the rise. I found this shocking. With all the coverage and all the investigations, I assumed that lethal force used by police had to be on the rise. The question I was left with was why wasn’t this being covered and investigated all along.
In a day and age, where Southern preachers do nothing but bash the media, I want to take a moment to applaud them. Now, I’m sure I will bash them for something else soon, but it’s about time attention has been brought to police using lethal force.
There are clearly times when it is appropriate for a police officer to use lethal force. If a person was pointing a gun at one of my children, I want a cop present with a gun. It is a sad statement on our world today that lethal force is necessary for police officers. But lethal force by police should always, always, always be thoroughly and completely and publically investigated just as lethal force used by any individual.
The police officers that follow the law and do their job properlly have nothing to fear from a proper investigation done with integrity. As my dad use to say, if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to be nervous about, but far too often I was nervous around my dad because…
These investigations will be positive if they are done well. Upstanding officers will be proved correct. Incompetent officers or worse will be charged and removed from their respetive departments. Is anyone upset over those two results?
Again let me say not every police shooting involving a white officer shooting a black person is racially motivated or vice versa. Also, not every time African Americans cry racism are they just playing the race card because they can. Racism exists. What do we need to discover the truth? Thorough, complete and public investigations.
Another positive from these investigations besides good cops being exonerated and bad cops being removed from the force, are we, as Americans, have been forced to have some uncomfortable but very necessary conversations.
A conversation on race and the police is not fun, but it’s needed. In Ferguson MO, African Americans make up 93% of arrests after car stops. I think that stat warrants discussion. Then you have Reserve Deputy programs across the country highlighted by the story of a 73 year old Insurance Company Executive mistaking his gun for a taser. Are they a cost effective way to provide more officers to serve and protect, or are they putting untrained or unskilled individuals into situations they are not equipped to handle? That is another needed discussion.
I don’t know any of the answers to these very complex questions or complex situations. I am not a police officer, and I do not understand their situation. Also, I am not a member of a minority ethnic group, and I don’t know their situations either. But I am a man who wants to learn, who wants to know. I do believe as a community and as a country together, we can answer these questions and improve our communities through compassionate and real dialogue.
It is my hope that scrutiny and investigations of police using lethal force is not a fad. I hope these stories are not removed from our national conscience because good policemen and police women need to be proved to be such, and bad and incompetent ones need to be removed.
Lastly, I hope that these investigations do not become an us versus them situation, but instead become a let us together discover the truth of what really happened. Instead of two sides working against one another, I want to see all involved working to ensure a complete, thorough, and public investigation, so we can all hold the truth.
I believe that cop, citizen, black, white, Latin, young and old can agree on that.