Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The police can help by saying "I'm sorry"

Members of the New York  City Police Department turn their backs to Mayor Bill de Blasio during funeral (picture: Wall Street Journal)

There are a few things in life that are hard to overlook.  It’s demanding to hold a conversation with a person who refuses to admit their mistakes.  It’s challenging being attacked by a person who thinks they know it all. Its problematic being in the presence of a person who assumes power over their critics and it’s hard to forgive a person who refuses to apologize.

These are some of the reasons people don’t like the police.

When I say people, I mean primarily black people, but others are beginning to read between the lines of defend and serve to get to the fine line of do what we say, not what we do.

I’m saddened to make this claim. Why? Because some of my best friends are members of law enforcement. I know, insert upchuck beside “some of my best friends are black”. That’s the common line used to wiggle out of the assumption that you’re carrying judgment related to a group of people.

It’s true that I grew up calling police “pigs” and “popo”. I hated police because of what I witnessed – unfair treatment of people who look like me.  So, after working with and getting to know the men and women who wear those uniforms, I moved past the assumptions I made.

I learned to respect law enforcement.  September 11 helped.  Americans wanted to love and support police and firefighters after so many gave their lives to rescue people after the twin towers came tumbling down.

But things have changed.  Their arrogance is showing.  People are turning their backs on the police and it’s not the fault of those who protest.  It’s because of a lack of humility after the deaths of black men and women.

People are screaming “Black Lives Matter” for a reason.  Stop. Don’t get insensitive by screaming back “all lives matter.” Of course they do.  Everyone knows that.  The point of it all is a lack of sensitivity coming from those so bent on making a point that they refuse to say “I’m sorry.”

After a grand jury set Darren Wilson free, instead of saying I’m sorry, he said he would do it again.  No remorse.  He defended his judgment. He failed to apologize and show the pain related to killing an 18 year-old. He called Michael Brown demon-like.

Excuse me!

That spirit seems infused in the culture of the police. Not only are they demanding respect for defending and protecting us, they promote the right to not be criticized when a mistake is assumed. They attack people who attack them under the veil of legal jargon and police policy. 

Now, police unions are moving beyond defending and serving by demanding a different type of law enforcement.

On November 30, St. Louis Rams wide receivers Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey and Chris Givens came out of the Edward Jones Dome with hands raised in the fog. The next day, the local police union demanded punishment. They wanted to team to take a position.  They wanted the league to stand up.

No takers.

Cleveland Brown wide receiver Andrew Hawkins decided to protest by wearing a shirt.  The shirt read, "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III." Both were shot and killed by police.

"They are there to play football, not to judge what we do out there. … They owe Cleveland Police officers an apology," said Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Jeff Follmer.

Cleveland police shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice as he reached for an air-soft gun that looked real.

Tension was rising.  The bullies were out of control.  Then the madness intensified.

On Dec 20, officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down in their patrol car by Ismaaiyl Brinsley after Brinsley had made online threats, including a vow to put "wings on pigs" and references to the Garner and Brown cases.

All of us grieved their deaths.  There was space for healing and understanding.


Within hours of the death of Liu and Ramos, the head of New York City’s police union blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio and those who protested the deaths of Michael Brown and the 48 others killed since Brown’s death.

They blamed protesters and the Mayor rather than mental illness.  They used the meaningless deaths of their colleagues to affirm a point that should have been off limits – we told you so.

"There's blood on many hands tonight," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch told reporters outside the hospital the day officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Raphael Ramos, 40, died.

"Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated," Lynch said. "That blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor."

The mayor's office responded to Lynch’s attacks in a statement reported by CBS New York.

"It's unfortunate that in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people," the statement said. "Mayor de Blasio understands this is the time when we must come together to support the families and friends of those brave officers New York City lost tonight -- and the entire NYPD community."

Others supported Lynch’s claim.

"Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordeblasio. #NYPD," tweeted former New York Gov. George Pataki.

Can you hear the unwarranted conjectures?

When people protest it leads to the death of police?  This is not a case of mental illness, but this is about protest.  We told you so.  We know it all. We’re not sorry for what we did, and, yes, we would do it over and over again.

I want to support the police. How can you when they refuse to adequately apologize for the death of a 13 year-old for carrying a toy gun?  How do you trust police when they demand silence?  How can you move forward when police establish a culture of us against them?

It’s a simple lesson.

Confess your mistakes and give us a chance to forgive.

We all make mistakes, but, when lives are lost because of those mistakes, gives us time to share our pain and don’t assume it’s easy to forgive.

1 comment:

  1. "It’s challenging being attacked by a person who thinks they know it all." Indeed. Although I doubt that criticism was meant for yourself.

    I could replace your history and comments with those from a member of the Klan. "I was raised thinking niggers were less than nothing. In my community they caused the majority of violent crime and had fatherless families. But, I finally worked with black people and realized, as individuals, they were often good people, and some became my friends. Then I saw black people demonstrating, destroying their own communities, looting, and using the police for target practice. Perhaps my parents were right. People who take no responsibility for their own actions and who don't recognize that things have improved significantly over the past decades, may not be worthy of my support."

    Do you see how easily one racist rant substitutes for another?

    And your easy rejection of other people who say "all lives matter" because they aren't being "sensitive" is self-serving. Black lives matter and inappropriate actions by police in any death requires both investigation and examination of police training as well. You ignore the fact that "police lives matter" as well. Yes the police killer in NY was mentally disturbed, but those threatening and shooting at police officers in several cities is done by those just expressing rage that goes far beyond police actions. Police have a tremendously difficult job, must possess uncommon social skills, and act via split second decisions. They, like all humans, will make some mistakes. You don't walk in their shoes.

    Realizing the validity of both arguments, most people want to remind us that "all lives matter." Those who hold this position want to see moderation in the arguments and actions of those who hold disparate opinions. You see this as some kind of moral cop-out (no pun intended) because you only want others to support your position that police only exist to murder young black men and keep the black community in disorder. Many of us disagree that your position is the only one, and realize that black people are doing a pretty good job of murder and disorder all on their own.

    It becomes disingenuous to constantly compare the police of your youth to the police of today. Like society, they have changed. But, like society, they have not changed as much as we might like.

    You indicate that progress could be made if the police would only apologize every time they make a mistake. First, a legal point. Any public apology would be admissible in court and be construed as an admission of guilt, opening up the officer to a variety of civil suits. So, it isn't going to happen. Their lawyers won't allow it. But something else HAS happened that you repeatedly ignore. Police representatives all over the country have publicly stated the Eric Garner and some other deaths of black men were unwarranted. Police departments all over the country are re-examining their arrest and tactical policies. This amounts to a mass PUBLIC apology and admission that some police are racist and act inappropriately. You should be celebrating this as a victory, but, no, you would prefer each policeman be set loose for the mobs to exact their physical revenge. Only when blood for blood happens will you be satisfied. Well, it's happening, do you feel better, my Christian pastor?

    You need to get out more. Your blogs, formerly well though out discussions, are becoming mere rants without any perspective. As such, you will only get adulation from those who already think like you. Wouldn't you like to return to the leadership of those who actually want to help societal ills be eliminated?