In order for there to be peace between police officers and the community, there needs to be respect. However, it is hard for some communities, especially communities of color, to respect some police officers when all too often they are over-policed and stopped for doing things that they simply did not do. So if the police want respect from the community, they need to respect the community in return.
While in Chicago, President Obama met with the families of fallen police officers to try to verbalize the need for the police and communities to work together to solve this epidemic of violence.
In a room full of over 14,000 police chiefs, Obama recalled moments from his own life when he was stopped for simply being a person of color. He said:
“There were times when I was younger and maybe even as I got a little older, but before I had a motorcade — where I got pulled over. And I confessed… most of the time I got a ticket, I deserved it. I knew why I was pulled over. But there were times where I didn’t.
And as a report that came out just this week reminded us, there are a lot of African-Americans –- not just me — who have that same kind of story of being pulled over, or frisked, or something. And the data shows that this is not an aberration. It doesn’t mean each case is a problem. It means that when you aggregate all the cases and you look at it, you’ve got to say that there’s some racial bias in the system.
Now, problems of racial justice or injustice have been running themes throughout this country’s history, in every institution — in every institution. And, by the way, bias and stereotypes oftentimes go both ways. So eliminating bias is not something that falls on the police alone.
The good news is, our divides as not as deep as some would suggest. I will tell you I don’t know anybody in the minority community that does not want strong, effective law enforcement. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want their kids to be safe when they’re walking to school or playing in a playground. Everybody should understand that police officers do a dangerous job.”
Saying very clearly:
“Nobody wants to see police officers hurt.”
Police officers need to be able to do their jobs, but in order for them to their jobs they need cooperation from the community. However, there can be no cooperation from the community if bad apple cops are allowed to use excessive force, or stop people for no reason — the community ends up being unable to trust the police. And this spiral continues with no end in sight.
President Obama really said it best in his speech when he said:
“Now, look, I’m not naïve. I’m not suggesting that any of this is easy. A lot of times it means more resources for police departments because it’s more labor intensive. If you want that kind of community policing, then you got to have enough police to be able to do that because it takes time to do more than just respond to a call.
And I don’t want to suggest that we’re ever going to eliminate all misunderstanding or stereotypes between police officers and minority communities. It’s certainly not going to happen overnight. And it’s especially tough because there’s more crime in these communities, which means that the police are interacting with them more than they are in some fancy neighborhoods.
Good community policing has to be a two-way street. The communities that desperately need effective policing have to give police officers the benefit of the doubt — and have to work with the police department to make sure you’ve got the resources and support to effectively implement strategies that we know work.
And the flipside of it is when an individual officer does display bias or excessive force, which is going to happen — just like there are going to be politicians who do stupid things, or business leaders; there is no profession that doesn’t have somebody who sometimes screws up — then we’ve got to have departments to honestly and fairly address it, and not just simply close ranks or stand down.
So none of this is easy, but it can be done. And it has be done. Because I refuse to believe that the only choice we have is to either ignore circumstances of racial bias or make it impossible for police officers to do their job. That can’t be the choice that we’ve got. We’ve got to reject that false choice.”
Obama knows there needs to be a way, and there has to be a way to meet in the middle on this. Not all cops are bad, but until the bad ones are weeded out, many communities will find it hard to develop a trusting relationship. Racial bias will likely never completely go away, but the police need to make it a priority to bring awareness to the forefront, and understand what they are doing when they are doing it, and especially how they are conducting themselves. Once communities can gain that trust of those who are there to supposedly protect them, then, and only then, will true progress start to be made all the way around, including the police being better able to do their job.
Video/Featured image: YouTube