Ready to do something constructive?
My complexion resembles that of Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile. To a police officer who does not know me, I benefit–or suffer from–their experiences and/or lack of experiences in dealing with people who look like me.
The Castile tragedy raises serious concerns. How can an officer shoot someone who is complicit with his directions? Why, if the officer feared Castile because of his possession of a gun, did he not wait for backup? Why did the officer fail to immediately provide first aid to Castile after shooting him?
From the continual tragic and untimely death of African-American males by police officers, I still hear the resounding echoes for calls to action, statements that express regret, protests that are carried out responsibly or irresponsibly and then it all happens again. At this point, who does not know that Black lives, or even Human lives, matter?
The question really becomes: Who cares?
Angry? I am beyond angry.
Frustrated? I am beyond frustrated.
Safe? I don’t’ know the police officers around whom I should feel safe.
I want solutions. I want answers. I want changes. Instead of a Congress seeking to find compromises in the best interest of Americans, we have partisan gridlock that makes it virtually impossible to provide solutions to the deaths of all people while under police custody and mass shootings.
According to the Minnesota Star Tribune , nearly 150 people have died while under police custody in Minnesota and not one police officer was charged in any of those deaths. Does this encourage or discourage Minnesota police officers from using excessive force? How comforting is this for the Castile family in seeking justice for their son? Should the federal government lead the investigation as they are doing in Baton Rouge?
I do not want to die like Castile at the hands of police. As President Obama emphasized, I know I am more vulnerable to these types of incidents. As a father, brother, uncle and son, I am not interested in anyone else losing their his or her life to a senseless act of excessive force. We need to do something now to change the culture of police-community relations and institutionalize it as a part of our local community for a national impact.
We don’t have any more time! We don’t need any more victims! We can’t tolerate any more populous messages or dismissive tones! It’s time to do something now to prevent senseless acts of excessive force. It’s time to do something now.
Do Something Now
1. Know the police leadership and officers serving your church. This requires an investment of time; make it a perpetual priority because personnel changes.
2. Present a Know Your Rights seminar on a semi-annual basis in relationship to local or national events involving misconduct by police and/or citizens. Make sure you get both sides and various perspectives for a mutually rewarding discussion.
3. Join and actively participate in the Neighborhood Block Club in your church neighborhood. There is no reason why church members should not participate in the crime watch efforts surrounding God’s house, or host a meeting.
4. Assess and ensure the role of the Police Review Board in your municipality. They assess and review citizen complaints, as well as departmental policies and procedures. If you do not have one, advocate starting one. The timing could not be better.
5. Identify and recognize police officers annually who connect well with residents in your church neighborhood. At this annual community celebration event, you present awards to police officers and others who model appropriate behavior to reinforce it and institutionalize it.