Monday, March 16, 2015

Change is needed in law enforcement practices, but let's not pick "sides"

Let's commit to ending racial disparities, but let's also recognize the sacrifices that most law enforcement officers make

If you have time this morning, read the Appleton Post Crescent’s recent editorial about the death of Tony Robinson. It’s a smart piece, and it gives real context to the debate overall.

Here’s a quick excerpt, a response to the comments that the Post Crescent received on its stories about the situation:
The word “thug” was tossed around and people talked about the value of one person’s life over another. Some unquestionably backed police officers and others said police never have good intentions. Few offered solutions.

When we blindly repeat labels, nothing is accomplished.

No matter what your thoughts, we can all look at the big picture: We want a more peaceful society. We don’t want to live in fear of criminals or police.
I don’t believe that we need to “pick sides” in this conversation. There is a disproportionate amount of crime that seems to target black people in this state. Indeed, Wisconsin locks up more African Americans in its jails than any other state in the nation. That fact desperately needs our attention, and solutions need to be made quickly.

At the same time, respect for law enforcement must remain. Even the family of Tony Robinson acknowledged this.

“We are not proponents of anti-police, in terms of the chants I hear, in regards to not trusting police -- we don’t condone that,” Robinson’s uncle said at a recent press conference.

Madison’s Police Chief Mike Koval has expressed his apologies to the community and to the Robinson family, and has also acknowledged the need for change to address the growing problem of racial disparities in the city. The Robinson’s have expressed their respect for law enforcement and the need to keep this matter civil when protests occur.

The people on both sides of this issue need to do the same.

As for me, I support change in policing that will create a more reputable and fair process. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-police. Quite the contrary -- I try and show respect for law enforcement whenever possible, understanding that they put their lives on the line for us every day.

Change is needed. And the debate on that change needs to be open and honest, resulting in a process that everyone can respect.

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