Police officers involved in deadly force incidents would be investigated and prosecuted by special prosecutors, according to forthcoming legislation by State Sen.-Elect Art Haywood of Philadelphia. That’s a great idea.
Pittsburgh police chaplains are encouraging residents to display blue lights or candles in windows in memory of fallen officers and to call for peace. Also a great idea.
A fever is setting in among Americans, whether it be chagrined police leaders outrageously declaring “war” or barmy radicals calling for violent retribution. No matter what your prejudices when it comes to the state of race relations and police-community relations, it’s hard to be encouraged.
However, the Comet is convinced this polarization is a false perception. For one thing, we humans are extremely well-adept at finding things which concern and disturb us, then turning them over and over in our brains — and we now have infinite information at our fingertips, entirely too often. For another thing, playing to outrage serves a variety of egoistic purposes for some individuals, and can easily become competitive.
But the vast, vast majority of social justice demonstrators, of law enforcement officials, and of those caught horror-struck in the middle value police officers and police work highly, and are frustrated that our institutional mechanisms are still not yet up to snuff to account for the biases all humans equally possess. The devastating majority empathize with over-stressed police and now with underprivileged minorities both. Because there is no contradiction in that whatsoever.
To get through this period, we’re all going to need to remind each other of that. Incessantly. Obsessively. And whether or not it seems personally or socially advantageous.
If you are a police officer or in those circles, tell your brethren to cut out the defensive machismo and accept the mission to recapture community legitimacy and to make forward strategic progress in crime reduction. To haul the profession out of the dark ages.
If you’re an activist or in those circles, tell your comrades that you’re in this for justice-seeking measures like special prosecutors, body cameras, demilitarization, implicit bias training and transparency, not to seize of the means of production, escape to a romantic inner fantasy, or lash out at authority to prove to yourself that you can.
If anyone complains to you about “diversity of tactics,” let them know you realize alienating yourself from almost everybody and shooting yourself in the face isn’t a tactic. And if anyone calls out your “moderation” as born of privilege, tell them yes, of course you are privileged — how not? — privileged enough to have thus far avoided being so personally or permanently wounded and grief-stricken, that you can still empathize with all the players in this farce, and are willing to undertake the long struggle of repair without succumbing to momentary or to childishly destructive rage.
Too many lives and families at risk, and too many borderline personalities are out there eager to top you or to prove something to you. Additionally, you should realize by now that the extreme voices on both sides — bullying cops and coy agitators — are each others’ very best allies. Don’t feed the trolls.
Now, it remains true that there is a conspicuous lot of pressing, public, unfinished business to be done when it comes to police accountability. And don’t read this as suggesting that blocking traffic or disrupting people’s routines is uncalled for — Black lives matter a lot more than a speedy commute.
What I am convinced of is that responsible people have to step up and be proud to be responsible. It is time to wake from the fever-dream of total war, to cease fearing what the chichi, charismatic and rage-filled millennials think of us. It is time for leadership to make a comeback.
And it’s time for civil authorities and justice activists to remember that despite some real challenges, that they love and need one another — and that that’s okay. In fact, we should shout it from the rooftops.
MORE: Pittsburgh Police Chief McLay, in an open letter urging trust and reconciliation, buries the lede that the officer under scrutiny for his treatment of Leon Ford has been assigned to “non-punitive” desk duty, as had been sought.