You might be surprised by how candid the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police was about the law enforcement profession late last year. I don’t think people realize the extent to which police leaders are undergoing serious self-examination. We hear what critics are saying. Here is what IACP President Terry Cunningham of Masschusetts said:
“Some say we are in a moment where we are battling for the very soul of our profession. …
“What we’re seeing is a culmination of a sense of unfairness, injustice, and loss of dignity that so many have experienced, not just at the hands of the police though, but by a social system that has let so many down. Each incident we now see is a flashpoint that’s exploded into increasing unrest, greater mistrust, and calls for major reform. We’ve seen demonstrations in every corner of the country and in many nations around the world, and with it, a momentum that grows with every perceived miscarriage of justice.
“I believe, we’re faced with one of the gravest crises to ever confront the policing profession. Today we stand at a major crossroads. We have a choice before us: either we lead, take action, and define our own destiny or we remain silent and allow others to shape our destiny for us. History is a great teacher: if we do not, others will!”
Cunningham and other leaders want police to work with community leaders and political leaders to face social problems together. I think you’re going to see more and more positive steps in 2016.
RELATED: Obama’s support for law enforcement
It’s still big news when a woman becomes a police chief, especially in Illinois’ second largest city: Aurora, with a population of just more than 200,000.
Kristen Ziman is the experienced Aurora officer who is expected to be approved as police chief this week.
I’ve also discovered that she is a very good writer. She has been a columnist for the Aurora Beacon News, and she has her own blog, where her posts are about policing, and they get personal.
She wrote, for example, about her father’s suicide late last year and she wrote candidly about his angels and demons and her own reaction to them. She was his only child, and he had been a police officer, too. What courage to write about this. What talent to write about this so thoughtfully.
More than anything, I’d like for 2016 to be a year when we have fruitful conversations again about police keeping their communities safe. The national narrative, especially in the media, makes this difficult.
So I was heartened by what President Obama said in a speech last October:
“I reject any narrative that seeks to divide police and communities that they serve. I reject a storyline that says when it comes to public safety there’s an “us” and a “them” –- a narrative that too often gets served up to us by news stations seeking ratings, or tweets seeking retweets. …
“I am convinced that progress comes together when we work together, and we work together best when we’re willing to understand one another — when, instead of having debates over talk radio, we stop and listen to each other so that we can empathize with the father who fears his son can’t walk home without being mistaken for a criminal; and when we sympathize with the wife who can’t rest until her husband walks through the front door at the end of his shift.”
The president said this in Chicago when more than 10,000 people were at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference.
Such reasonable statements tend to get lost, so I’ll have a lot more to say about this topic this year.
“I wish Obama hadn’t said that” [April 29, 2015]