A few days ago, in Grand Rapids Michigan a traffic stop turned into another incident of police violence against a citizen. According to the independent autopsy report that was ordered by his family, he was shot in the back of the head with the gun making contact with his body.
One is left to ponder, why it was necessary to shoot him since he was on the ground with a gun directly connecting to his body?
But the pondering is short lived because we have many threads that point to portions of the answer. We have talked about the issues facing our communities of color and policing for decades. We have protested. We have worked at reforms. We have created a body of materials, workshops, and other educational tools to help address this issue before us. We talk about dismantling police forces, abolishing policing altogether, changing funding strategies to pay more for prevention measures and yet, hundreds of our mostly young black and brown citizens, especially males, continue to be killed. Many hundreds have been killed since George Floyd’s murder in 2020.
What are we really doing about this issue? While some of the initiatives are helpful, most of them are falling far short of what is needed and there are many jurisdictions that are not enacting reforms at all. We cannot afford to continue to lose our young people in this manner. We cannot continue to afford to use our energy as we have in the past while continuing the same patterns.
Quite frankly, I cannot imagine that there will be any time in the United States of America where all police departments would go away to be replaced by some type of system that we have yet to imagine. But I can imagine that we can do better than we are doing with addressing the underlying causes that continue to support environments that lead to much of the violence being exhibited toward people of color and poor people, by men and women with policing power.
Policing is entangled with slavery in fundamental ways that need to be more carefully interrogated. The issues that arise out of this historical fact are generally skipped as we talk about needing to train officers better, pay better salaries and other efforts that amount to little more than putting a band aid on a wound that needs major surgery.
Racism and the fear that it continues to support across this land of ours cannot be left out of our efforts to find solutions. Space has to be created that makes it possible to bring those in uniforms and the citizens with whom they must interact together to start a process that might lead to a better understanding of one another as the Creator’s beloved children, who are seen as equals by the Creator. There is no escaping this step, though much effort is expended in attempting to do so.
Let’s name all of the pieces to this puzzle and begin to place our reimagining policing work in that context of truth telling that can help us to get to the bottom of the reasons that a police officer would find it appropriate to shoot a person in the back of his head. Our task is to find the answer to such questions and to seek a remedy that can benefit everyone.
In 2020 after George Floyd’s public execution at the hands of police, the world exploded in reaction to that and the pent-up energy that Covid-19 had brought to us. Hundreds have been killed since George Floyd, just not so publicly. Why are we still talking more than
acting? Unfortunately for many the system is working quite satisfactorily. There is that underlying suspicion that black and brown folks are just worse than whites and that the force and deadly force that police use in those communities are justified and desirable.
This is a part of the problem before us. How and where can we find the police officers, regular citizens (black, brown), those living under less than desirable circumstances and all other interested, caring thoughtful people who are willing to find a way to sit in the room together and listen to one another? A collection of folks who listen to one another and who are willing to imagine a way ahead which can lead us to the creation of new ways to do policing and public safety work throughout this country.
We must have the audacity to believe that we can do better! Because we can do better!