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Reimagining Policing Is Still Waiting

What does reimagining policing require? It requires us to be willing to honestly review what we are doing, reform the use of police force, redefine public safety, and to address racism within law enforcement with the intent to combat it.

It is not about wholesale defunding or diminishing police departments, which is not going to happen in this country as we all know. While that sound bite might have been helpful as a part of some type of past attention getting campaigns, it is not helpful as we work to try to find sustainable remedies to the challenges around policing and public safety that continue to confront us. We have to get beyond the polarization that plagues us in this matter and seriously consider finding ways to communicate with all entities which includes law enforcement officers and citizens. All of us are in this together.

We have struggled in the Diocese of Atlanta to find a path to creating dialogue and new direction regarding policing. We have not found it yet and neither have most other places. We know that we cannot allow ourselves to join the folks that respond to a crisis with a fair amount of engagement and then allow the issue to be placed on the back burner to the next crisis. We are called to be more responsible than that and we need to remember that young black and brown people are losing their lives each day because of a lack of resolution of some the policing issues that we need to be addressing.

We applaud the efforts that are being made around the country to bear witness to the fact that education, training and police accountability have to be put together in order to move forward toward developing better relationships and better opportunities for public safety to be the focus of policing instead of some ways that is currently focused. In addition to the issues with policing itself is the larger issue of using jails as defacto mental health facilities. It is an indisputable fact that many of the folks who find themselves in our jails need to have mental health care which they will not receive there and this has to be considered as we begin to work reimagining policing and public safety. The issue of mental health is a major factor in some of the outcomes of police interactions and cannot be ignored.

Since we, as a faith-based center as well as the wider faith community, do not have the luxury of simply reacting to an issue when there is a crisis and then disappearing as we have seen the country do since George Floyd was murdered regarding this issue, we continue to interrogate ourselves about next steps. We are not sure what they might be, but we know that we have to stay in the conversation. We tried to mobilize clergy to engage parishes with this work but there are too many other issues for them to address as they work their way through the challenges of the pandemic to get the traction that we need and we know that we cannot continue to wait. So we are trying another path.

We have engaged a police officer who really understands all of the dimensions of the issue and who is committed to the notion that our work needs to be focused on public safety and working to make sure that police officers and citizens get what they need and deserve. He will be joined by a concerned citizen who is very knowledgeable and passionate about this matter to help in organizing a group of law enforcement persons to be in a conversation with us at the Center for Racial Healing about the way forward. After we have convened the group of police and began these conversations, we will expand it to include citizens who care and who want to seek sustainable remedies. We have to talk to and with one another, the current polarization is not helpful.

We do not know where our conversations will lead us. We are open to allowing a path to unfold that can help us find concrete and effective ways to help in facilitating changes that can save the lives of police and citizens and that will contribute to making all of us be safer. At the end of the day all of us, police and citizens that are interacting with them in any way have a right to go home alive. And we people of faith have a responsibility and a call to be engaged in trying to help find the path to help create environments where this is true.

Please join us in your community if you are not engaged already and if you are engaged in any initiative that you wish to share, please let us know.

Be a half shade braver.

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