Five former Memphis Police Department officers were charged with second-degree murder in the beating of a 29-year-old Black man, Tyre Nichols, after a traffic stop. The attack — which attorneys for the victim’s family describe as resembling the Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King — was caught on video to be released shortly.
Straight Arrow News contributor Star Parker says that police who abuse their power are a danger to society and must be held accountable. However, Parker argues, the answer is not violence against law enforcement, which will only sow distrust and impair the communities those officers swore to protect.
As crowds of people gathered to watch the ball drop in New York City on New Year’s Eve, police officers were out in the streets to ensure the peace and safety of the friends and families that gathered for the new year. You have to expect the unexpected, possibly more than in any other job in America, when you serve as a police officer.
Sadly, the unexpected that night resulted in three of those police officers being attacked with a machete.
Since the new year began, we’ve seen headlines of riots in Atlanta where they smashed windows, threw rocks, and set a police vehicle on fire.
We’ve even seen that a member of the Democrats’ leadership in Congress, House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, had a daughter arrested during a protest in Boston. She has been arraigned on charges that includes an assault on a police officer. Recent headlines of riots destroying property and attacks against law enforcement officers may detail new incidents, but they sadly do not tell a new story.
This has long been an issue making headlines for too many years. In 1992, I operated a small publishing business in Los Angeles. It was destroyed as a result of riots that ensued after four police officers were acquitted of charges of excessive violence in the beating of Rodney King. It changed my life. I focused my resolve to work in public policy to change destructive realities that were taking our distressed communities, and the whole nation, in what I saw as the wrong direction. That was about 30 years ago. Yet, it still is going on: chaos and destruction.
In order for communities to thrive, it is vital that there be a reasonable level of trust and cooperation between residents and the public officials who serve and protect them. To be sure, police who abuse their power are dangerous to the community. Derek Chauvin had 18 complaints against him before he committed his final deadly act against George Floyd. Personal responsibility must be the hallmark in a free country, whether we’re talking about obeying the law or enforcing it.
However, policing is a dangerous profession, and it is notable that most police officers never fire a weapon throughout their entire career. We need to strike a balance that enables police officers to act appropriately to protect the public and defend themselves, but we also need better processes to identify and remove those who cause harm in their communities and undercut the public’s trust in the entire profession of policing. Better data collection, more transparency, improved training, and open communication between police and key people in their communities are some of the solutions to work towards.
At the same time, however, violence and destructive actions will only continue to put police officers and individuals in harm’s way while destroying the very communities that are desperately trying to build towards a peaceful and prosperous future.