I grew up in a safe community. I knew the local cops, my parents had gone to school with some, while others were patrolling when my folks were young, we were a small town. Our police emergencies were comprised of people speeding, checking the parking meters, and the occasional breaking and entering. When lager crimes, like murder, did happen, it was by a community outsider. By outsider I mean both someone not from “these parts” and those on the fringe of society. These were the people who committed crime, people not like us. We did not trust outsiders, we did trust Sargent Stako, who came to our classroom and taught D.A.R.E., we did trust that he would keep us safe, protect us as would his coworkers.
The utopian community of my youth may have existed, but the communities I have had the privilege of living in over the past fifteen years paint a very different story of police. I remember when it all changed and I saw crime fighting as the gritty, corrupt and violent job it was made out to be on TV. I was staying in Philly with some friends, and I saw a drug deal, while a police car was sitting there. The officer did nothing. When I inquired as to why nothing was done I was introduced to the police/drug/community relationship- they all help each other out, it is very symbiotic.
I saw similar things in Chicago, police being intentionally mean to homeless men, overlooking drug deals, and using excessive force when unnecessary. In Chester I saw police pick up corner dealers, drive around the block than just drop them off. I heard story after story of young women being verbally and sometimes physically accosted by the police. I saw a women bleeding out from a gun shot and the police forcing her to lay there while not allowing the ambulance or the medics to work on her. And today I saw a video of an other man shot and killed by the police.
I know there are great police officers all over this country. I actually know some, I know men and women who truly long for safe streets and the betterment of their community. There are shining examples of men and women in uniform. In Chester there was Officer R (I did not ask to use her info, so you just get a letter), the only officer I trusted. She loved the neighborhood, helped residents get their GED, found jobs for those with felonies, and played with kids on the block. She understood what community transformation could look like. She created community and believed in Kingdom living.
With another life taken, it is easy to slam all police, but there are more Rs out there, and as residents we need to encourage them. Unfortunately there are also bad cops who take lives, city time, and the safety from communities they are supposed to serve. This needs to be inexcusable and unacceptable. I do not know how to fix this problem, I do not know how to make justice happen, I just know I can not be silent. I do not expect the safety of my youth, but I can hope for it.