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Stand up for justice
by Bryan Gray
Jul 19, 2016 | 2206 views | 0 0 comments | 314 314 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week most of us were exhorted to do one of two things: stand with the police or stand with the victims of police misconduct. Sensible people would choose neither; instead, we should solidly stand up for justice.

This means we would mourn the murder of the police officers in Dallas and send a firm message; regardless of how you react to a headline or news feed, if you assault a law enforcement officer you should prepare your loved ones by purchasing yourself a burial plot.

The irony in the Dallas killings is that the shooter was not a put-upon, victimized product of an underprivileged childhood. He was a U.S. Army veteran who lived in a middle-class neighborhood with shaded patios.

His hatred seemed to have little connection to the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, statistically he is not the norm. Instead, 71 percent of police who’ve been shot and killed so far in 2016 have been killed by white men. The bottom line, however, is that we should care nothing about the motivation; rather, we should feel satisfied he is no longer around to inflict harm on anyone else.

In doing that we are standing up for justice. And in doing so, we need to come to grips with the reality that not all cops are good cops. If police officers won’t rein in their own, elected officials and police chiefs will have to do it.

Unless you are blind, there is no way to excuse the recent killings of black men in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. And don’t say racism is a past sin when studies show that 6 percent of a population (African American men) account for 40 percent of traffic stops in some communities. It is sophomoric to think the police were “just doing their jobs.”

I’m reminded of a young friend who lives in the Bay Area, a well-spoken black man with a college degree and his own business. He told me once, “I’m big and I’m black. I don’t wear a suit and tie for my job. Whenever I drive to or from work, I’m constantly concerned that I might not return due to a nervous cop.”

Note that the dead driver in Minnesota, Philando Castile, had been stopped by police more than 50 times for such notable reasons as driving without a muffler and not wearing a seatbelt. Then ask yourself how often you’ve been pulled over for not buckling up.

We must stand up for justice by stating that driving while black is not a crime! And any police officer who scoffs at this should be summarily fired.

Undoubtedly, the vast majority of police officers are professional, fair, impartial, and deserve our gratitude and respect. There are very few “bad apples” and few overt racists. But as a professor of criminology told an Associated Press reporter, cops are not immune from implicit bias.

“If I, as a white, middle-aged woman, reach into my pocket, most people aren’t going to experience fear,” said the professor. “For a black male with dreadlocks, that ambiguous action could produce fear in many people.”

The answer is multi-faceted – better training, expansion of “community policing” models rather than military tactical images, pay commensurate with value to the community, focus on valid public safety initiatives, not building city coffers by hassling people for broken taillights, etc.

I would not want to be a police officer. It’s a tough job. Neither would I want to be a black man in a racist society. Yet both deserve justice, not the “us versus them” taking of sides.

Ed. Note: The killing of police officers in Baton Rouge, La. had not yet occurred at the time this column was written.

The opinions stated in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ownership or management of this newspaper.

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