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A Solution to Police Violence

Friday, July 8th, 2016

“When you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.”  That is truth and a quote from some fount of wisdom.

Back in the 1970’s when I lived in Minneapolis I was on the board of the Minneapolis Urban Coalition.  We worked hard to attempt to establish Civilian Review Boards which would work with the police to oversee their work.  Boards where complaints against the police would be brought and worked through by the Civilian Review Board.

The people who were intransigently against these review boards were none other than the police.

WHY?  Because they had sympathy for one another.  They wanted to be ‘reviewed’ by their peers.  They talked about no one else knowing the problems on the job and what they went through and etc.  In reality, what they were saying is that when they saw a brother cop in trouble because he lost his temper; let his biases dictate his actions; messed up in ways that said his emotions had taken over his job, they understood that and if that happened to them – which, because of the stress and tensions of the job it very well could –  they wanted to be brought before a group of their peers who knew that – there, but for the grace of God – goes I.

The talks, negotiations, pleadings, and more fell on deaf ears because no one wanted civilians poking around where the police had messed up or where they appeared to have messed up.

Would the installation of Civilian Review Boards have prevented these recent killings?  And prevented many of the problems which have surfaced over the decades?  I won’t pretend to read the tea leaves, but common sense, experience, knowledge, sensitivity to the human condition says – yes, the establishment of civilian review boards would have gone a long way to entirely preventing the problems we have experienced and seen or they would have gone a long way to mitigating what happens when human beings whose emotions get out of control when they are in the power seat against other human beings and just needed to reach inches for a gun – a taser – a night stick wouldn’t.

The time has come to put this ‘brotherhood” behind and to open the door, windows, passageways which are now blocked to Civilian Review Boards.  Every city needs to immediately establish such and the Civilian Review Boards so established should have real power.  The power to investigate and also to protect whistle blowers in police departments who are experiencing problems because they have brought something that they feel needs fixing to the management and more.

That will make the police forces around this country more effective, not less.  That will give them credibility and a better and stronger trust level in many communities – especially if community members can approach the Civilian Review Board with their complaints, observations, etc. to attempt to make the police force what it is supposed to be.  Perfection  does not exist.  Moving closer to working together brings an understanding and clarity of vision which does not now exist.

Without the killings in Dallas, we were headed for some real heat during this summer.  Anger, grief, bigotry, and more were being unleashed by police across the country and it was only a question of time before all of that anger, grief, bigotry and more unleashed itself and resulted in the killing of police.  A line has now been crossed and there will be no going back until some basic changes are made.  We are, after all, only human and we reach our limits quickly.

Media talkers in the cat bird seat on television are already beginning to say things like “this just doesn’t feel right”.  And so begins the attempt to blame what happened in Dallas on Middle Eastern terrorists.  Or some other group of terrorists who inserted themselves into this community business.  All we need now, to create an unimaginable horror, are great pronouncements from the Don.  Hopefully, this bloody upheaval is not the beginning of his campaign to get himself elected President.  He has certainly set the stage for this to happen.

There didn’t need to be Middle Eastern terrorists intervening.  I know how I felt all day yesterday.  I could not stop crying.  If I had not had such an upbringing with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Christ, God and all of God’s angels threatening me if I took a life I could have easily taken knives and cut police into little pieces, throwing the pieces to the flesh eating fish and felt good about it.

Middle Eastern terrorists may have their issues, but African Americans raised in the deep South during Jim Crow have anger issues which run deep.  Creole women have tempers like none you have seen before and all of that unleashed can reek unbelievable havoc. We didn’t need “foreign immigrants” to act on our behalf.

What is amazing about those comments on television that the media were spewing out this morning is that in the middle of talking about a racially charged issue they introduced their own racism.  The print running at the bottom of the screen could have read – Blacks don’t have the guts, the know how, the drive to do what those shooters did in Dallas – so this just doesn’t ‘feel’ right.  There must be some other explanation other than shootings by the protest groups.

It is way past the time to come to our senses and establish panels to air racial grievances, but we need to take three huge steps back and do exactly that.  And not panels staffed with Blacks and other minorities who the prevailing White Male power structure knows will “be nice.”  We need to establish truth panels, where there are no penalties for speaking truth and some kind of recompense for those who experienced the negative side of the truth being spoken.  We need truth panels where people in the community can go to air their past grievances with the police and a panel which seeks to bring justice out of that truth telling.  Justice, not judgment.

It is also crucially important – even more than truth panels – to establish Civilian Review Boards.

Our normal method of operating is back away from the truth.  It isn’t “nice”.  We have to smile and make nice.  We have to pretend that all is well because we don’t want to offend anyone.  When we reach that point we need to ask ourselves –  how can the truth offend?

It is time to offend.  To offend in love.  It is kind and good.   Truth helps us grow into that space where our lives can be full of unconditional love.

I go to a Church, where in some corners of the building, love and sex are equated.  That is not the kind of love I am talking about and I think most of you know the difference.

I was raised to speak truth to power.  It wasn’t until my old age that I began to realize power doesn’t want to hear truth and will destroy you for attempting to speak the truth because power judges harshly and will eliminate you for being anything other than gracious to it, turning a blind eye to its transgressions.  Power will destroy you and blame you for the destruction.

Love doesn’t judge, bur love does live in the light of truth and forces us to live in that same bright, beautiful light.  Would that all of us could sit in unconditional love for just minutes a day.  Our lives would totally change as we became accustomed to something which  answers our insecurities, our racism, our sexism, our classism, all of the needs we have to be better than; to be more powerful than; to be in the spotlight most of the time; to be prettier than; to have more of the material things in life than; to have someone who we can make the scapegoat for all of our missteps and negative things we do; on whom we can dump everything and then force over the cliff.  Love is what a good life is all about.  Not happiness, not joy, not any of the things we normally seek.  With love everything else comes to order.

Let’s get busy.  The work is huge and the time is short. Make those contacts – set up those Civilian Review Boards – get those Truth Panels going, soonest.  Even if you have to be the shadow where you can’t gain access to be an integral part of, – try it.  Even if you have to set up Truth Panels on street corners – do it.

South Africans had great experience with Truth and Reconciliation Panels.  Are we too arrogant to be that humble?  Does our side have to be right and the others wrong?  We are intelligent human beings.  Notice I didn’t write – educated, because formal, institutional education may be a part of the problem.  Intelligent, sensitive to others, needing to reach out, feeling uncomfortable where you are cast as better than.  Get all of that together and get to work.

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