This past week has seen a new and violent turn surrounding the national dialogue about local police and minority communities currently underway. The tragic loss of two of NYPD’s finest has upped the proverbial ante on both sides. The supporters of the police see these killings as a natural outcome of recent protests, whereas protestors decry them as the acts of a lone madman whose anti-social tendencies were likely shaped, if only in part, by the proliferation of unnecessarily harsh police tactics. Wherever the truth may lie, one thing is for certain: acts of violence from either side will only escalate the dangerously high tensions which already exist between police and the community. And in corollary to this, I believe that FURTHER acts of violence will eventually force the hand of law enforcement in ways that will be counter-productive to the largely peaceful protests that have been gaining momentum nationwide.
America right now sits on a powder keg of anger, indignation and fear. In every city and urban area across this country, minority communities are attempting to give voice to long-held resentments and frustrations with what they perceive as blatantly biased and unfair treatment at the hands of law enforcement. And while much of it is surely justified, not all of it is. The oft cited sentiment that ‘most’ police officers are ‘good’ and that it is only a ‘few’ who give the rest of law enforcement a ‘bad’ name is true to a large degree. To what degree that is, I do not know for certain. But I am confident that, in 2014, more officers than not are of the ‘good’ variety and do, in fact, have the public’s best interest at heart. They do a job that not only many of us would not do, but many of us could not. And to that extent, I believe they are to be commended for such. Likewise, I believe that as socially-conscious citizens in a civilized society, we have an obligation to show respect for the authority and police powers granted to law enforcement by the state. Indeed, such is not only a rational but also a beneficial exercise of one’s duty to a democratic society (to the extent, of course, that the state’s authority is exercised in a manner not inconsistent with our Constitution’s Bill of Rights). In other words, the legitimate exercise of authority by the police should always be adhered to as well as respected. Concomitantly, where such authority is abused, we as citizens have a right to seek redress. Clearly, civil demonstrations by way of marching, protests, boycotts, etc., have long been recognized as legitimate avenues of such redress.
Additionally, I feel that as human beings living in a post-Enlightenment world, we have not only a social but a moral obligation to minimize the use of violence as a means of solving social and political issues. Resorting to violence in order to make a political statement is sign of weakness — it demonstrates that one has given up on the almost always more effective (as well is infinitely more humane and civilized) approaches of diplomacy, negotiation and compromise. The violent acts that we have seen perpetrated against police in the last several weeks, amid nationwide upheaval, simply CANNOT BE CONDONED as an acceptable form of protest. The anger and frustration of the aggrieved communities is palpable and real, of this there can be no doubt. But in 2014, the pathway to justice cannot be paved in blood. And so violence against the police in any form must be ROUNDLY AND UNEQUIVOCALLY CONDEMNED! Not only is it wrong, it is counter-productive to any movement that seeking a change in police policy, methodology and procedure. There is no surer way to convince your opponent of the rightness of his or her own convictions than by attempting to make your point through the use of force. It is a recipe for disaster that, in the end, will likely only produce the opposite effect of what was intended. This principle applies equally to law enforcement, to the extent they are inclined to overstep the bounds of their legal authority.
So in this instance, though I am typically critical of government in its exercise of police powers, I stand with law enforcement in condemning any acts of violence perpetrated against police officers in the name of so-called justice. Such misguided expressions of ‘political protest’ are wrong and should be neither endorsed nor tolerated by any of us, regardless of which side of this issue we stand. Those of us who are involved with or sympathize with the protestors of police brutality and excessive force must disavow such acts as much for the sake of keeping the peace as for our own collective social conscience. And while I disagree with the recent proclamations of those who insist that the blood of slain police officers is ‘on the hands’ of the protestors, I feel that continued retributive acts of this sort will only perpetuate such misplaced perceptions and so fan the flames of hateful rhetoric. So I would strongly urge we continue the call for peaceful collaboration between our community, our leaders and the police as we strive to find solutions to the many deep, perplexing and longstanding social issues that have once more bubbled to the surface. We can only move forward together. Divided, we will only continue to fragment until we ultimately disintegrate.