From President Barack Obama:
So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
He’s right. Voting out national officials is important and something we should be striving for but the place to make a real difference in the fight to reform police departments and our entire criminal justice system is at the local level. I also love this point:
the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away.
All too often, these sorts of protests turn into a culture war distraction instead of a catalyst for a discussion on the specific issues. Let’s not allow cable news and social media to distract from the reforms that are needed. Of course, Obama wouldn’t be Obama without thinking this angle through already. He’s linked to a really great (153 page!) plain-English set of resources you can consult when trying to advocate for change in your local community. Additional resources were posted on the Obama foundation website as well.
The bottom line is, police officers in many communities do not see the folks they’re supposed to be protecting and serving as one of them. They’re insulated from their communities, often don’t look like the demographics they serve, and are outfit like warriors due to military surplus programs. No wonder they treat criminals, especially black ones, the way they do.
A lot of cities in the south are sprawling and so concepts like community policing are not deeply ingrained at the level that they should be. But even if they aren’t walking a block or two and interacting with the community, there are other ways they can get involved and make a difference in breaking down barriers between themselves and their community. Turn the corner on that and roll back the programs that allow local police departments to be outfit like they’re going into battle and we might be on the right path.