But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
(Amo 5:24 NIV)
The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
(Psa 103:6 NIV)
Yesterday, the jury came back with a guilty verdict of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd that happened this past May. The Jury found that Derek Chauvin was guilty of murder in the second and third degree. Normaly, this sentence would give him 12 years in prison, but the prosecution will ask for 40 years in prison.
I live in Central, Ohio in a bedroom community of Columbus called Sunbury. We are on the edge of the Columbus suburbs and rural Central, Ohio. Most people that I know of are indifferent to the murder of George Floyd, or police shootings in Columbus. I also have a dear friend who has family members that serve in the City of Columbus Police Force, and also serve or have served in the Ohio Highway Patrol.
Since the death of George Floyd, three African American people have been shot and killed by police for being a the wrong place and at the wrong time. My heart breaks for the families of these young people who were victims of police brutality within Columbus.
At the same time, my heart goes out to those that believe they are called to “serve and protect” and are police officers. In crisis situations it is becoming “damned if I do, or damned if I don’t” when it comes to apprehending perpetrators who break the law especially when it comes to people of color who are both black and brown. The anxiety and fear that both police officers and those from lower income communities who are black and brown is huge. Police officers are anxious because they believe they cannot do their job without the world watching and waiting to accuse them of police brutality and systemic racism. On the other hand, those that come from lower income neighborhoods have a heightened fear of those that are called to serve and protect them. It is the same old same old to them. They are targeted, labeled, and are victims of systemic racism that leads to police shootings and murder of innocent victims who are people of color.
I remember listening to a U2 concert and it was right after a terrorist attack in Paris, France. Bono is singing the song “City of Lights”, and as he is moved by the Spirit, he adlibs and starts signing and saying over and over again “Love over fear” (1 John 4:18).
I believe the key to healing both the black and brown neighborhoods that are targeted by racial profiling by the police, and the anxiety that police officers feel to serve and protect those community is love and compassion. Partly, police officers need to build relationships with those that they serve and protect through love and compassion. Understand the level of poverty, brokenness and pain that systemic racism has affected people that they serve which can lead to drug abuse, shame, and violence in those neighborhoods. On the other hand those that are victims of systemic racism need to understand the fear and anxiety that police officers face in crisis situations. Being a calm presence on both ends goes a long way especially in a crisis.
Now to engage the “other” is to take work, love, time, and compassion. Being able to step into someone else’s shoes is complex. All humans are storyteller’s, and being able to understand the level of brokenness that we all face individually, or corporately takes time. I do know that understanding won’t help in a time of crisis where quick decisions need to be made such as for a police officer, “do I use violence to apprehend the perpetrator, or do I try to negotiate with them?” What is the best decision? For those that are victims of racial profiling, “am I going to be calm and compliant, or am I going to be anxious and defensive?” Defensiveness can lead to violence especially if the officer is anxious. Having a calm presence can lead to understanding and allowing the officer to do their job even if it means getting a ticket. On the other hand the officer being calm if they pull over someone can also lead to calmness for the person that they are investigating.
From a policy perspective, police reform is needed nationwide. Better training, racial training, psychological training, etc. Social work may be appropriate for part of the police reform that police officers need to take classes in social work to understand the complexity of the neighborhoods they are called to serve and protect especially when it comes to those that are impoverished.
You all may not agree with above, but these are my thoughts of the Derek Chauvin verdict for the murder of George Floyd.
After watching the video from the police officers body camera for the recent shooting of Ms. Bryant, the situation could have been descalated without the use of violence and the use of deadly force. The officer was not in any danger of harm. Ms. Bryant did lunge with a kitchen knife at a girl she was in a fight with, but not at the officer. Again it goes to a lack of a calm presence in the situation by the officers involved where tensions were high with the conflict between the teenage girls. There definitely needs to be more training and new policies within the City of Columbus Police Department so these incidents do not keep on happening.