I hear you
My Op-ed published in the Keene Sentinel on June 9, 2020.
We live in a world where the actions of police officers have shattered the respect for law enforcement. Many of us grew up wanting to be a police officer to serve, protect, and help others. Now it seems we need to protect ourselves from their actions. The actions from the ones that join the ranks for the wrong reasons, who stray away from the oath they took, who walk around feeling as if they are above others, crossed the line between good and evil, and the organizations and leaders that allowed it to happen.
Some will argue that George Floyd was resisting arrest and not complying with police orders. To them, I ask, was he resisting arrest at the time of his death, or was he fighting for his life? Was he not complying with police orders to get up, or was he not able to because a police officer had a knee on his neck?
I hear you, stand with you and will not remain silent to racism and implicit biases. I hear you, stand with you and will not remain silent to inequality and unfair treatment because of the color of our skin. I hear you, stand with you and not will remain silent to the injustices and hatred we have seen across the nation.
While we profess to protect and serve our communities, how are we protecting them from the ones that stray? How are we bringing back that sense of service to others from those that disregard life? We must take a stand, and as leaders, eliminate the biases within our organizations.
When I witness evil among law enforcement on national television, I weep, I get angry, I suffer within. How did it get this way? How can someone who should live and act by the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor that "I will never Betray my integrity, my character, Or the public trust? I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always maintain the highest ethical standards and uphold the values of my community, and the agency I serve" betray that oath.
Where did we fail? How did we allow our integrity, our character, our public trust to be betrayed? Where is the courage to hold ourselves and others accountable? Are those high ethical standards and community values gone? As leaders, did we fail to recognize these failures? Are we owning up to our mistakes and learning from them?
As a person of color myself, I should not fear my country. I should be able to go for a jog and return home, interact with anyone wherever I am, and walk the streets without being singled out.
As a police officer, I had my share of racism directed at me when I made an arrest or interacted with someone, my attitude then, no big deal they just have a couple more slangs to shout at me. Some of my police colleagues would get angry and say, "how do you tolerate that" and I would reply, "I put on my duck suit and let it roll off." During the Rodney King event, I thought to myself, "Wow, that's bad" and went about my day. As wisdom kicked in, I started to acknowledge that our nation had a greater problem, that I, too, had been the victim of hatred, and I started to pay more attention.
A good friend, Rick Van Wickler, said, "Our Criminal Justice system only works well if it has selfless servants who have an appreciation for the ideals of freedom, process, justice, objectivity and making decisions based on facts and not personal morals or prejudice."
As your Sheriff, I will not tolerate racism, implicit or explicit biases, discrimination, hatred, prejudice, or intolerance. I will hold accountable those that cross the line between good and evil, and I will stand for human rights, criminal justice reform, equality, and fair treatment of all. As your Sheriff, I will not hide behind the excuse of "the few bad apples" and brush off the bigger picture. I will begin the process of reviewing our policies, especially our Use of Force, and make then available online. I will create the Sheriff's Criminal Justice Advisory Team and engage members from the community and have the tough discussions our nation needs.
To the men and women who put on the uniform for all the right reasons, thank you. Thank you for discerning good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, you are the true heroes. Thank you for wearing the badge with honor. Continue to treat everyone with dignity and respect and stay true to yourself and the people you swore to protect and serve. We are blessed to have in our community dedicated law enforcement officers that stand between good and evil.
I hear you, I stand with you and will not remain silent.