Sheriff’s Association statement didn’t acknowledge systemic racism against African Americans
I read with interest the New York State Sheriffs’ Association June 5 statement that they would like to engage “in open and honest discussions on … regaining the public’s trust in law enforcement through fact-based studies and training.”
While such a discussion is long overdue, their remarks regarding the death of George Floyd suggest that they don’t understand the problem.
The Association stated that politicians who talk of “systemic racism” are using it “for political gain.” In the United States of America, a white male born in 1997 has about a 1 in 23 chance of going to state or federal prison in his lifetime, whereas a black man has a 1 in 4 chance. African American children make up 32% of all children who are arrested, even though they make up far less of the underage population.
And an African American with a criminal record is about 50% more likely to be passed over for a job as a white person with a criminal record. If that isn’t systemic, I don’t know what is. Truly engaging in an open and honest discussion requires acknowledging that systemic racism is a problem in our country.
The sheriffs who signed the statement watched the video of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis and saw “one rogue cop.” The rest of America saw two other cops help him, and one more who made sure no bystanders interfered. Police in the U.S. kill far more people than police in other western nations.
It wasn’t politicians leaving their “mansions” who started the current protest movement. It was average people, of all colors, who decided they are tired of watching stories of “rogue” cops treating U.S. citizens in a way that police would never stand for their own families or friends being treated.
As a white woman with friends and family members who have worked or currently work in law enforcement, I recognize the difficult situations that police officers have to face every day. All of us have racial bias (including me), and to think that this bias isn’t affecting both how police behave and how they are perceived is naïve. But clearly police training in “recognizing implicit bias, and proper use of force” is not working in all police departments.
As part of the Sheriffs’ Association’s commitment to their communities, I ask that these leaders don’t just think about “us” doing outreach to “them,” but instead start by asking “What are WE willing to change to make sure this doesn’t happen anymore?”