A Constructive Approach to Policing and Race

Those of us who remember the race riots of the 1960s, especially those that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968, know the horrible nature of the paradox that occurs when oppressed people feel forced to express their rage through the use of violence. The very people who incited the rage are those called upon to quell it. To put the matter more simply: what group of people does the Minneapolis mayor call upon to face a riot that resulted from police misconduct?

Spirited Reasoners know that these whirlwinds were sown hundreds of years ago, when plantation owners, mostly in the south, chose to find nothing morally wrong with enriching themselves through the enslavement of innocent men, women, and children. Apparently, that willingness for certain powerful people to turn a blind eye to the miseries of our fellow human beings is alive and well in the year 2020, a year whose numbers ought to stand for perfect vision.

The solution for Spirited Reasoners cannot be to stand quietly by, while wringing our hands with regret. It is time for us to demand concrete steps to ensure the diminishment of racism among those agencies whose job it is to protect and serve us all.

What steps might those be?

One approach—involving the commitment of state and national resources (i. e., taxpayer dollars)—would be the requirement of professional training for every person hired to serve as a police officer in jurisdictions large and small. The FBI’s Training Academy, located in Quantico, Virginia, could serve as a model for such training.

Do we care enough, as a nation, to spend the money it would take to successfully educate and/or weed out those bad apples on every police force who tarnish the image of those dedicated to helping their communities? Perhaps I phrased that question incorrectly. I should ask it the following way: Can we afford not to address the racism and lack of professionalism that has infected too many of our local police departments?

Some would argue that no amount of education can cure racism. Spirited Reasoners would respond that there is a reason why the FBI is the agency most often called in to address local Civil Rights violations.

All of us have seen examples of police officers engaging in acts of love and friendship toward vulnerable, powerless people. These are the officers who will feel empowered, and be rewarded, by a new commitment aimed at increasing professionalism and community service. Weeding out the bad apples allows us to focus more frequently on the good ones. The FBI facilities in Quantico have been expanded several times over the past fifty years, usually in response to national and international crises. It’s time we expanded their professional training concept—especially in areas of multicultural appreciation—to all fifty states.