The recent murder conviction of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, has resonated throughout our community and the country. Discussions and debates about the trial have taken place across all grades and among many adults at Hebron. One thing is for sure, there is a great deal of uncertainty as it pertains to policing in America. Many will argue that Officer Chauvin overstepped his authority, while others believe that Chauvin performed his duties within appropriate training boundaries and departmental practices. Folks on both sides of this argument will find it difficult to find common ground and agreement in this case.
Law enforcement officers have a difficult and oftentimes thankless job. Most who dare to strap on the ‘uniform’ have families of their own, and desire little more than to get back to them each night, safely. We know that years on the job can create physical and mental health issues, that the job is stressful, and that on any given day your life can be terminated. Decisions that impact lives and the wellbeing of others are made instinctively and instantaneously. There are few opportunities to rehearse or practice anticipated outcomes, and everything that is done is judged and scrutinized. Police officers are literally under a microscope, and in today’s world, in front of a handheld camera phone.
That being said, police officers who show a propensity for unwarranted violence, or a disregard for policing protocols need to be held to account.
It is time that cities and municipalities find the money and expend the resources to educate, support, train, and evaluate police officers. Departments across the country need to do a better job of screening and training when hiring and then tracking police behavior after they are on the job. Police departments need to find ways to root out officers who subscribe to racist or zenophobic ideologies. Officers deserve to receive regular counseling support so they may discuss with a mental health professional the stresses and challenges of the job without being judged. The real stressors of their jobs create a need for sabbaticals, which will allow them to regroup and retrain. Training in community outreach and partnerships should be standard practice, as well as training in cultural competency and anti-racism. Too many lives have been lost, too many families have been destroyed, too many communities have become fractured. Policing in the United States of America can and must be better.
Chair, D.E.I. Task Force