I think all of us have been affected by watching the killing of George Floyd by the police after his arrest and then watching the many different remarkable things that have happened in the days since then.
There are so many different important issues that have been brought up by what has happened. I don't have all of the answers as to what policies we should change to make things better, but I did want to lay out a couple of things that I believe are true that I think should be guideposts as we try to figure this out.
1. Black Lives Matter. The numbers for our nation as a whole show that African Americans are about 3 times as likely as whites to have force used on them by the police, more likely to be pulled over when driving, and more likely to be killed by the police. There are many identifiable individuals (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner) and aggregate statistics where they have been treated as though their lives don't matter - so it is right to ask for behavior change and policy change that tries to put that right.
2. All communities deserve a police force that makes things better for them, instead of worse, and that they can trust. It has been my privilege and experience to be treated well by law enforcement. And I have seen those in my neighborhood and community treated the same way. If I am out walking late at night and see a patrol car out, my basic assumption is that that officer is my friend and is there to protect me. In some future day, it would be my hope that individuals in all communities would have a similar lived experience.
3. Law Enforcement has a very difficult task. They put themselves at risk on our behalf on a regular basis (remember Officer Nate Lyday who was shot and killed in Ogden two weeks ago when responding to a domestic violence call). We should be thankful to them for their efforts on our behalf, but they still must be held to a high standard of fairness. We should not tolerate officers who treat people differently based on their race. And even if the individual officers in the system are not trying to treat people differently based on their race, but the system is still leading to much worse outcomes for certain races or communities, we should not tolerate that either. We should try to find ways to make it better.
4. Because law enforcement officers are granted exceptions to many of our normal rules of behavior (they can handcuff, they can arrest, they can taze, they can shoot), and because in any large group of people there will be some who are inclined to abuse what power they are given, we need to be careful to have a system that identifies individuals in our law enforcement system who have abused the power they were given and have a workable system to remove them from careers in law enforcement. Conversely, we must treat our entire law enforcement workforce well enough that we are able to attract and retain talented and caring individuals.
In the upcoming special session, it is my understanding that there will be a consensus bill banning the use of law enforcement choke holds. This is a positive step but it is small compared to the overall size of the problem.
I don't have the grand answer to what state laws or policies would best improve these problems. Here are 3 small things that you can do that I think will be positive:
1. Watch "Just Mercy" (available for free on Amazon Prime), which follows the story of Bryan Stephenson as he defends individuals on death row in Alabama.
2. Read "Born a Crime" by Trevor Noah (who is just as funny as an author as he is doing monologues). He tells his remarkable story of growing up mixed race in Apartheid South Africa, with a lot of humor/horror and insight into how racism plays out in society.
I welcome your feedback. Please write me back if you have thoughts on the issue.