As we await the verdict in the Chauvin trial in Minnesota and the possible aftermath across the nation, I believe we must ask ourselves the right questions. Was the choking/killing of Floyd an extreme and unconscionable act? Yes. Absolutely.
Of course we support law enforcement in America, just as we support our military, for enabling most Americans to live in relative freedom. But should police have absolute immunity from prosecution for inappropriate use-of-force? No. After WWII our world decided that soldiers and their officers must answer to a higher moral authority. So should law enforcement. So should all of us. While we must avoid the constant second guessing of our police for instantaneous decisions in life-and-death situations, body cameras, when used, as well as the plethora of private cellphone cameras, offer the opportunity for exoneration as well as incrimination. Of course we don’t want to ‘defund’ our police. But it is not counter-productive to demand uniform sensible use-of-force policies backed up by appropriate hiring and training practices.
America is confronted these days by frequent news of deadly police interactions with minorities. A few bad apples in law enforcement? I used to think so. Now I don’t. Conversely, how is it that our local police and sheriffs in Lake County continue to operate in a uniformly professional manner amidst multi-racial communities? Could it be that constructive leadership, management, hiring and training, on a local level at least, can overcome deficiencies in our society as a whole?
Our founding fathers opposed actions of violent mobs in the early years of our nation. And yet ‘freedom of peaceful assembly’ was established in the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights. We hear a lot about the constitutional ‘right to bear arms’. But Americans also own the right for peaceful demonstration in public parks and streets and private properties. Rioting, looting and violence, although generally a crime against property rather than human life, is unlawful and deplorable, an affront to free peaceful society.
As we listen to passionate voices from both sides, let’s steer clear of all-or-nothing knee-jerk decision-making. Let’s forge a rational path that follows the moral arc of America. Let’s protect the rights of all Americans, the lives of conscientious law officers and the safety of at-risk populations.