We All Must Recognize That Police And Civilians Are Part Of The Same Community
Tragedy struck this weekend when two New York City police officers were murdered. After attempting to kill his girlfriend on Saturday morning, Ismaaiyl Brinsley got on a bus from Baltimore to New York where he shot and killed Officer Wenjian Liu, a recent newlywed and seven-year officer, and Officer Rafael Ramos, father of two with two years on the force.
This senseless act has put New York in a state of shock and further polarized the relationship between many of our communities and law enforcement. More broadly, it seems to have opened afresh the nation’s wounds created in the aftermath of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Protesters in New York have widely condemned the shooting and last night a group of protesters marched to a Harlem church “to remember all victims of violence.”
Now many right-wing pundits and media outlets, including former elected officials, have turned the blame to these peaceful protestors and President Obama, despite his condemnation of this act of violence. Fox News showed coverage essentially implying that President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and the Reverend Al Sharpton shared blame for the murders because of their sympathy for recent victims of police violence. Former New York Governor George Pataki blamed Holder and de Blasio for the murders. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani blamed the protests and just about everyone else for the murders, particularly Mayor de Blasio. And the president of the New York City police union said that there was “blood on many hands tonight” on the night of the murders, singling out de Blasio.
Each of these leaders, including the President, the Attorney General, Mayor de Blasio, Rev. Sharpton and the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, has condemned the shootings for what they were: cold-blooded, unprovoked murder. In addition, de Blasio has called for protestors to temporarily halt the protests, at least until after the funerals of the officers, in order to allow the city to remember its losses.
This kind of political blame and rhetoric only widens our divisions. Our focus should be on how to keep our communities, and those who protect and serve them, safe. These two officers, Liu and Ramos, put their lives on the line to protect the people of their city, and their sacrifice means a lot to New York City and people across the country.
Instead of trying to use this tragedy to point fingers, exert blame on others, and further divide the country, we must come together and develop reforms that achieve fairness under the law and equal rights for all. Last week, the Center for American Progress proposed four such ideas that could help reform the criminal justice system and begin to rebuild trust among in communities.
Here’s another thing we know to be true: laws that allow a felon like Brinsley with 19 arrests to still buy a gun are a problem. Peaceful protestors are not.
BOTTOM LINE: Too often we use the challenges we face in our criminal justice system to divide communities. Tragedies like the many our communities have endured this year underscore how alike we are and the goals we share. We all want safe with strong relationships between residents and police. It is time to focus on solutions to rebuild the trust in our communities.