Updated: Jul 23
by Bill Davis
What values will lead us to action in these troubling times?
As if we did not have enough problems, the outrage over racial injustice and inequality boiling over in our streets and screens, and the horrors that prompted them, has many of us asking, “What are we going to do to finally address these issues?” Just defund police departments?
In their hearts, I think most people, whether Democrat or Republican, share the values of Compassion, Justice, and Responsible Citizenship.
What steps have been taken locally?
But we must translate these values into practice, so we must ask “What practical steps can be taken, especially to reduce unnecessary violence by the police, which tends to disproportionately affect people of color?”
The Tri-City Mayors have a statement on the City of Dover website assuring that “our local police departments remain committed to equal and just treatment of all citizens and constant self-examination for improvement.” Including “African American, Native Americans, immigrants, Latinos, Asians, LGBT, all ethnic groups, all religions.” Policy statements are important but training, regular reinforcement, and accountability are necessary, as well.
What is the Dover Police Department doing to promote fairness and racial justice?
I am greatly encouraged that Dover has already taken important first steps that I hope all police departments will consider. In an open letter to the community Police Chief Bill Breault explains that their “training, tactics, policies and organizational culture demonstrate our commitment to treating ALL PEOPLE with a high level of dignity, compassion, and respect.”
His Facebook post from June 5 goes into much more detail on the training, policies, and accountability, including a statement that “The use of excessive or inappropriate force is not tolerated. Excessive force is any force that is more than necessary.” (Italics mine.) Changing guidance from “reasonable force” to “necessary force” is important for prosecuting police misconduct. Overcoming unconscious racial bias is hard for any of us to get a handle on, but the more tangible outcomes, like limiting the use of unnecessary force, is a great first step.
What else needs to be done?
Can a review of these policies and practices be made public every six months, so this issue remains a top priority in everyone’s mind, and adjustments be made when warranted?
Can officers convicted of using unnecessary force, or racial bias, be removed from active duty, without being blocked by police unions?
Can a national registry of police misconduct be created so habitual offenders can not just move to a new city and continue to abuse the public trust?
I think the answer to all these questions is “Yes!” On the national front, 200 Democrats in the House of Representatives, who obviously share our values, have introduced groundbreaking legislation. The Washington Post reported on June 9th that:
The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants, among other initiatives. The bill, which has more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors, contains several provisions that would make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct in civil and criminal court.
Do you have #Hope? I do! But it won’t happen unless all of us, Democrats and Republicans, continue to pull together and continually show that Black Lives Matter!
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content and the opinions expressed within it. For information on the Dover Democratic Committee, our mission, values and policies, please see “About Us” on this website.
Bill Davis was an Information Technology specialist at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Lab, retiring in 2017. In Dover, he is a member of the Dover Democrats and St. John's United Methodist Church and serves as a volunteer with HAND UP Health Services. He has a long-standing interest in social justice and outreach to under-served communities. He canvassed in Dover for Democratic candidates in 2018 and supported Senator Corey Booker (D-NJ) leading up to the New Hampshire Primary.