Integrity, accountability, and support of police

As we were all talking to people after the forum yesterday, I spoke with one of the candidates for another seat, and I wanted to elaborate here on my comment to Mr. Snelson regarding his pro-police platform.

In many of my platform positions, the key idea is that big entities like government and business hold a great deal of power over individual citizens, and that power is easily abused. That’s why I spend so much campaign time talking about the unreasonable concentration of power in Springfield city government, the ability of those on Council to protect their own and exclude those they don’t want to work with, and the barriers which keep average citizens out of the process. It’s why I side with neighborhoods over developers and big businesses. It’s why I think Council needs to be held to high ethical standards by outside forces and not at its own discretion.

Integrity is a huge thing for me. I am proud to have been endorsed by the Greene County Democratic Central Committee, but I am always quick to tell people I have no party loyalty. The reason for that is that, too often, loyalty to groups like parties or teams or organizations leads people to place that loyalty above the ethical principles that would otherwise guide them, especially when it means the difference between winning and losing.

That’s how we get a City Council who drags its feet on investigating policy violations by a member they don’t want to lose. That’s how we get political parties (all of them, let’s be honest) covering up unethical behavior to preserve electoral influence rather than hold their own to the standards they expect of the opposition.

And that’s what I see when I hear a candidate say they are “pro-police.” I see someone likely to willfully turn a blind eye to problems within the SPD out of loyalty to their cohorts.

I support the police in the same way I support all departments of government. Legislators make laws, and law enforcement exists to do exactly as their title would suggest: enforce laws. I believe we need laws, so I believe we need law enforcement. I have a lot of respect for those who sign up to do such a difficult and dangerous job to benefit the community and who do so with integrity and compassion.  

We can’t forget that police departments aren’t mythical bands of heroes, they are government entities. They, just like City Council, exist to serve the community, and the community has the right to hold them accountable. Yet when the people start calling for accountability, they are framed as “anti-police.” There was no Blue Lives Matter until AFTER there was Black Lives Matter. Communities stood up to protest police brutality and the lack of equity in the system, and the pro-police movement exists as a pushback against that call for accountability.

Everyone should be held accountable when their actions are out of integrity or when they abuse their power. No one should be exempt, especially those to whom we’ve given the power to use lethal force. And expecting police departments and individual police officers to answer for each and every time they fire their weapon, injure a citizen, destroy a rape kit, pressure a victim, ignore a report, or protect those who have violated the law it is not anti-police. It’s pro-accountability and pro-community.

If you’re pro-police, you should support that kind of accountability. You should support removing racist and dishonest officers from the force and holding them responsible for their actions. You should be as quick to call out violations and errors as you are to praise a job well done.

But that’s not what people mean when they say they’re pro-police. Let’s not pretend.

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