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Police: Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

In the past year or so there have been numerous examples of the use of excessive force by police officers that resulted in the deaths of African-Americans. Oh, I know I’m now supposed to write the obligatory disclaimer that the overwhelming majority of police are kind, decent, and trustworthy souls. I also need to write that theirs is a thankless and dangerous job. While all of that is true, I’m tired of having to qualify my criticism. Dare I say that the moral integrity of the majority of law enforcement officials should demand that they rise up and speak out and insist that their colleagues change?

At the height of the publicity around the abuse and molestation of children by Roman Catholic priests I personally stopped wearing a clerical collar in public. Although I am not Catholic, nor a priest, nor a child molester, I wanted to disassociate myself as much as possible from their evil behavior and the church’s complicity in it.

I’m not suggesting that police officers should stop wearing their uniforms, but I am suggesting that the “good apples” have some responsibility for helping get rid of the bad ones. This abuse, which has resulted in so many deaths, indicates that these aren’t isolated or random occurrences. There is something systemic, and those who haven’t been infected by the racism or violence or pathological need to control and be unquestioningly obeyed have to be part of the change that must take place.

Last week, as I watched the video of the Texas police officer threatening to use his Taser on Sandra Bland and “light her up,” I despaired that this might never change. She failed to signal while changing lanes, then refused to do obeisance to his authority. That was the real sin that landed her in jail where she mysteriously died.

Well, respect is not earned by intimidation, nor a weapon, nor a uniform, and the behavior that has been going on for a long time, but only now getting noticed, certainly doesn’t deserve our respect.

I’m sorry for the decent, hard-working, honest police officers, but until you speak up and join us in challenging the system, I can’t continue to defend you. It is true for them and for us: unless we are part of the solution then we are part of the problem.


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Rev. Michael Piazza

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