True justice would include George Floyd still being alive and true justice holds government leaders accountable when justice is denied.
Civil rights legislation exists in US federal and state law books. Heroes, those famous and unsung, have been assassinated for hundreds of years for demanding justice for Black people.
Yet still, in 2021, tired and exhausted are two of the most overused and appropriate words circulating through Black communities around the United States. But, they don’t adequately describe how many Black Americans—including me—are feeling at this moment.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three charges for the murder of George Floyd. While the verdict has provided some accountability, it does not give justice. Justice addresses the root causes of how the country got here.
True justice would include George Floyd still being alive. True justice also includes government leaders holding their teams to the highest standards in serving their communities. True justice holds government leaders accountable when justice is denied.
For more than 30 years, I have served the public in some capacity. The majority of my experience has been in local governments across this country. My understanding is profound. I love local government because I understand how powerful it is and how it impacts our lives daily more than at any government level.
I’ve served as an office assistant, fair housing researcher, equal opportunity compliance coordinator, performance auditor, and a senior leader in a municipal court. For the past seven years, I have also served as a professor of political science and was recognized as the Collin College Outstanding Associate Faculty of the Year 2017 and one of Frisco Magazine’s 2017 Faces of Higher Education.
However, it was my position as a city manager, at the time the youngest Black woman to be appointed in the United States, that provided me with a lens and view of government that I’m incredibly grateful for. It has allowed me to process things that happen around us daily and reflect on how our leaders are failing us, especially regarding law enforcement’s treatment of our communities - especially our communities with a history of over-criminalising underrepresented Americans.
I served the city of Glenarden, a small suburban city in Prince George’s County, MD - the wealthiest Black county in the United States. I hired the city’s first chief of police. I denied the hiring of police officer candidates because I knew they would be a liability for our city.
Although not perfect, I understood my assignment. I was responsible for protecting our city and its residents, which included ensuring only the best were brought in to serve our community. They are the ones who ultimately entrusted me with the responsibility of being the top leader.
In this country, government leaders have to serve from a place that benefits their residents, not from a political lens. There is a responsibility to understand the challenges and beauty of every neighborhood within their communities and then identify solutions that address the root causes of how they got there.
Resting on the Band-aid solutions and aggressive tactics, especially when it comes to public safety, allow the door to remain open to more Derek Chauvins on American streets.
Chauvin’s actions and those of every law enforcement officer that have resulted in the murder, assault, or harassment of community members, whether or not they have been held accountable, are the result of failed government leadership.
When the team fails and destroys community trust, it is because administrations have allowed it to happen. Leadership has ignored the calls to resolve.
To local government officials in the US who have law enforcement officers under their umbrella of responsibility, it’s time to act.
I have lost sleep over whether or not local officers were safe on the street. I know what it is like to have your phone ring in the middle of the night and fear news about an officer getting hurt or, worse, losing their life.
I know what it’s like to sit in a hospital until family members arrive because you will not leave your team members alone in a hospital.
I am not speaking of the officers or civilian employees who understand their oath of office or those who get up every day to protect and serve with the same dignity and respect they would provide within their communities.
It’s time to have the audacity to say nope, not just no, but nope. To push back and change the culture of their environments. To have the unmitigated gall to remind people what cannot and will not happen on their watch. Failure to do so is a despicable legacy, and every action that happens is their responsibility.
Time is up for ineffective leaders. We cannot continue to breed more Derek Chauvins. Every community in the US deserves better.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.
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