What we have all witnessed this past week is unforgettable; the images, the heartbreak, the voices raised and those cut off. It is morally reprehensible when those in power are not held accountable for the malicious treatment of Blacks in America. I grieve with the family of George Floyd and the too many other black Americans who have lost their lives and their freedoms to an outrageous pattern of injustice.
As a candidate for city commissioner, I believe municipal leaders have a duty to come together with their citizens, the people they represent, in dialogue and prayer when grieving for victims of social injustice. But thoughts and prayers are not enough. We must make tangible actions to dismantle racism in our communities. Johnson City may not have experienced the level of violence and loss of life due to racism, but it certainly has a social and economic structure in which persons of black and brown skin suffer ongoing discrimination in jobs, salaries, health care, education, housing, and government representation.
It is time to be intentional as the leaders of this community. The safety of citizens and law enforcement officers is of equal importance. However, we must unpack and analyze the years of systematic practices that have resulted in the economic and social realities of today. Local policies and procedures in community policing should be at the top of the list for regular review and analysis by both citizens and elected officials. We can no longer allow such policies to be created solely by the department of law enforcement without input from the community, for their power and authority ultimately come from the citizens. The decisions belonging to a judge and jury should never be made by use of force practices. Sentencing practices in local cases for black and brown people as opposed to white people should be reviewed. In addition, it is not enough to offer anti-bias trainings at the police academy with occasional follow-ups in the department. Updated and frequent training for all law enforcement officers are necessary. Because while we may point to National accreditation standards as being important in law enforcement, it is the standards of the citizens with oversight by local leaders, that make the difference. The rules of engagement for law enforcement must be known, reviewed and enforced by all.
As your commissioner, I commit to working on these goals for Johnson City.