For a long time, we’ve heard about the “bad apples,” a facile phrase that strategically places the blame on an anonymous, unnumbered few, while absolving the rest. And to some extent, the intent of the phrase has some validity: there are many genuinely good people in law enforcement, people who joined the force on a mission to protect and serve their community. These are the people who put their lives on the line to be there for us in times of crisis, who bear the weight of decision-making in life-or-death moments, who see humanity at its worst day in, and day out and yet return for another shift with hope and perseverance.
These people have my respect, my gratitude, and my compassion.
It must be heartbreaking and so deeply discouraging to come to work with the drive to be a force for good, and end up facing mistrust, opposition, and blame for the actions of others.
But in pain is opportunity. In failure lies feedback.
Just as too many people of color suffer under systemic racism, too many good cops suffer under the systemic oppression of corruption and the terrible attitudes and decisions of their colleagues.
Through the uprisings of the past few weeks, we have seen officers kneel with protestors, lay down their shields, and acknowledge the message of the people peaceably gathered. They did their part to speak up for change, but there has to be more, and the responsibility lies within.
This is a massive opportunity.
Imagine a future wherein all those “good apples” came together to root out the cause of rot in their own precincts. Where they put their words into action, standing together to shine a light into the dark corners, expose those they know are abusing their power, and pursue justice relentlessly. Where an environment is created that is too uncomfortable and too unattractive for people who seek to abuse power.
What would that world look like?
There must be accountability to drive behavior, and clearly the court system has failed. If there really are more good officers out there than bad, it must be up to them to create the change that lasts. I challenge all the good cops out there to take up the reins of change, remember why you chose this career, and create a better world for all.
Do it not because of optics and external validation, but because you know it’s right and you know it’s time. I’m here, rooting for you. I believe in you. Because the change must come #fromwithin.
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