A Step in the Right Direction for Black Communities and Law Enforcement Reform

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The Benefits of Community Involvement in Policing

by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

In the wake of recent tragedies involving our brothers and sisters, I have been left to reflect upon the structural and institutional bias against the Black community. Where did the system go wrong? Has it been wrong from the very beginning? It has always been my belief that the remedy lies within our communities, so, what is the next step?

We must empower our communities to reimagine public safety in an equitable manner. Developing relationships between law enforcement and the communities they swear an oath to protect–built on mutual respect, trust, and communication–is a necessary precursor for progress. Without such a foundation, effective policing will not be possible. This can be accomplished through the establishment of community-based safety programs, innovation grants, the support of local commissions and task forces on police misconduct, and the targeted recruitment of officers from the communities that they will serve in, to name a few. Only through collective, grassroots efforts can we induce transformative change to a criminal justice system that has failed Black Americans for decades.

It is important to note that legislation alone cannot right the wrongs of the past, nor will it assure the total prevention of such incidents in the future. Since the House of Representatives passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act just two months ago, we have already seen another unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, shot by the police–seven times, in the back, in front of his children–in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rather, it is in the hearts and minds of Americans in every community across the country that meaningful change is rooted.

To those who called my offices, wrote letters, or attended protests over the past several months, please know that your voices have been, and will always be, heard and taken to heart. As your Representative, it is my great honor and sacred responsibility to project your voices throughout the halls of Congress. It is my hope that we can all come together, regardless of party or politics, and recognize the necessity for cultural, systemic change.

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