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Jim Crawford: Reinvent policing to ensure justice for all

Donald Johnson is 52 and works for the State of Ohio as a director of a major agency. He holds a master’s degree in organizational communication.

His income is near six figures. He lives on the Northside of Columbus in an affluent community, is the father of two teenage boys and the husband of Cathy. He checks in on his mother every Saturday, mows her lawn, fixes whatever has broken during the week and talks to his mom about everything, from colleges to finances to his love of Ohio State football.

But, this Tuesday, he is pulled over by the police in his own neighborhood for not using a turn signal when turning right.

The officer asks for his driver’s license and registration. Donald provides both. The officer requests Donald to get out of the car. Donald does so.

The officer asks Donald where he was going, then, why was he in this neighborhood?

It happens more often than you can imagine, because Donald cannot change that the color of his skin is black. Donald cannot stop driving while black, nor end the real-life risks that his condition causes.

Racism exists. Four hundred years long, racism still exists in America. And it will not go away suddenly, as our president promises will happen with the Coronavirus.

And racism will not end with the Republican plan to “ask” police forces to please not use chokeholds on black men because they kill them all too often.

Racism in policing will not end because the Republican Senate wants police to watch more de-escalation videos. They have seen plenty of de-escalation videos.

Racism in policing will not cease because Republicans give police extra funding…more money to buy assault vehicles from the Army or more clubs from local sources.

Policing in America has, for decades, largely been above criticism.

And when criticized for obvious and apparent abuses against black men and women, our society has expressed disappointment just before looking away.

And when the rare instance of outrage occurs, like killing a 12-year-old black boy for playing with a plastic pistol, our society ultimately finds the police innocent and nothing changes.
Until now.

Now, after three weeks of ongoing protests, protests of all types of Americans, all colors of Americans, things may finally change for the better, but only if we watch our elected officials closely and judge them for their shortcomings.

The president, and his cohorts in the Republican Senate, hope to “suggest” the police kill fewer black citizens.

But hope and suggestions are wallpaper, not brick or mortar. Nothing will change until chokeholds that kill are illegal, until no-knock warrants for drugs are stopped, until prosecutors prosecute police abuses, grand juries indict police criminals and courts are freed from the above-the-law outcome of qualified immunity.

It is time to stop saying most police are good, the exceptions are few. If that were true, when cops attempted to use lethal force without reason, other cops would stop them, or report them.

But that rarely happens because police are silenced by police unions or the “thin blue line” of silence against any actions of another officer.

America needs to re-invent policing. Watching peaceful protestors being clubbed, tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets by police in military gear should remind all of us that we never intended this, instead we intended police to protect and serve.

Consider this: in 2011 in the U.S., according to DOJ statistics, there were 689 arrest-related deaths in the U.S. In Japan, Germany and France combined the death-by-arrest number was less than 20 that year.

Do we need change?

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.