Creating racial equity within our public-safety system is an imperative. Yet glaringly absent from the ongoing discussion about the re-imagined concept of policing is what should be the bedrock of what we build next — a robust system of accountability and oversight.
The stain of systemic racism touches upon all areas of our society. Being racist or sexist or homophobic does not begin when someone puts on a blue polyester uniform and a badge. Likewise, wearing a black T-shirt and bandanna and smashing a few windows at Starbucks does not mean you are not also participating in the same abuses. The behavior of everyone needs to be subject to guidelines and standards.
Despite aspirational names created for a reinvented public-safety system, there will always be a need for someone to be the “cop.” Without a transparent, community-led system of absolute accountability and oversight, we will be merely replacing one flawed system with another.
Thomas R. Smith, Seattle