Syracuse residents protested Thursday after a Kentucky grand jury decided against indicting any Louisville police officers for shooting and killing Breonna Taylor. I was not shocked by this decision, and I will only be shocked when police killings of Black people in this country are no longer normalized.
I grew up in Baltimore and witnessed the riots that took place after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. The same arguments that have come up now came up in Baltimore. What is more valuable in the eyes of people: a loss of life or property damage?
Syracuse now has a chance to push for reform and rebuke the culture of violent policing with the passage of the Right to Know Act. The Syracuse Common Council will vote on the measure Monday.
I remember when Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby finally announced that the six officers responsible for Gray’s death were being charged and people rejoiced. The trial ended in a mistrial a year later, and by July 2016, Mosby dropped all the charges for the remaining officers. Hope for what we call justice was dead.
The people of Baltimore asked for police reform, and they were given it. Unfortunately, those who are sworn to serve and protect saw the opportunity to undermine these reforms. The police with badges on their chests stopped responding to complaints, police unions had slowdowns to prove their need in communities and leveraged violence over residents. And those in plainclothes, with badges in their pockets, ruled the streets by harassing citizens and conducting unconstitutional stops and arrests, sometimes stealing and selling what they found during the arrest.
Baltimore is a case study of what Syracuse can do differently. The People’s Agenda for Policing and the Right to Know Act are reforms that are bandages on a wound. Police do not believe in reforms, just the self-aggrandizing pleasure of maintaining their power and need in the communities they claim to serve.
Instead of looking for reform, residents of Syracuse must fight for defunding the police and distributing that surplus of money into areas of need, including mental health services, education, afterschool programs, nonprofits and other essential services that help the community at large.
We should not be afraid of defunding and eventually heeding the growing calls for abolishing the police because the love for our communities will always be greater than the relationships we have with the police. In Robin D.G. Kelley’s book “Freedom Dreams,” he wishes this same sentiment for everyone: “Now more than ever, we need the strength to love and dream.”
Syracuse residents should look at Baltimore and see that obtaining justice in the world means envisioning our communities without the stronghold of police. It means taking the love we have for ourselves and those we hold dear to create the change we want to see and embody. To say we want justice does not mean incarcerating police but eventually ending policing that causes the trauma in our communities.
Kamal Morgan is a graduate student in the magazine, online and digital journalism program. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Published on September 27, 2020 at 11:08 pm