Race, riots and rising expectations
In this issue of the Municipal magazine, our special coverage for readers focuses on the management of solid waste and of water treatment. Included in that coverage are topics that may be particularly interesting to wastewater treatment professionals, including an alternative to chlorine treatment and a genius reclamation and rebranding of a former wastewater treatment site in Minnesota. We also debut a new series, “Flags of our cities,” this month. The mini-feature will highlight local entities through the lens of their varied flags and the historical significance of the designs that they feature. We hope you enjoy it.
But as I compose this editorial, the day after a grand jury declined to indict Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson, I, like most of the country, am distracted by the fallout. Despite numerous pleas for calm that came from across the political spectrum, parts of Ferguson are burning. Emotionally charged residents have taken to the streets in every major U.S. city and in many small- and medium-sized ones as well. It seems as if we’ve seen this so many times during the past few decades: provoked confrontation and the destruction of property following deadly incidents that involved law enforcement.
I can’t imagine anyone being glad that the confrontation between Michael Brown and Ferguson law enforcement ended the way that it did. But I’m also at a loss to explain why, as a country, our go-to reaction is public drama and vandalism.
Crimes are committed every day in the U.S., and every day Americans are fortunate enough to have at their beck and call men and women who respond and answer for those wrongs. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, decisions are made by both parties which, upon later reflection, were questionable. But what I’m focused on is that vocal and violent have become the calculable characteristics of every aftermath as much as the grand jury investigation. Not once in a while, not only in certain neighborhoods: It’s a Pavlovian reaction the whole country has developed.
We live in a time when few of the relationships that once held people accountable for bad behavior are still intact. When that behavior crosses into unpredictable confrontations such as those that happen with law enforcement, the repercussions of our indulgences come home to roost in the most tragic of ways.
A statement issued Nov. 24 by IACP President Richard Beary said it constructively. In part, Beary said:
“At this crucial time, it is imperative that law enforcement and community leaders, both in Missouri and throughout the United States, make every effort to reduce tensions and ensure a peaceful and lawful response to today’s decision. Only by working together to create a constructive dialogue can law enforcement and community leaders establish effective police-community partnerships that are at the heart of safe communities.
“To assist in this effort, the iacp has created an online resource for building sustainable community trust. I urge both law enforcement and community leaders to take advantage of these resources as they strive to reduce tensions and work together to build strong police-community partnerships.” You can see the resource page he refers to at www.theiacp.org/CommunityPoliceRelations.
May the new year bring peace to your community.
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