The president of the largest police organization in the United States recently admitted that law enforcement agencies have been kicking the asses of minorities all across the nation at a rate much higher than those residing in the burbs of white America. And for that, he is sorry.
On Monday, Terrence Cunningham, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), said he wanted to apologize to communities of color for the “historical mistreatment” they have been forced to bear at the hands of the law enforcement profession. The statement issued on behalf of the IACP, a group that represents some 23,000 law enforcement officials all over the country, comes at a time when cops have been backed against a wall with public criticism for the violent actions they have taken against the average citizen—especially the African-American community.
“We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities,” Cunningham said. “For our part, the first step in this process is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”
“There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens,” he continued. “In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans.”
However, Cunningham did not mention in his apology that the majority of shady police tactics responsible for escalating into unnecessary violence across the nation is the result of the decades-long War on Drugs, particularly when it comes to the possession of marijuana.
Just last week, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union published a new study that found police are arresting someone for drug possession every 25 seconds—a rate the drastically supersedes the combination of all violent crime. The report found the majority of a police officer’s day is spent busting drug offenders instead of people committing offenses that pose a real threat to public safety.
The latest FBI Uniform Crime Report shows there were more than 600,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2015.
Sadly, nearly every case involving police violence against the African-American community seems to be connected with the possession of marijuana.
In the most recent slaying, involving Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, police told a group of reporters that the man was essentially killed because officers spotted some weed in his vehicle, which led to the discovery of a firearm. Although Scott was not engaged in any illegal activity—other than suspected marijuana possession—officers said they were forced to take action against the man in the interest of “public safety.”
Other highly publicized cases, such as Freddie Gray in Baltimore and Michael Brown in Ferguson, were also associated with marijuana.
Last year, federal lawmakers blamed the majority of police violence happening throughout the nation on continued prohibition.
“Right now when you see all of this disturbance in our inner cities, a lot of that has to do with frustration that’s been a problem when police end up having to search people to see if they can find some joint in their pocket, a little piece of weed, in order to ruin their life and put them in jail,” said Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California in response to the 2015 Baltimore riots.
Although influential human rights groups, like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, acknowledge Cunningham’s statement as a good first step, the Black Lives Matter movement was not as impressed by the sentiment.
Campaign Zero co-founder DeRay Mckesson told CBS News that he is eager to see whether Cunningham’s comments will be supported by a major overhaul to the inner workings of police policy and the criminal justice system.
The Department of Justice announced last week the creation of a national database to track lethal and non-lethal police violence against civilians. The goal, according to FBI Director James Comey, is to paint an accurate portrait of police violence in America where the mainstream media has “embarrassingly” failed. The database will keep tabs on 178,000 federal agents, while offering some cash to local police forces in hopes they will participate. It will be implemented in 2017.
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