As a retired NYPD police captain turned preacher and #blacklivesmatter protest supporter, I find myself in an interesting position today.
I stand on both sides of the so-called “blue line,” placing one foot in the world of the NYPD furious over the murder of two of our own and another foot in with the black and brown people of this city angry with the senseless deaths of young people at the hands of the police.
My overlapping identity were never as painfully apparent than in the last couple of days when Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu were brutally murdered while sitting in their patrol car. These brave men, who decided to risk their lives to protect ours, leave their families and the entire police department devastated.
I’ve been proud to be counted amongst those marching in the streets demanding that #blacklivesmatter. Many officers I know are furious at me for “siding with the protestors.” I tell them I am protesting because I know from personal experience, pastoral encounters and my time on the job that the criminal justice system and police can be better public servants for communities of color. The police don’t need to target communities of color with quota driven” broken windows” policing and inappropriately aggressive stop question and frisk tactics; they can be their partners.
Many of my former colleagues see the protests are simply “anti-cop” and have contributed to an atmosphere of disrespect for law enforcement that set the stage for these despicable murders.
Of course, there is no justification for the unconscionable murders of those two police officers. There is also no justification for blaming protestors exercising their first amendment rights to free assembly and to petition their government for murders they had nothing to do with. They should not be unfairly judged by the intemperate actions of a single, deranged lone wolf in the midst of an overwhelmingly non-violent movement.
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