I’ve spent the past few days really looking into the police shootings of two African American men in the same way I try to look at everything – solving the problem at root cause and identifying a systemic solution that can translate to inarguable policy. The senseless shootings of 11 police officers in Dallas further reinforces that need.
I understand that directing my energy toward finding a policy that corrects the problem may seem a callous response to such tragedy. But this violence and useless death and the outrage that ensues as a result does not appear to be an effective catalyst for change. We are hundreds of arguments away from determining the root causes for this problem and we are even more arguments away from developing a constructive solution on which to build effective policy.
Everyone from Obama to Beyonce are declaring this a serious problem, empathizing with the victims and calling for such senseless acts of violence to end. But there is virtually no real answers being provided. And as these events continue to occur and the American people hit the streets in protest, I can’t help but wonder how many of them will actually hit the polls in November to speak with their vote. How many of them will meet with their elected officials and suggest specific policies? How many of them will compose thoughtful letters to the editor suggesting solutions? How many will look into data and statistics on the possible causes? How many members of Congress will cast blame and outrage at the President, a candidate or a political party without ever holding a single town hall to facilitate a real discussion on the matter? How many will research the candidates on their ballot to make an informed decision on this issue? How many will actually vote?
I’ve come up with a few preliminary steps we might take to help this issue gain traction at the policy level and maybe start yielding results.
1. We need to evaluate the root cause for this “problem.” In order to do that, we need to define what it is. Is it generations of cultural racism that subconsciously influence an officer’s instincts when he or she perceives a threat from a black citizen? Is it training deficits or process issues with how law enforcement officers are taught to respond? Is it any number of other systemic, cultural and societal issues that could result in the unjustified shooting of an innocent American? And, by legal standards, are they unjustified actions on the part of the law enforcement officer? If they are not, and perhaps they should be, then laws need to be changed. If they are and prosecutions are not occurring, then District Attorneys may too often be siding with officers over victims. That could be due to racism, cultural bias or political influence.
2. Americans across the country and the African American community always react proportionately to the severity of these incidents on an emotional level. But we need to channel that devastation, frustration and heartfelt passion into real policy solutions that can effectively solve the underlying problems. Then we can rationally and constructively argue on behalf of those solutions and support legislators who are willing to take on the fight for those solutions. We need to, not just demand change, but define an inarguable and realistic path on which we achieve it.
3. I recommend starting with a structured, clinical conversation with the officers, collecting uniform data on a case by case basis to identify the underlying patterns that reoccur. Then perform a root cause analysis on each case, and begin to formulate an understanding of the problem. This data will likely lead to more research and more information being collected until we feel a solid, data driven solution is developed. Then we begin to craft policies that, step by step, will stop one underlying cause of these events from ever happening again for the same reason.
There are no real answers yet available on this issue and I certainly don’t feel I have more than others. But I could not in good conscience continue to post emotional responses to this issue without at least trying to move the conversation from a problem focused perspective to a solution focused one.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families involved in all of these events. Let’s not only stand with them in solidarity, but work through the problem together toward solutions for our children’s future.
All my love and heartfelt sadness,