It’s been a contentious week for much of the United States in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Since his death on the streets of Minneapolis on Thursday, May 25th, protests have erupted across the country. While we’ve heard reports of police officers mistreating protesters and even journalists, many officers, elected officials, and chiefs of police are choosing to march alongside protesters to show their support for victims of police brutality and their disdain for inherently racist policies.
George Floyd died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, held him to the ground with his knee on his throat for over eight minutes. Many police officers have since denounced these actions, saying that the incident has made it much more difficult to do their jobs.
Instead of demonizing all police, we want to shine a spotlight on those who are standing up to institutional racism and police brutality. We need to work with the police if we are going to prevent future incidents of misconduct.
Stories of Peaceful Protests with the Police
Every city has had its own way of responding to the protests, so it’s best not to paint with broad strokes. While dozens were arrested on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis, there were no arrests at a protest in Newark, New Jersey. Mayor Ras Baraka marched alongside Civil Rights and veterans’ activist Larry Hamm. Some protesters threw objects at a local police precinct, but the authorities were able to de-escalate any tension in the air.
“Good cops are sick to their stomachs” over the death of George Floyd, says the N.J. Police Chief, who marched on Saturday to show solidarity with supporters.
The same was true in Camden, New Jersey, a predominantly black neighborhood. The local police chief, Joe Wysocki, and a handful of other police officers marched right next to protesters decrying police brutality and institutional racism. They were invited by Civil Rights activist Yolanda Deaver, who often speaks out on policing reform in the U.S.
We saw similar scenes in Flint, Michigan, another predominantly black neighborhood that’s seen its fair share of racial inequality, including the lead water scandal from 2014 to the present. However, Sheriff Chris Swanson and his officers took to the streets to march in unison with protesters speaking out against the murder of George Floyd.
Police chiefs and officers alike were quick to show their support for protesters in other major cities as well, including those in Norfolk, Virginia; Santa Cruz, California; and Queens, New York. Talking with protesters on the streets, officer Larry Boone of Norfolk said, “I want to meet with each and every one of you if we can work together…All policemen, folks, aren’t bad.”
We even saw some police officers taking the knee during protests, recalling the protest started by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick who also spoke out against the killing of innocent black people. Taking a knee is a way of protesting the national anthem, calling attention to those that lack certain freedoms that should be protected under the law. Officers took the knee in front of the American flag in cities across New York, Oregon, Iowa, and Kentucky.
Focusing on the Positive
During times of unrest, it’s easy to focus on all the negativity that’s happening in the world, especially if you’re stuck inside due to the pandemic. Many of us may flock to social media and the news for the latest information, but this doesn’t always tell us the whole story.
Videos of police officers beating protesters, using tear gas, and firing rubber bullets have been shared thousands of times on social media, while videos of peaceful protests and police marching with protesters often do not get as much attention online.
If you’re feeling blue or discouraged by what you’re seeing in the news, remember that positive stories often go unnoticed. Search out stories of positivity and give them as much attention as the negative ones.
We need to hold police officers and politicians accountable if they fail to live up to their oaths of duty without taking our anger and frustration out on all officers of the law. As a healthcare provider, you probably know and respect many police officers in your community. Your facility may need to work with your local police department, so we should focus our criticism on being constructive, rather than tearing everything and everyone down for the uniforms they wear.
Keep these positive stories in mind as you respond to what’s happening in the news.