Hurd on the Hill: Making our streets and communities safer for all

June 15, 2020
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns

From San Antonio to Del Rio, from Marfa to El Paso and many places in between, our communities have shown the outrage we feel about another black man dying in police custody.

I too felt the need to take action, and, while marching in solidarity with George Floyd’s family and sixty thousand others, I realized that not everything has to be a binary choice. The fact is, you can be outraged by a black man getting murdered in police custody, thankful that law enforcement put themselves in harm's way to protect our First Amendment rights and angry that criminals are looting and rioting—actions at conflict with our American values. We can feel all these emotions at the same time.

During the march, I witnessed more than just the African American community is committed to dismantling a culture where a black man is twice as likely to die in police custody as a white man. 

This culture is the same culture that has caused so many young black men to receive a talk from their father about what to do when pulled over by a police officer. I know this talk, and I remember receiving it from my dad when I was fifteen years old. My Dad told me if I was pulled over by the police, to turn on the light in the car, roll down my window and place my hands on the window seal so the police could see my hands. He further instructed me to not make any movement unless I tell the police officer and received consent.

It’s been almost 30 years since I was given this lessen by my dad, but this lesson is still being taught by fathers and mothers today who fear that the wrong move when pulled over could cost their child his or her life. No parent should have to teach this lesson, and no kid should have to receive it, but, until we change the culture, this lesson will be taught.

There is a role for both political parties, both chambers of congress and all branches of government to address this. We must work together. Three key things that could help would be: ensuring federal funding only goes to departments following best policing practices; strengthening a police chief’s power to fire bad officers from their force; and bolstering a civilian’s ability to hold law enforcement accountable in court when they step outside the law.

A wave of cries to defund the police have swept over the country in recent weeks, but this is not the answer. In fact, this would make our communities even less safe.

If we are going to solve the problems besetting our nation right now, we have to have a collective and level-headed conversation. In the coming weeks and months, I hope this is the case because now is the time for action. Our actions won’t bring back George Floyd or other lives that were tragically cut short, but they will provide our country with the tools to prevent another injustice. Whether your skin is black, or your uniform is blue, individuals should not feel targeted in this country. Everyone should feel safe walking the streets of our communities.