Cops around the United States are still murdering Black People. What are politicians in Denver, Colorado doing to address this problem? Right now, it appears that they are doing the same thing as virtually all of the other politicians throughout the country…nothing! Well, maybe – again like all of the other politicians – they are talking about it. They are saying things like “our policemen need better training, our policemen are expected to handle situations that are really not a part of their expertise; things like mental health situations, there are a lot of good police officers and we really need to get rid of the bad apples” and on-and-on they go! Blah, blah, blah, blah blah. And like all of them have been saying since forever, they continue echoing the same old line saying, we can fix it…but it’s not going to happen overnight.
Overnight?! Black folks have been complaining about unequal justice and being mistreated by the police since long before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed! Overnight?! I would say that prior to 1964 until 2021 goes far beyond overnight, wouldn’t you?! I agree with the statement that Jason Johnson made on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s Deadline: White House show. Mr. Johnson said, and I paraphrase here; we have to break this down and start over, you can’t train this out of people! Mr. Johnson was referring to America’s policemen and the biases that far too many white police officers have against people of color; especially Black people. He was saying that these biases are baked in to the police culture.
The real problem is that most politicians are unwilling to risk their cushy, prestigious jobs in order to do what really needs to be done to fix the policing problem in America. They refuse to break things down and start over. They know that an extremely large percentage of Americans refuse to even acknowledge that America has a problem in terms of racism and prejudices. Many white people still believe that Black people still have the same opportunities that they do if we are willing to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” and work hard. There is no doubt that many of them just say this but don’t really believe it but there are likely many of them that really do believe that this is true! These politicians do not want to face the wrath of those who say that all things are equal because they risk losing their jobs if they do the right thing and work to fix the problem.
Unfortunately, Denver politicians and politicians throughout Colorado fall into this category of the “I can’t risk my job” group. Denver and Colorado are a microcosm of what is happening at the federal level of our government. But all of these politicians are our elected leaders who swore an oath to do what is best for America; shouldn’t they be willing to risk their jobs to uphold that oath? Shouldn’t we expect them to be willing to risk their jobs to uphold that oath; especially when they are privy to information that is not available to the rest of us and they know that even if they face the wrath of some of their constituents that to risk their jobs is the right thing to do?
I shared my feelings about the problems that Denver has with its police force with my City Council representative, Stacie Gilmore, and suggested that she could perhaps take the lead in talking to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock about working to address this problem in an effort to mitigate it by getting ahead of it by using innovative methods to clean up the Denver police force and even possibly make it a model for other police departments around the country to use as an example to remake their police departments. On about July 9, 2016 – subsequent to speaking to Councilwoman Gilmore, I wrote a letter to Mayor Hancock. In that letter I provided him with a template that I believed would be beneficial in helping him to address the policing problem in Denver.
I had been writing about the policing problem in America long before I wrote to Mayor Hancock on July 9th and provided him with a template to reform the Denver police force. In retrospect, I now believe that the template that I provided to Mayor Hancock fell far short of what actually needs to be done to correct the problem with Denver’s police department: We need to apply the remedy that Jason Johnson suggested that America needs to apply to all of its police departments! The show of force that the police demonstrated at the United States Capitol during the January 6, 2021 insurrection vs. that which they have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate against peaceful protesters around our country is an excruciating reminder of the biases that exist in the American police forces.
Case in point: During the January 6, 2021 insurrection the insurrectionists were obviously in charge and not the police. Even after these people had stormed the capitol and actually broken into it while a joint session of congress was going on to certify now President Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, the police were handling them with kid gloves. They were cajoling them and asking them if there was any chance that they could get them to leave the building! The police were doing this even after many police officers had already been badly injured by this crowd! Some of these policemen who were defending the capitol even died!
Compare this to how police in Aurora, Colorado handled a much smaller group of people who were holding a violin vigil to honor 23-year-old Elijah Jovan McClain, an unarmed Black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by the Aurora, Colorado police. What happened in this case? The police showed up in large numbers clad in riot gear. They proceeded to pepper spray the crowd until it dispersed. These protesters were playing violins!
The city of Aurora and the city of Denver are adjacent to each other so they are obviously close neighbors. And just like they are close neighbors, the Aurora police force and the Denver police force are not much different when it comes to policing Black people and other people of color vs. white people. Both cities police departments treat Black people and other people of color like they are second-class citizens who are unworthy of being treated with the same amount of dignity and respect as that shown to their white counterparts.
I never heard anything back from Mayor Hancock or my City Council representative about the template that I shared with them and I have not noticed any visible improvement in the way that the Denver police treat Black people and other people of color. Notwithstanding, I continue to hold on to the hope that things will change for the better and I will continue to do what I can to help bring about that change. And if the mayor or my City Council representative should finally decide to contact me about that template I will be sure to tell them that it is time to upgrade it to the Jason Johnson approach; we need to break this thing down and start over. We will have to somehow figure out how to use that model to break things down and start over. And if we can’t do that, then the city of Denver will just have to start from scratch. But the bottom line is, the problem absolutely must be addressed!
Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line