Tragic events within the past year brought the brutality and racism of some police officers to mainstream attention, but many police organizations still refuse to engage with widespread concern. On Monday, the head of the nation's largest police group formally recognized and atoned for what he called the "mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies."
"The first step in this process is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society's historical mistreatment of communities of color," said Terrence Cunningham, the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
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The apology was issued in front of thousands of police chiefs at the IACP's annual conference in San Diego. Cunningham explained that bridging the gap is difficult because some officers may not personally understand the reasons behind "this historic mistrust."
"While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future," he told the police chiefs. "We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities."
Cunningham's brave words received immediate praise from representatives with the NAACP and the ACLU — as well as people on Twitter.
However, Cunningham's speech also faced some criticism. Delores Jones-Brown, a professor at the John Jay College Center on Race, Crime and Justice, told the Los Angeles Times that she was unimpressed with the speech.
"He fails to acknowledge the deplorable behavior of some modern-day police officers who are allowed to go from police agency to police agency after having been cited for misconduct within one or more departments," she said. "[He] fails to acknowledge the warrior mentality of many police agencies and police officers and commanders. There are bigoted cops today as there were when it was legal to be a bigoted cop."
Kofi Ademola, a Chicago-based Black Lives Matter organizer, told The New York Times that Cunningham must be willing to discuss police violence.
After the speech, Chuck Canterbury — the president of the national Fraternal Order of Police — told the Washington Post that law enforcement must take proactive steps to address these concerns. He suggested that discussions about housing, education and jobs would be good places to start.
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