What Mayor Butts and the Inglewood Police Dept. did Sunday night is another example of what is right in this city. And although the mayor has his share of critics, no one can argue that with zero arrests or casualties, the Black Lives Matter demonstration was successful. The voices of BLM supporters were clearly heard and no one had to die or get injured because of it.
The incident was dealt with in Inglewood in much the same way protests are dealt with in white communities. You typically will not see police beating up on white people unless protests become violent. They allow them the respect and space to express their right to assemble without interference.
As Butts pointed out, the military presence of police only serves to escalate situations. And because participants were not violent, there was no need for officers to show up in riot gear.
Butts’ former training as Santa Monica’s police chief helped, in addition to him being a person of color. This is why it is important that communities of color have police who look like them. Black folks don’t feel safe or understood by officers who don’t share their values or can’t relate to their struggles. Training in cultural sensitivity should be mandatory.
Inglewood’s handling of the Black Lives Matter protestors is a shining example of what democracy is all about—or should be.
Unfortunately, this was not the case in Baton Rouge. There, Chief of Police Carl Dabadie has defended actions of the white officer who shot and killed 37 year-old Alton Sterling point blank in the chest and back, even as Sterling was pinned down to the ground.
When the public protested, they were met with Baton Rouge police, dressed in full riot gear with military weapons. The same thing happened in Oakland, Atlanta, Phoenix and several other cities.
Police walk a fine line everyday, weighing their responsibility to protect the public and themselves. The shootings of 11 officers in Dallas by a black man last week, intent of killing cops, only added to the problem of innocent lives being lost. Mayor Butts took a huge risk by keeping police away from the action, but it paid off. It was community policing at its best.
Not having half the police force show up, ready to fight, sent a message to young people that Inglewood police respect their rights, and believe they will do the right thing. This is an important first step in restoring trust between both police and the black public. And if there were any in the crowd who wanted confrontation, the absence of police deflated those negative expectations.
The media plays a critical role in how the black community is viewed. Unfortunately, the more violent or volatile the situation, the better it is for TV ratings. That’s why, in addition to having more officers of color serving in their own neighborhoods, it is important that stories are told from the perspective of people of color. This is not to exclude other journalists, but to make sure public concerns are filtered by those who have a shared cultural connection. This is where the black press can be extremely valuable. As more town halls are held across the country to address tension between police and the public, the black press must have a seat at the table.