News, Policing

Allen Johnson on respecting police – but holding them accountable

Greensboro has had its share of high profile police problems, going all the way back to the handling of the 1979 Klan/Nazi shootings.

More recently they’ve been taking steps to address racial disparities in policing in the city featured in a front page New York Times story and struggling to address police body camera footage and how it is accessed by the public.

This week the News & Record’s Allen Johnson penned a column about the problems law enforcement officers in Greensboro and Guilford County – and indeed, all over the country – face. But it’s also a column about what we expect – and should expect – from law enforcement.

From the piece:

Dear Greensboro Police Department and Guilford County Sheriff’s Office:

I just wanted to take a moment to share my deep appreciation for what you do.

We ask a lot of you for too little pay and lousy hours. We expect you to protect, serve, mediate, baby-sit and counsel.

Into that mix we dump an assortment of other problems and issues: drug abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, negligent parenting, guns, gangs, poverty, racial tension … you name it.

We broke it, we don’t fix it and we leave it to you to deal with day in and out. We want you to be fluent in your contact with a public that represents more than 100 cultures and languages. And we expect you to smile while you do it.

You put your lives on the line for us every day, and in return we scrutinize your every move and question your integrity.

We expect you to be like cops in the movies, who fly through the air in slow motion while firing handguns to a heavy metal sound track and hitting every target.

What you do is challenging, stressful, unpredictable and unforgiving. I may not fully understand what it’s like, but I get it.

That said, I also need you to know that you must be held accountable. You are authorized to protect lives and to take them. That’s an enormous amount of power.

The full piece is well worth a read.