LETTER: What happened to the souls of Aurora police?

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EDITOR: I am a resident of Western Massachusetts writing to express my heartbreak, outrage, and absolute horror over the video of Aurora, Colorado police holding a Black mother and her children, handcuffed, face down, on concrete pavement, in response to a call of a stolen vehicle.

I understand that the vehicle had the same license plate number as a motorcycle, albeit from a different state. I understand the necessity to stop and clarify the facts, assess the situation and communicate reason and intention. To stop the vehicle was an understandable mistake — I guess. But as many others have easily observed: This is no way to perform effective or ethical law enforcement. This demonstrates an astonishing lack of judgment, character, perspective and view of humanity. This one video would be sufficient to justify recent cries of, “Defund the police!” Tragically, there are countless others displaying the same soul-sick and racist approach to attempting to enforce the laws of this land. The same police department, only one year earlier, was responsible for the killing of a gentle (and innocent) young black man, Elijah McClain. A person of any conscience or human compassion would have to ask in the face of these incidents, “How could this be happening? And, why in God’s name is this happening in the year 2020 in America?”

Much has been spoken about police reform. Racism awareness training. Community policing with de-escalation tactics. Fewer cops on the street. Less militarization of the force. As a minister and a person of faith, what I wish to contribute to this conversation is the orientation of the officers. By orientation, I mean how the officers tend to view the apprehended, the “offender,” the other, as it were. There is a way we view people that determines how we interact with them. How we behave is of course of utmost importance. But how we see one another is so much more important, and so much more determinate in the outcomes of our interactions.

If we see others as dangerous, we will be fearful. If we are fearful, we stand to react and behave irrationally. And when we behave irrationally, we become dangerous ourselves. What I saw with that mother and her children was dangerous, cruel, and so far off what we should consider acceptable. For me, it begs the questions: What has happened to the souls of our police? Do they recognize that they have souls? And if they do, do they understand that those souls need help? They need tending. They need to be revived. Such unconscionable behavior has to be addressed, rebuked, and responded to with great seriousness. These souls need rehab. And they need it bad. 

I am glad to see that someone “apologized” to these innocents. I am happy they wish to be helpful “if the children were traumatized,” to which I respond, “Are you f-ing kidding me?” How about “scarred for life?” Who would not be traumatized by such an event? I cannot, as a white woman with adult children, even imagine such a thing happening to me or to them. (And, of course, it never will.) I am also relieved to learn that the police chief has been replaced. But my request of this department, as well as all police departments is to fundamentally address and repair the orientation of police officers. Which is to say, rehab your souls. Re-claim your humanity.

— Rev. J.G. Olmsted, via [email protected]