From a tweet thread I sent last night to the Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman (@AuroraMayorMike) and Colorado Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO):
“I don’t often send long tweet threats, but tonight I’m feeling compelled.
I’m a minister and live in the 17th Judicial District. From what I’ve learned re: the August 2019 death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain at the hands of @AuroraPD, it’s unfathomable to me that the officers involved were not fired, let alone not arrested.
Actually, I can fathom it, because “reasonable suspicion,” “use of force” policies and their legal interpretations by elected officials like current @DA17Colorado Dave Young, all serve to normalize intimidation and enable the use of unnecessarily aggressive tactics by police.
Public safety policies exist to help people and communities thrive, not the other way around.
Despite the misaligned priorities of our criminal justice system, I know a sheriff’s deputy and a number of police officers who are outstanding people doing their best to serve their communities. It’s time we relieve them of the unfair burden of having to, by default, intervene in and resolve situations that would be better addressed by friends, neighbors, social workers, family counselors, mental health professionals, clergy, housing advocates, substance abuse therapists and recovery support groups.
It’s time we everyday citizens mobilize (nonviolently) to meet our neighbors, care for and come alongside those in need, and proactively advocate for the safety and health of our neighborhoods. The dark side of policing as we currently conceive it is an unhealthy crutch that obstructs the formation of true community.
Our societal sanction of police coercion and the expectation that “suspects” immediately comply with police “commands” only serves to heighten the tension surrounding “incidents” like the one that robbed Elijah McClain of his life. To this already combustible mix add the complexities of race and unconscious “othering” — aka thinking “it’s us v. them,” and “we’re the good guys and they’re the bad guys” — and voilà, welcome to the United States of America in 2020.
Now is the time to reconceive what community safety, social support programs and policing should look like in 2020 and beyond.
Re: the officer-initiated escalation that led to Elijah McClain’s death, and the @DA17Colorado justification that the 23 year old resisted arrest, I wonder, do police officers practice being stopped/questioned/arrested? (It’s an imperfect analogy, I know, because if they were, they would likely flash their badge and say, “I’m a cop.”)
“Stop tensing up, dude, stop tensing up,” said one of the officers to the struggling Elijah McClain. If I had my headphones on and was listening to music while walking home from the convenience store…if I didn’t respond to a police officer’s command right away…if officers grabbed my arms and three of them took me down…I’m sure I’d have a very hard time relaxing. But that would probably never happen to me in the first place, because I’m white.
Elijah McClain had on a ski mask. Nowadays lots of folks walk around in public with a mask on, but way back in the summer of 2019 it was unusual to see a Black man wearing a ski mask while carrying groceries home. So someone called the police. I guess it was too dangerous for them to wave and ask, “Hey, dude, what’s with the ski mask?” Also, wouldn’t most robbers take off their mask when they’re walking down the street with their loot? You know, to blend in?
That @DA17colorado Dave Young recently implied justice has already been satisfied in this case deeply concerns me (and a couple million others).
Yes, there’s policy, there’s independence of the prosecutor’s office and there’s the letter of the law, but then there’s also justice, simple human decency, and the spirit of the law.