What can be done to fix the divide between police and the communities they serve

Race in America

(NewsNation Now) — After a year in which Americans have grappled with police violence, some are asking if reforming police unions could help.

Police unions have faced criticism for preventing officers who commit wrongdoing from being disciplined or fired.

Among the deaths of George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Breonna Taylor and others, officers have seemingly faced a dichotomy between standing 100% behind the officers involved or condemning the actions.

The Floyd case in particular caused an outcry among officers, including more than a dozen members of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Several of Chauvin’s former colleagues all testified against his conduct in the Floyd case.

While police agencies across the country have instituted reforms that promote more ethical behavior, some experts say the unblinking video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck is the impetus for fellow officers to stand against Chauvin.

For officers like them, there’s overlap between “blue lives” and “Black lives.”

The Ethical Society of Police serves as a go-between organization for these officers who seek a middle path.

Lt. Cheryl E. Orange, a longtime member, stated “it’s the human thing to do” to “treat each other with kindness.”

“We are all human beings no matter what color we are, what we support, what religion we support, we are all human beings and we need to treat each other kind,” said Orange.

She added, “and as law enforcement officers, that’s what we take an oath to do. Is to serve and protect our community. And the problem is when we do not do that and then it becomes a lack of trust.”

After issues with race-based discrimination within the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the organization formed to prioritize morality and ethics over blanket support.

Orange says watching George Floyd’s death on video was “horrifying.”

“It was very devastating for me and the reason why is because he’s a human being. And why was he handled in that manner? It seems like it could have been some different options instead of what had occurred,” said Orange.

In 2017, Officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond as she approached Noor’s squad car in the alley behind her home. Court testimony showed that an incident commander turned off her body camera when talking to Noor shortly after the shooting. Other officers told him not to say anything. Prosecutors told the court that about 20 police officers refused to talk to investigators and met with union officials to discuss withholding information.

Noor was one of the rare officers to be convicted anyway. He is serving a 12½-year prison term.

In another Minnesota case, former St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in the July 2016 killing of Philando Castile. Fellow officers were in court throughout that trial supporting Yanez.

Orange says it is the responsibility for officers to “walk, talk and stand in the truth.”

“If we as law enforcement officers [are] transparent. Then that helps keep us transparent and helps that the community can have trust in us. But it’s when we don’t do that. Is when they have a distrust for us in law enforcement,” stated Orange.

She emphasized that it is important for the community to hold officers accountable if they do wrong and for officers to keep each other in check.

“We must hold ourselves accountable. We have to because… the community depends on us as law enforcement officers to do that,” said Orange.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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