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Why we must hold law enforcement officials accountable for racism

We should make a collective commitment toward a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to racist policing.

(RNS) — Last week, WNYC, a public radio station in New York City, released secretly recorded audio files that captured a New Jersey sheriff, Michael Saudino, making biased comments about African-Americans, a homophobic remark about New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver and an anti-Sikh statement about New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal...

...Scholars such as Michelle Alexander have recently shed light on the historical intertwining of anti-black racism and law enforcement practices. In a moment when we have more clarity than ever about the types of biases that inform American policing, we must be incredibly sensitive to how prejudice colors our actions – and we have to be vigilant about rooting such bigotry out of our systems.
If we know that an officer is racist, we must demand that the officer be held accountable for his or her behavior. When the elected leader of an entire law enforcement agency is confirmed to be racist? That person must be kept out of office...

...Look. I’m a believer in redemption and forgiveness. I think that’s one of the most beautiful things to come out of our ugliest moments of violence and destruction.

But I am also a firm believer in justice and fairness. And if the role of law enforcement is to help us create a more just society, then there is absolutely no room for officers who are bigots. Allowing them to continue in such roles is to concede that the broken system will continue to be broken — and the communities most damaged by racist policing will also continue to be broken.

Holding law enforcement officials accountable is not just the right thing to do in terms of morality. It also helps us root out the individuals who are most prone to perpetuating the injustices that are tied to the system. And it signals to marginalized communities that we are committed to addressing the systemic issues by taking racist policing seriously....

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