A couple of weeks ago, the Memphis Police Department released video of their brutal and fatal assault on Tyre Nichols. Yet again, we are horrified by how people tasked with protection end up becoming instruments of oppression. The abuse of power levied against the vulnerable because of their race, poverty, and/or mental health remains apparent and leaves us exasperated, angry, and wondering what needs to be done to bring about change.
We must decry the prejudices that fill our nation’s heart allowing us to believe that some people’s lives matter less than others. We must also challenge our nation’s obsession with violence and our justification of the abuse of power when it suits our ends. We affirm that Jesus calls us to use power in love. It may be impossible to expect police forces or national militaries to lay down power as Jesus did, but it is not impossible to expect them to exercise restraint, compassion, and to respect the rule of law. On the contrary, they have a moral obligation to do so, and it is our obligation to hold them accountable.
Changing the ways we police our vulnerable communities will take time and consistent effort. Here are three actions you can take to make a difference.
Campaign Zero’s “8 Can’t Wait” (8cantwait.org) and Mapping Police Violence, Inc.’s “Police Scorecard” (policescorecard.org) promote best practices in policing. They rate many police forces based upon their metrics. Look and see how your community is rated and identify policies that may need to change.
Join a broad-based community organizing network made up of churches and other organizations, and listen to people’s stories. These organizations usually transcend municipalities and have the ability to meet with various police agencies. By engaging the police in conversation and sharing community experiences of policing, they are able to push for concrete change. This can also be an effective way for more affluent communities with few concerns about policing to build solidarity with more vulnerable communities.
Discover whether your community has a police oversight commission or not. If so, go to their meetings and learn how police in your community are held accountable. If there is no oversight commission, determine with fellow residents whether one should be created.
May God have mercy on us and our nation, and establish justice on earth as it is in heaven. Servant Partners remains committed to praying and working for just systems, which affirm the God-given dignity of all people.
Derek and Lisa Engdahl