As ugly as the murder was, what is ultimately heart-breaking is that Chauvin and the bullies with him were all police officers carrying state-issued weapons and acting with the authority of law. From those to whom we give great responsibility we expect so much more.
Every psychopath hurts people without remorse. A psychopath in a uniform undermines the whole edifice of social credibility upon which the rule of law is founded. Cities are burning across the nation as a result.
Just as striking as the murderer’s unblinking cruelty, was his apparent expectation of impunity. He seemed to presume that even though there were people watching, because they were people of color, their complaint would be ignored.
The incident once-again evokes the long, ugly, and still present history of violence against African Americans in our country. We are all once-again compelled to check in with ourselves and ask what more we can do to build a better society.
At a personal level, we all have the chance to make a difference every day by treating each other with sensitivity and respect and going out of our way to reach across boundaries and make connections with people. Peace and justice are interpersonal as well as being aspects of social structure.
At a political level, the most directly relevant issue is leadership in law enforcement. I believe that right now in our state and in Boston especially, we have leaders who are building a culture of police respect for the community, while at the same time appreciating the sacrifices that police officers make and their fundamental role in protecting us all.
Our Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey quickly spoke out urging that the officers be charged. Law enforcement in Suffolk County is led by a trio of strong African American professionals, District Attorney Rachel Rollins, Police Commissioner William Gross, and Sheriff Steve Tompkins.
We can also make a difference in police culture through screening and training. The broad criminal justice package that we passed in 2018 included a mandate to develop a curriculum for implicit bias training and de-escalation.
We are now in the process of reviewing the range of additional legislative measures that we could take to assure that all men and women sworn as police officers understand and honor their obligations to serve and protect.
While a lot has been done by every level of government and the private sector to address racial inequality in access to justice, housing, education, jobs, and economic development, the grim statistics tell us we have a lot more to do.
We need national leadership that deplores violence, offers solace, commits to progress for all. We need national leadership that channels understandable outrage into constructive change. In the absence of that leadership, it is all the more important that we help each other hold tight to our calm and our resolve and that we rededicate ourselves every day to working together to build a state that works for everyone.