SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The head of International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) apologized to the nation’s minority population for what he calls a “historical mistreatment of the communities of color,” Washington Post reported.
The apology was made by the association’s president, Terrence M. Cunningham, in San Diego Monday during the association’s annual conference. Cunningham, who is also the police chief in Wellesley, Massachusetts, spoke on behalf of the profession by confessing to the sins of our fathers, replete with turmoil as a result.
“Events over the past several years have caused many to question the actions of our officers and has tragically undermined the trust that the public must and should have in their police departments,” the chief said.
Cunningham expressed his desire to address a significant and fundamental issue that according to him “will help both our profession and our communities.”
He characterized policing as a noble profession and acknowledged the sacrifices and bravery of our police officers who, in protecting the communities, have suffered injuries or even lost their lives.
However, he also acknowledged the darker periods of policing when the officers have been the “face of oppression” while they enforce legalized discrimination as required by the laws “adopted by our society.”
Although things have changed now, as Cunningham cited, mistrust had already been created and carried into subsequent generations. “While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities,” Cunningham said.
In an implicit address to the activists, he said, “Those who denounce the police must also acknowledge that today’s officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past. If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them.”
He concluded, “It is my hope that, by working together, we can break this historic cycle of mistrust and build a better and safer future for us all.”
Cunningham’s statement was commended by the top two civil rights group leaders and was given a standing ovation by the nation’s top cops.
Jeffrey Robinson, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, applauded Cunningham’s statement. He said, “It seems to me that this is a very significant admission and a very significant acknowledgment of what much of America has known for some time about the historical relationship between police and communities of color. The fact someone high in the law enforcement community has said this is significant and I applaud it because it is long overdue. And I think it’s a necessary first step to them trying to change these relationships.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said, “I think Chief Cunningham correctly identifies the need to acknowledge and apologize as a first step, and I don’t want to diminish how important the first step is. They know that there’s a problem. They know that it’s a complicated and difficult one. They know there are problems in their own departments. And now we’re trying to take tentative steps toward what we hope will be productive measures.”
Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police was not really impressed by Cunningham’s statement. He said, “Proactive steps that address the real concerns — urban decay, jobs, education, housing, and the like — would benefit all Americans and we look forward to a dialogue of action — not just words — at this critical time in our history.”
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton welcomed the apology by Cunningham, but also said he “wants his words backed by action.” Sharpton said in a statement he hoped that Cunningham would “urge officers around the United States to back his words up with action and legislation to protect communities of color from the onslaught of police misconduct that has disturbed the country … words are important but an action is integral.”
Cunningham wrote an e-mail to The Post where he said, “Communities and law enforcement needs to begin a healing process and this is a bridge to begin that dialogue. If we are brave enough to collectively deliver this message, we will build a better and safer future for our communities and our law enforcement officers. Too many lives have been lost already, and this must end. It is my hope that many other law enforcement executives will deliver this same message to their local communities, particularly those segments of their communities that lack trust and feel disenfranchised.”
Is Cunningham’s remorse appeasing, or will it lead to something productive? America has an ugly history regarding race relations, and it’s not restricted to law enforcement. But there has been a radical response espoused by current civil rights activist that has gone far beyond a voice for the downtrodden. It has been a call to arms that has led to bloodshed. And until the Al Sharpton’s et al. collectively take responsibility for civil co-existence, Cunningham’s speech will be privately mocked and laughed at as the empowered angry, bitter mobs continue to pummel a profession that is on the ropes.
This is true because one thing is conspicuously absent from a response by the ACLU and the NAACP (let alone BLM). They fail to acknowledge fanning the flames. They’ve stoked the fire of hate and discontent to heightened proportions. There is a modern day lust to see cops suffer, and it’s spreading like wildfire.
So Chief Cunningham offered the olive branch. Will it be used to flog him, and by extension all cops, the next time there is a controversial incident, or will it be part of the foundation toward understanding? Until everyone recognizes we are part of one country, with the common goal of peace in our communities, and doses of dignity for all, we will fall short. Right now, everyone differs on how to achieve those goals.