A recent article outlined what the Binghamton Human Rights Commission, (BHRC) described as a “trust gap” they say exists between the Binghamton Police Department and the minority community. The commission outlined proposed legislation that outlaws racial profiling, requires more data collection and analysis, mandates training in anti-racism and cultural competency and compels a plan for diversifying the police department.
A speaker in favor of the legislation at the city council meeting said, “It’s about preparing our police force to be more fair and more just…” Fairness and justice are absolutes, there is no such context as “more fair” or “more just”, you’re either fair and just or you’re not. Another attendee, stating she has a black, 6 year-old son and said, “ ..it is sad to think about having to sit him down to explain how to interact with the police. When you see a police officer, it should be a sign of safety, a sign of comfort, a sign of someone’s here to help me, not a sign of being tense and being nervous and not understanding what to do.” That’s right and it’s a conversation every decent parent has with their kids, black or white, as they describe the enlarging world around them as they grow up. It’s called responsible parenting
Existing federal law has outlawed racial profiling for years. For the BHRC to suggest a redundant local law needs to reinforce existing federal law betrays the unstated yet undeniable assertion by the BHRC that the Binghamton Police Department must be currently violating federal law. The BHRC should retract that portion of their proposed legislation or go on record and make the specific allegations that demonstrate this alleged offense. As for data collection and analysis, the department has already begun to outfit officers with cameras as funding permits. This should go a long way in showing the public exactly what a night out in the streets of Binghamton really looks like. The BHRC might not like what they see from a camera focused closely on those folks suffering from this so-called “trust gap.”
Cultural understanding and anti-racism training is currently a large part of every officers training at the academy. Perhaps BHRC members ought to consider attending the academy as interested citizens to become better informed. And finally, a plan for diversifying the police department. How is it that hundreds of individuals somehow manage to find this well publicized information already? Perhaps the commission might better spend their time doing recruitment drives on their own if they think that’s productive.
The undercurrent of the proposed BHRC legislation smacks of accusing the Binghamton police of racism and cultural insensitivity. I think the commission would be more productive by educating the minority community on how to affirmatively adjust their behaviors and their attitudes about police, authority and acceptable social norms. Quit breaking the law, stop challenging authority and assimilate into normal, working-class, law-abiding, family centered society and this “trust gap” issue magically vanishes.
The BHRC legislation has the tail wagging the dog.