My letter to Congressman Albio Sires
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Dear Representative Sires - My name is Brian Schiller and I'm a New Jersey citizen in your district. I was glad to read your recent statement regarding the George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Christian Cooper incidents. It showed your sensitivity and concern for racial injustice and the specific plight of African Americans who have been subject to systemic racism for centuries. However, I think it is time that such sentiments manifest themselves in more than just a statement of concern. We need legislation on the federal level that requires local communities / local police departments to change their old standards of policing (variations on the military / aggressive model) to a more community based policing system, one that puts an emphasis on respecting civil liberties and works together with communities.
As we are from New Jersey, I probably don't have to tell you about the Camden Police Department and the success they've had since it has gone to the community model. There is not only less crime, but less police on suspect violence. In fact, in an article from 2018, a Camden police cadet said, “Now we’re being taught not only should we make it home safely, but so should the victim and the suspect.”
Imagine that. Congressman, it just amazes me that we haven't taken the success of this strategy and promoted it as a national strategy, one that all departments throughout the US could strive to emulate. Here is the link to that article: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/01/what-happened-to-crime-in-camden/549542/
Over the last decade or so, as I watched incident after incident on the local and national news, always with the same sense of dread and shame, profilings and police abuse that have been going on for decades but were only now confirmable because of recent video phone technology, I compiled a signifiant amount of anecdotal evidence in my brain that informed me we needed urgency on these matters well before we got to the Floyd murder. As I've watched with horror from my own tv, I've often thought, there must be a common sense solution to such injustice. There has to be a way to ferret out rogue cops through testing and training. At the very least, there should be a way to get these cops on desks and away from hurting people. No one should be out in the field if they are not skilled in de-escalation and conflict resolution. Unfortunately, I've come to learn for reasons that are unknown to me, local departments throughout the US are unable to do this.
And so I have come to realize, as we did back in the 1960s with national Civil Rights legislation, if we are going to change things, we need to lead from the federal level. Simply put, the current models of policing are unsustainable and not conducive to respecting civil liberties for all its citizens in a healthy and free society.
That is why I ask you Representative Siros, to work towards drafting new legislation or amendments to existing Civil Rights legislation that requires local police departments to move away from older agressive standards of policing and adapt one that is based on community policing. Once we demilitarize and defund the police and return to community policing, we can then begin the equally important work of reforming a biased judicial system.
In final, I will be waiting for and reading your response very carefully and closely. While I am not an African American person, I demand that the rights of my fellow citizens be taken seriously. Racial profiling is a sickness that exists in almost every police department, if not on every corner of American society. And if we don't lead on this issue, if we continue to kick the can down the road as we have done for decades, it will only come back and hurt us again and again. And when it does, we will not only bear the shame of our failure to act and the sorrow of another unnecessarily damaged or lost life, but we will need to vote in representatives who have the integrity, drive, and guts to get it done and do the right thing.