In the wake of the tragedies in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights, Minnesota this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued the following statement:
We join all those across the nation in expressing our sadness about the tragic events of this week, from Louisiana to Minnesota to Dallas. Americans again must confront the sad reality that our nation is too prone to violence and struggles with institutional racism. We see anew this week that African Americans feel threatened when dealing with an interaction with law enforcement. If we draw any lesson from this week, it should be that we need to work together for solutions to our problems, rather than let them fester and lead to senseless acts of violence.
We are saddened by the deaths of the police officers in Dallas and express our condolences to the families and colleagues of those officers. It is especially heartbreaking that these officers were targeted for this despicable act as they were assisting a diverse crowd of Dallas residents peacefully expressing their opposition to some police behaviors. No one should ever forget nor diminish their service to the community, not simply to serve and protect, but to advance the essential constitutional right of expression and protest that is fundamental to our democracy and body politic.
We are equally appalled by the two police killings this week of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. We remember and extend our deepest sympathies to their families. It is shocking and disappointing that both deaths results from common, even mundane interactions with law enforcement – a routine investigation and traffic stop. And, we recognize that without the citizen video of the events and aftermath of both incidents, the lives of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile would have been forgotten, much like the countless deaths of Black men at the hands of police over many years. This week is further testimony that the relationship between the police and the community, particularly the African American community, is badly damaged. Our nation, in every community across the nation and across Illinois, must take immediate steps to repair this trust. Here in Chicago, community leaders have offered to hold a community driven process around the City to build consensus for a path to reform. We, as a city, should invest in that process because, in order for reform to be successful, the community needs ownership of it.
Some will attempt to use this week of tragedy to further divide our nation on the issue of policing, as a means of blocking any meaningful change. We must reject this rhetoric. It is, in short, time for action. It is time to create a system of policing in our nation that treats all persons with dignity and respect – a system that will enhance respect for officers on our streets. Many words are being used to remember the officers in Dallas, Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile. Let’s honor their memory with real reform, not mere words.