Record editorial: Law enforcement agencies must strive to do better. Including ours.
There is not a law enforcement agency in America that shouldn’t strive to do better.
The racial injustices inherent in our system are obvious in cities like Minneapolis, New York and Ferguson. But thinking that inequality doesn’t also exist in places where police brutality has not ignited national outrage would be naive.
That’s true even in Summit County, where residents here are fortunate to be served by the Park City Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Office, two agencies that seek to fulfill their duty with integrity. They are helmed by capable and compassionate leaders, as both Police Chief Wade Carpenter and Sheriff Justin Martinez take seriously the immense obligation to justice they and their officers are bound to uphold.
Nonetheless, two fundamental things remain true: One, there is always room for progress because human beings and the systems they create are imperfect. Two, when it comes to racial equality and law enforcement, any deficiency is problematic.
It would be reckless and shameful for Wade and Martinez — or the leaders of any law enforcement agency in the U.S., for that matter — not to use the justified convulsions that have followed the killing of George Floyd as a springboard for introspection about how the departments they lead can better protect and serve minority populations.
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Both local lawmen seem to understand that and, in fact, have outwardly supported the cause for which the protesters are fighting. At a student-led rally against police brutality and racism at Dozier Field on Monday, Carpenter and Martinez knelt alongside the rest of the crowd in tribute to Floyd and in objection to his killing.
And Carpenter, along with Park City’s elected officials and City Manager Matt Dias, sent a strong message Thursday in an open letter, acknowledging that prejudice and systemic racism exist in the community and describing a commitment to helping bridge a chasm that has always existed in America.
“The women and men in Park City’s Police Department are just as disgusted and outraged as the rest of us,” the letter states in part, referring to Floyd’s killing. “They believe in the integrity of law, human rights, and common decency. They are also committed to continued training to recognize implicit bias, systemic racism, and follow best practices in modern policing. Should any Park City Police officer behave in a manner inconsistent with our community values, we expect you to hold us accountable.”
Parkites who want to ensure that accountability takes place should apply to serve on the city’s Police Complaint Review Committee, which meets periodically to consider accusations of wrongdoing by Park City officers and is seeking new members right now. And in that same spirit of citizen oversight, the Sheriff’s Office should seat a similar panel.
Because even in Park City and Summit County, the community and the law enforcement officers who serve it can and must do better. As millions of Americans raise their voices to confront an issue older than the country itself, anything less than real, sustained progress would be a disgrace.
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