The Blue Wall crumbled and the shield was breached last Friday.

All law enforcement agencies in New York state, including those in Columbia and Greene counties, must reinvent their community policing strategies or forfeit state funding, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared in an executive order after signing a package of police accountability bills into law. Personnel records of police accused of abuses will be a matter of public record.

We know that violent police officers are the exception and not the rule, but we cannot condone the force used by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin against the unarmed and handcuffed George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, force that turned out to be deadly.

Why must we condemn this type of police action knowing that all officers do not use excessive force? Why do we support New York’s new police accountability laws? Because what happened in Minneapolis on Memorial Day is not an isolated event. It happens in many communities from major cities to small towns, and it happens more often than we might think.

A pattern of white police officers killing African-Americans in the United States is coming into view, and it is ugly. Uglier still is the pattern of not holding those officers accountable for their actions. It is said that the cover-up is worse than the crime. We believe this is the case here. And you don’t have to be African-American to be angry. We’re learning the hard way that outrage is color-blind.

Lack of police accountability is bad for all of us. If a community, white or black, large or small, feels threatened by the very people sworn to protect them, there is a serious problem.

Law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety. They put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us. But we understand the fury of the African-American community. When will we see federal legislation that makes it a hate crime for police officers to maim or kill unarmed African-Americans? The bills signed into law Friday must help rebuild confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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