Newell: Our leaders are succumbing to fear instead of doing what's right


Amid continuing calls to defund and dismantle the police, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is blaming all the shootings in that city on guns. Lightfoot and others are stepping out and saying we need to look internally, look at ourselves critically in the mirror, but then they immediately pivot to another message. 

The same thing is happening in Atlanta, where the editorial pages in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are saying ‘Now is the time for the best elements within the Atlanta Police Department, from command ranks to officers working the street, to do what they should instinctively know how to do well - protect and serve. Lead, in other words.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

There’s been a total breakdown in leadership across this country. What seems to have been a good idea - giving space and giving up geography to let people vent - has now come back to haunt communities all over this country, because it’s never enough. You give an inch, they take a foot.  You give a foot, they take a yard. You give a yard, they take a mile. And now we’ve totally lost sight of what it is we’re trying to accomplish. The demands are changing by the week. We’re not even sure who we’re negotiating with, but these government leaders are negotiating anyway. But to what end?

A lot of folks are beginning to question the legitimacy of these protests, because it seems as though the messaging has been lost, and the demands require such significant change in the infrastructure of this country (not to mention the U.S. Constitution), we don’t know how to get from Point A to Point B. 

The AJC (Atlanta Journal Constitution) opinion page also points out “the experiences we’re now enduring show that it’s unrealistic and impossible to expect police to solve all society’s broader woes on their own. We endanger ourselves and set up our law enforcement officers to fail by routinely requiring them to attempt to act as social workers, psychologists and a host of other vital society roles.” Sound familiar? It’s what law enforcement leaders across this country have been saying for years. 

The peaceful protesters have a point - police can't do it all. Government has this uncanny ability to go for the path of least resistance. Legislative mandates from any number of state legislative bodies across this country have completely and totally bastardized the notion of policing in this country, and that continues today. 

We talk about defunding and dismantling at a time when things are getting worse. We’ve now turned our anger on individual elected officials, showing up at their homes to burn U.S. flags and destroy personal property. Worse yet, instead of taking the appropriate remedial actions, we succumb to their demands out of fear. That’s not credible leadership.

In East Memphis, District Attorney Amy Weirich was the recipient of some of those activities. Protestors shouted “this is our street, motherf***er! Call the police, this is our street! You either come join us or go back inside!” What? We’re allowing our elected officials to be abused in this fashion because these people feel like they have a message they want to be heard? And we kowtow to their ridiculous, illegal demands?

These are not protesters. These are individuals engaged in criminal activity, and the fear of being called racist or accused of having unearned privilege keeps our government leaders from responding appropriately.

I've said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Villainize the police, and you’re going to get exactly what you ask for. Communities of color are going to suffer more than anyone else. 

We talk a lot about disproportionate impact, but we don’t talk about disproportionate spend. I don’t mean it in a negative way, the fact of the matter is that there are more law-abiding citizens in this country than non-law-abiding citizens. And these police officers answer the calls in those high-crime areas because they know that there are people there trying to do the right thing each and every day. But yet, they go there, risking their lives knowing there’s no upside because they continue to be villainized.