Editor’s Note:William Riley is a senior fellow at The PuLSE Institute, where he is focused on the intersection of criminal justice reform and poverty. A veteran law enforcement official, Riley, is currently the police chief of the City of Inkster in Michigan. He was formerly the police chief in Selma, Alabama, the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. For submission inquiries contact Bankole Thompson, the editor-in-chief of The PuLSE Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org
By William T. Riley
I am appalled at the response of Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis in blaming the protesters for being shot, killed and maimed because they were violating some curfew. The chief should have been outraged at the alleged suspect, 17-year-old shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, and his mother who drove him across state lines that allowed him to commit the alleged heinous acts. By having the firearm in his possession alone was a crime, let alone bringing it illegally across state lines at his age. Where is the chief’s outrage about that?
Let’s take look at something else. A 17-year-old was able to use a gun that left two protesters dead and wounded another yet no protester that we know of fired a weapon back at him. This leads us to believe that no protesters in that area were armed. Because I am pretty sure they would have made every attempt to protect themselves. So it is reasonable to believe that the protesters after curfew or not were there to protest and Kyle was there to terrorize. That is the distinction.
It is also clear that Chief Miskinis does not seem to be concerned about the fact that an individual can be responsible for the murder of two people, and yet walk by his officers while still armed with the murder weapon. The suspect was even able to make it back home to another state after walking past Kenosha police officers. All this was apparently going on while the protesters were telling them that the suspect had just shot and killed several people.
Again, it is ridiculous that the chief of the Kenosha Police Department would choose to blame the protesters instead.
The protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police shows that it is time to have real transformation in policing all across this country. It appears that in the eyes of some police executives, city/county governments and line officers that certain groups of people are seen as the enemy instead of regular citizens exercising their constitutional rights.
In the City of Inkster, the police department works very hard to avoid issues like those that are unraveling in Kenosha. We recognize that we are not perfect and that we must constantly be aware of how our actions are seen by the public. We are not afraid to look inward at ourselves and make necessary changes. We’ve made it clear that we need community support to make our community safer. We are in this together and that everyone must do their part.
At the Inkster Police Department, we believe in community policing. It is not just a jargon. Even though our numbers are low, we engage in community policing so that when difficult and challenging policing issues emerge, our community does not rush to make a judgment call against us. Many recognize that our department understands the needs of the community and is sensitive to the issues of racial equity while maintaining public safety for all our residents. Because of that we feel we have built up community capital through the following outreach efforts:
-Re-organizing the department and having a person to handle Internal Affairs
-Instituting Coffee with a Cop to engage residents
-Developing a Citizens Police Academy
-Establishing Shop with a Cop for the holiday seasons
-We established a partnership with Hegira Health for them to respond and assist when we are dealing with individuals suffering from mental stress and substance abuse. We support treatment over incarceration whenever possible.
-We have partnered with business and the faith-based community where they have paid for officers to attend training in the police academy.
I presently have five officers whose academy fees were paid for through community efforts and partnerships. This indicates the great benefits in partnerships and making the police department a central part of the community instead of being viewed as an occupying force of control.
Let me make it clear. I do not condone violence against the police or anyone else. I do not condone looting or damaging people’s property.
But I strongly believe in the right to have peaceful protest. I recognize that I would not be where I am today without the legendary battles for equal rights that were fought by the late civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis as well as the late Reverend Frederick D. Reese who stood up and protested against injustice to make this a better country.