Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Cincinnati to Ferguson: An Ever-Present Lesson"


By Christina Brown, Cincinnati Human Relations Commission
Community Outreach Engagement Coordinator

     24 hours following the announcement that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown, cities across the nation peacefully took the streets to react. Cincinnati was no exception, but the memories of 2001's civil unrest literally lingered in the crowds of hundreds who gathered around the federal courthouse to express their anguish and anger. In what could be argued as a demonstration of solidarity with the community, Cincinnati Police Department Chief, Jeffrey Blackwell avoided the platform of speakers. Instead he stood with the crowd, neutrally observing the appreciation and critique the Cincinnati Police Department has undergone since those unnerving days.

     Cincinnati has proudly lent itself as a model for transformational community police relations yet, I can't help but to wonder, what still needs to be done? The policies and programs which arose from despair and anguish have slowly improved the confidence of some communities of color. Subtle affirmations such as the presence of neighborhood officers at community council meetings have aided in relationship building. This accompanied by the construction of the Citizens Complaint Authority, which promises of oversight when police misconduct is alleged are worth undoubtedly replication. However, we as a city must remain hypersensitive and hypercritical about the gaps in mistrust that have historically lingered.

   While touting the victories, we must disclose the shortcomings that continue to make this journey incredibly difficult. This looks like having continued uncomfortable conversations and training about unconscious bias and policing, ongoing Know Your  Rights campaigns, amongst various other actions. As we send our thoughts and hopes to Ferguson, perhaps the most courageous act Cincinnatians can take is commiting to deconstructing why Cincinnati was Ferguson in 2001 to begin with. 


Photo Credit: Nick Swartsell of City Beat  

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