By Dwight Evans
The tragedies of the past nine days have produced tension and grief for the citizens and members of law enforcement throughout the country.
While it may be easier to succumb to hate and prejudice, it will do nothing to solve the problems that we face or find the solutions that we all want for a safer nation. Now is the time to come together as citizens and law enforcement to have an open and honest dialogue so that we may build trust with one another.
At the memorial service for Dallas Police yesterday, President Obama highlighted the challenges facing law enforcement and urban areas:
“As a society, we choose to under-invest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.
We flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.
And then we tell the police, “You’re a social worker; you’re the parent; you’re the teacher; you’re the drug counselor.” – President Obama
As the President said, too often we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves. And for too long, Congress has ignored the problems of urban America.
We have over 200,000 people in Philadelphia who live in “deep poverty,” the most of any city in the country. Our schools are in crisis. And gun violence continues to cost us the lives of hundreds of Philadelphians each year.
With the right leadership in government, as well as some self-empowerment, we can clean up our neighborhoods, protect them from crime and blight, work to turn around our schools, and reform the justice system. That will lay the foundation for job creation, better wages, and a rising middle class.
It’s going to take time and hard work to get there, and as we reflect on the last eight days we must think — what would it be like to walk in each others’ shoes? As an African-American, to fear for your child’s life when they walk out of the house. Or as a police officer, when they kiss their families goodbye, not knowing what the day will bring.
When I was working with police officers in North Philadelphia, we focused on neighborhood level issues to improve the community from within, and I came to learn that community-centered policing is an integral way to working together to find solutions to making our communities safer.
Our country is so much more than what we’ve witnessed in the past week — we must not only work to build stronger relationships between our communities and the police officers who protect us, but also demand more from ourselves and our elected officials.
We are all responsible for the growth and safety of our community, and we must listen to each other and stand together to make our neighborhoods stronger, block by block.