The last several weeks have been filled with devastating news of black people killed by police officers: George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. But it’s not just the last few weeks. These murders propel a continuation of the fear that so many of our black family, friends and neighbors have lived with their whole lives and for generations.
And yet our own city does not have systems in place to support victims of police brutality by bringing officers to justice and avoiding this type of police conduct in the first place. What will it take for Kingston to protect the lives of black people by putting in place common-sense accountability measures for police? Are we waiting to react to the news that someone we know or love had their neck pressed into the concrete by a police officer’s knee until they can’t breathe?
Our city’s police commission is not set up to serve justice to victims of police brutality. The appointed commission, empowered to hire, fire and discipline officers, has almost no transparency in its process — the chief of police currently sits on the commission, which is a blatant conflict of interest.
The police commission must be set up to remove and support bringing charges against officers who mistreat, abuse and murder the people of our city. Kingston police officers must have ongoing training on de-escalation, implicit bias and other crucial topics that inform their conduct. We need our city’s leadership to prioritize black lives by creating total transparency in the police commission’s appointment guidelines and procedures. These changes must happen now — before another precious black life is lost to police brutality.