Over the past two days, I’m sure that everyone in America has been mourning the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and following the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the country. While working at the State House late on Thursday night, I watched the devastating news coverage of Sterling and Castile’s grieving loved ones and the grisly shooting in Dallas. Twelve police officers were shot by a sniper and 5 of those officers were killed, including Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa, among the names that have been released so far.
During a quiet moment of reflection this morning, in the wake of these senseless tragedies, I had a few thoughts to share:
- My thoughts go out to all of the victims’ families over the past few days, and to their respective communities in mourning. There is absolutely no place in society for this brutal violence. If you are particularly concerned about the police shootings in Dallas, will you join me in calling for stronger gun control in America?
- There is a national crisis happening in this country as police officers continue to shoot and kill people of color. Last year, Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post, documented that while black men make up about just 6% of the U.S. population, they account for 40% of police shootings of unarmed civilians. What happens every day in America to people of color is not just heartbreaking — it’s enraging, despicable, unacceptable, and demands massive institutional and cultural change, including combating racism.
- If you posted on social media last night or this morning about the shootings of the police officers, but not the black men (4 killed in the last 48 hours) who were shot by police, please ask yourself why. If you’ve been silent over the past two years about headlines related to police shootings, are you ready to have a discussion about this and begin taking action? Are you ready to support, co-sponsor, and advocate for legislation to address police shootings? Last night, as the Senate session was ending, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (the only black woman serving in the Massachusetts State Senate), Senator John Keenan and I talked with passion, shed tears, and expressed sadness about what’s going on in this country, including Massachusetts. And yes, it’s happening here in Massachusetts, too.
- We must understand that many black and Latino Americans often have a strained relationship with law enforcement. Trust between people of color and law enforcement becomes eroded after a negative interaction, often involving explicit or perceived racial or ethnic discrimination. This is a national crisis, one deeply rooted in the history of our country, that all Americans need to hear, understand, and accept.
- On a legislative note, multiple bills were filed this session focused on restoring trust with law enforcement, creating more accountability for police shootings and enhanced police training including:
- Independent investigations of police shootings of civilians.
- Training police to deescalate interactions with civilians, including combating racial and ethnic bias.
- Limiting local police enforcement of federal immigration law.
- Ticketing for stop and search procedures by police, and prohibiting racial profiling.
- Requiring all police officers to wear body cameras.
All these bills were ordered to study. Will this change next session? What are the Legislature’s, Governor Baker’s, other constitutional officers’, elected prosecutors’ and sheriffs’, plans to address these recurring series of tragedies, and shedding of blood and lives?
As a State Senator, I am deeply committed to addressing this crisis, and hope you will join me in this movement. I welcome any thoughts, feedback, or suggestions.
State Senator Jamie Eldridge