Like many Americans, I watched in horror the cell-phone video of the murder of George Floyd. His death is a heart-wrenching tragedy, and Mr. Floyd’s killers must be brought to justice.
This horrific act of cruelty has rightly cracked wide open a debate in America over social and criminal justice reform. Our public institutions must be held to the highest standards and should represent the best of our communities, and I am glad we are taking a moment to pause as a nation and have these conversations.
However, there is a big difference between peaceful protests and violence and vitriol. We cannot accept riots or the terrorizing of our communities, nor can we accept painting police with the broad brush of prejudice. The fact is that most police officers are selfless public servants who risk their lives each and every day to protect our communities. They are the individuals who rush into schools to stop shootings and save children, who administer CPR and who pull drivers from burning cars. Police officers are not apart from us, they are our neighbors and friends who simply want to make their own communities a better place.
I believe it is wrong to call for the abolition of police departments in the wake of this tragedy. Most Americans agree that the rule of law, and consequently law enforcement, are critical tools of our social contract, and we should make it easier for police officers to do their jobs well, not harder by draining their resources.
Several reforms under discussion can help improve the profession and make policing better nationwide. It is reasonable to ask that when use of force is employed, there should be accountability for the outcomes, including internal reviews and discipline if necessary. Transparency between departments can help weed out the rare bad actors who violate the law. Police departments can train their members in de-escalation techniques and how to spot and avoid biases. And when an officer has broken the law, he or she must be held accountable. We should also consider how community programs can help stop crime from happening in the first place. These reforms will help restore faith and trust between police and the communities they serve, and I welcome the conversation currently happening on Capitol Hill as to how best to address those ideas on the federal level.
America is the greatest country on earth. Our fundamental rights are enshrined in our Constitution, and we have a long history of striving toward justice and equality. In America, when we know better, we are called to do better. Therefore, I am hopeful that we will take this moment in history to find common ground and move forward together, and with patience and compassion, commit to creating a better America for everyone.
Rep. Mike Simpson, a Republican, represents Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, including Blaine County.