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Op-ed: Police and citizens must work together to make a revolution

Published July 11, 2016 5:24 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

This is a critical moment in America, citizens are demanding accountability from public servants who took an oath to serve and protect. When a profession fails to accomplish its mission, policies and procedures are examined and improved if necessary. This has happened countless times in the American past — from health care to public education to mental health. When people are not receiving the best care or service from a profession, citizens and other professionals in said field enforce standards and work to ensure accountability.

I have heard it said that there is a "war" on police. This is toxic propaganda and an attempt to derail the process of holding law enforcement accountable for their failings. In the award winning single "Revolution," Tracy Chapman asserts that revolution begins with a whisper. Well, I say revolution begins with a gunshot. The gunshot fired from the gun of one called to serve and protect into the unarmed body of citizen whose taxes paid that officer. Certainly it is our duty as taxpaying citizens to ask more of the public servants we fund.

For close to a year, I have been engaged in conversations with the Provo City Chief of Police John King, who reached out to me for feedback about how the men and women in blue working in his department can improve relations with black and brown communities in Provo. Earlier in the year, King organized a citizen's advisory board in an effort to be held accountable to his public. This diverse committee — including professionals, academics and community activists — has had nothing but a positive impact on the relationship between the department and the community.

While chaos and hostility and even violence from militarized police forces met citizens in Baton Rouge and other cities across the United States this week, the rally I attended in Salt Lake City witnessed police blocking traffic while protesters marched through the streets of downtown. Some protesters handed out flowers to officers working that evening as a show of gratitude for their service and protection.

The next day, a vigil for Philando Castille and Alton Sterling was held in Utah County, where again King showed his commitment to his oath by publicly declaring his support of Black Lives Matter. Of my many conversations with the chief, he has never been defensive. I'm sure he receives pushback and is under a lot of pressure (as any police chief would be). Through it all he remains open.

A revolution is needed indeed, while the history of policing in America is complex, even painful, it is worth examining and holding accountable. The Ph.D. I am soon to complete is in counseling psychology, which has a licensing board that works to ensure that I, as a helping professional, am engaged in the most ethical work. Benevolence and non-maleficence are our highest ideals, and policies and procedures are in place to ensure we provide the best care possible. It is not war to ask the same of law enforcement, and departments who are truly moving toward becoming guardians of their communities will respond to this revolution as King has.

Having the support and embrace of our community guardians while we mourned together at the vigil was unforgettable. This event focused on the black community. It was a safe space for us to express our emotions and make commitments to one another. Having our brothers and sisters in blue quietly listen and try to hold our pain with us was beautiful. However, this revolution of accountability did not begin and end at one community event. It is a commitment to long term dialogue. It is a series of conversations and actions that are rooted in a philosophy of love, service, and true guardianship.

So what will we do with this moment? My hope and my work is to see it become the revolution between police and citizens that will carry us productively into the future. It has been said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice, and we must each do our part in our own way to ensure this truth becomes reality.

Mica McGriggs is a Ph.D. candidate in counseling psychology at Brigham Young University and a community activist.






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