This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Sacramento Bee.
I am very grateful to the brave and honest men and women who work as police officers, sheriff’s deputies and prison guards. But as a taxpaying citizen, I feel that I am culpable in their acts; that not only do they protect me, my family and my community, but they also represent me, my family, my community and our values, as well.
We entrust them with deadly force, the power to incapacitate and incarcerate – to deprive persons of life and liberty. We need to insist on a system that ensures civilian accountability and oversight of corrections and law enforcement personnel, to make sure that dishonesty and brutality – in our names – are not tolerated.
In my heart, I believe that we cannot pay cops and guards enough for the work they do. Nor can we allow the unjust acts of corrections supervisors and front-line staff to go unpunished. Unjust acts by justice officials breed contempt for authority and law, and undermines the safety of our neighborhoods. Get the bad cops and bad guards out, for the safety of good cops, good guards and our neighborhoods.
Glenn Backes lives in Sacramento and is a Public Policy Researcher and Consultant. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.