The Catholic Church has made decisions over the years to preserve the institutional church rather than to protect the victims of priest sexual abuse. It would seem like U.S. police departments are making the same institutional choice over the victims of police shootings.(More)
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Institutions are designed to perpetuate themselves. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behavior. Police cars often have “Protect and Serve” stenciled on the doors of their police cars. The question needs to be asked, “Who are they protecting and who do they serve?”
The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul is in the middle of an unfolding scandal of priest sexual abuse. Minnesota Public Radio’s ongoing coverage is titled “Betrayed by Silence.” My summary is that over the years, the Archbishops protected the abusing priests and if pushed, paid off the victims. Protect the church as an institution and silence the victims which supposedly God called them to serve. Catholics can close their wallets or leave the church but only the Pope can remove an Archbishop.
With the victims of police violence there is no central authority, no Pope. In 2012 313 black people were killed by police, security guards and vigilantes. The excuses by police for targeting black and brown citizens are flimsy and with our collective silence we have let police departments become militarized and too often give police the benefit of the doubt in shootings.
Ferguson, Missouri is the latest of these shootings with “conflicting stories” about what happened. The calls for calm and an appeal for non-violence are one thing. I think they need to be accompanied by a promise to look at the overall numbers and the patterns of police behavior and ‘do something.’ The diffusiveness of authority makes dealing with this harder perhaps than persuading one Pope.
The police departments exist to serve us-all of us. Most police officers are good public servants and not randomly killing people. The police aren’t chartered to protect and serve only white people. And white people cannot look at our brothers and sisters of color and say to ourselves, “Thank God I’m white so I don’t have to worry.” Who can be our equivalent of the Pope? The Department of Justice, the FBI? We need a nationwide investigation that prevents individual police departments from protecting themselves as an institution and holds them accountable them for serving all the people.