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Policing Leader Apologizes For Historic Racial Abuse In The U.S. At San Diego Conference

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Chief Cunningham Remarks
Policing Leader Apologizes For Historic Racial Abuse In The U.S. At San Diego Conference
Reaction to apology from president of International Association of Chiefs of Police GUEST:Lei-Chala Wilson , past president, San Diego chapter of the NAACP

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story a midday edition the head of the international Association of police chiefs made headlines yesterday at the Association meeting in San Diego. Terrence Cunningham of Massachusetts are addressed the sensitive issue of police and communities of color. For our part, the first step in this process is for the law-enforcement profession and the -- them to knowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession is played in societies historical mistreatment of communities of color. Joining me now is Lei-Chala Wilson , past president, San Diego chapter of the NAACP . She's speaking today for herself and not those organizations. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Let me get your reaction to that statement. Personally I felt vindicated because I know for a number of years as president of the Bar Association we knew there was a problem. A lot of people in the community do not look like a stop that you guys are making it up. It is your imagination. So whether people believe it went far enough, it was a step in the right direction and I feel vindicated. They are only saying what we are renew. There is mistrust between the minority communities and law enforcement. That needs to be bridged. In -- people are scared of the police and also hampers police organization because people don't want to call the police when there is a problem. When people have contact with police, they want to run and they don't trust them. It goes both ways. It is a step in the right direction. How much you think it apology like this stems from the protests by groups like Black Lives Matter? I believe Black Lives Matter made a difference there are people who think what are they doing. Black Lives Matter but I think that is what helped. Now they're starting to pay attention. People are protesting more and they need to address the issue an apology. Whether people think it went far enough, I don't remember an apology in the past. Two let's hear some are from chief Cunningham. It is clear that the history policing have had darker periods. There been times where law enforcement officers because of the laws enacted by federal, state, local governments have been the face of operation to far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by her society have required police officers to perform any tasks such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans. This is no longer the case. This dark side of our shared history has created a generational almost inherited mistrust between many communities of color and the law-enforcement agencies we serve. You've been on this show talking about issues of racial profiling and police violence toward the black community. Has a traditional stance of law enforcement been that there is no issue of historical mistreatment? That is correct. So how far do you think this statement can go to begin to heal wounds between police and communities of color? There is one thing for the leader of the organization to say there is a problem, but what about the other people under him? I know some people have said you should not have apologize. So unless everyone is with them they're still going to be a problem. This goes back hundreds of years ago. It hasn't changed. Everyone has to buy into what he said and I'm not sure if that's going to happen. It is a step in the right direction. So what you're saying is this historical mistreatment -- I believe it was implicit in his remarks is still ongoing? It is. It will not happen overnight, but it is the first time I remember anyone giving an apology and acknowledging it. Shelley Zimmerman responded to the remarks telling the San Diego Union Tribune the best way for our country to improve community relations is to acknowledge our past, gain a better understanding of each other's viewpoints. Does that sound like the policy that sending a Police Department has been following so far? They're working on it with the body cameras, meetings, community leaders are trying to more outreach. We have to decide what words mean. It has to come from the top but those were under them, have to buy in it also. And El Cajon protester still underway of the shooting death of Alfred Olango. Do you think perhaps this statement made by the international police Association is going to influence that? It will actually change of tone of the investigation? We only hope that it does. Words are judged better by action. People are hurting and people are tired of black man being shot down an armed. All I can say is it is a step in the right direction, but let's see what happens. Do you expect that there will be some pushback on this perhaps from black police officers associate but police officers Association in general? There's already been certain police organizations that he never should apologize. That is a problem. They think it is as against them but we are a community and we all need to work together. Out what you like to see local police organizations take this statement that was made and move it perhaps one step forward? I think they have to work on de-escalation of situations. A lot of people that have been killed was not necessary but when you are black and something happens, you are treated differently than someone else. We have a lot of black men weapon killed unnecessarily or just treated differently. It is part of the process and hopefully there is healing and more communication and that's all that we ask for. I've been speaking with Lei-Chala Wilson, past president, San Diego chapter of the NAACP speaking her own words for herself today and not for that organization. Thank you so much. Thank you.

The president of a group representing tens of thousands of law enforcement officers worldwide is apologizing for historic mistreatment of people of color in the U.S.

Terrence Cunningham said at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference Monday in San Diego that police have historically been a face of oppression in enforcing laws that ensure legalized discrimination and denial of basic rights.

Cunningham said past injustices have created mistrust between communities of color and police. He said the group acknowledges and apologizes for those actions, but he also said today's officers are not to blame for the past.

Cunningham, who is also the police chief in Wellesley, Massachusetts, received a standing ovation for his comments.

He said:

Over the years, thousands of police officers have laid down their lives for their fellow citizens while hundreds of thousands more have been injured while protecting their communities. The nation owes all of those officers, as well as those who are still on patrol today, an enormous debt of gratitude.

At the same time, it is also clear that the history of policing has also had darker periods.

There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state, and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens. In the past, the laws adopted by our society have required police officers to perform many unpalatable tasks, such as ensuring legalized discrimination or even denying the basic rights of citizenship to many of our fellow Americans.

While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational—almost inherited—mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.

Many officers who do not share this common heritage often struggle to comprehend the reasons behind this historic mistrust. As a result, they are often unable to bridge this gap and connect with some segments of their communities.

While we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. We must move forward together to build a shared understanding. We must forge a path that allows us to move beyond our history and identify common solutions to better protect our communities.
Read his
full statement here.
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