Dismantling statues is easy, but solutions are harder - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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Dismantling statues is easy, but solutions are harder

By WIN GRUENING

The images on our television screens showing Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests are difficult to watch. Listening to personal stories of people impacted by violence and destruction is painful.

BLM supporters are focused on recent occurrences of police violence captured on video, as well as other documented instances of unarmed suspects shot and killed by police. In 2019, police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites, according to a Washington Post national database.

Police supporters might be thinking about demonstrations that turned into hate-fests – the insults, bricks, bottles, and feces that were hurled at police trying to maintain order and protect lives and property.   And the 135 policemen who were killed last year in the line of duty.

While we can argue about whether systemic racism pervades police departments across the country, there seems to be general acceptance of the notion that broad examination of policing methods, training and accountability is inevitable and warranted if the public’s trust in our police departments is to be maintained.

On the other hand, demonizing all policemen, implementing draconian anti-police measures, and gutting police department budgets will cause irreparable societal harm and guarantee that more lives will be lost unnecessarily.

Alaskans should be relieved that demonstrations here did not devolve into violence, vandalism, or looting as happened in many other states.  BLM rallies have mostly remained respectful protests for change.  Likewise with Blue Lives Matter demonstrations supporting our law enforcement professionals.

Virulent anti-police invective, however, is common on social media and within extremist organizations. 

Nationally, the network cancellations of long-running cop shows reflecting good policing practices that cast the profession in a positive light is an unfortunate knee-jerk reaction.

Pretending there are no good cops is no better than pretending bad cops don’t exist. 

We all want rogue cops held accountable. Americans have little tolerance for lawlessness.  That applies to criminal policemen as well as riotous arsonists, vandals, and looters.  Law and order is the foundation of our society, without which there can be no liberty or prosperity.

Allowing the illegal takeover of a police precinct and a freeway in downtown Seattle by activists, culminating in several fatalities, has proven that choosing to selectively enforce laws is a mistake. The resulting recent spike in violence, defacement and destruction of statues, and general lawlessness across the country should not be tolerated.

The vast majority of police officers are dedicated, compassionate, and fair.  African-Americans, Native-Americans and other minorities are among the many professionals in law enforcement organizations across the country that have reduced crime to historic lows and continue to risk their lives to do so.

Last year, the Juneau Police Department handled 32,605 police response calls that generated 5,022 cases and 1,815 arrests.  Force (more than a firm grip) was used by 54 officers against 38 people – less than 3% of arrests.

CBJ Mayor Beth Weldon and City Manager Rorie Watt, have openly praised Juneau’s police department for its diverse recruiting and training practices.

No doubt we are asking cops to do too much.  We expect them to deal with everything from routine traffic stops to societal issues involving the homeless, drug addicts, and the mentally ill – in addition to locating and apprehending dangerous felons.

It’s possible to believe some police reform is necessary and, at the same time, empathize with and support the police.

The BLM movement claims that our justice system is deeply racist and targets minorities disproportionately.  This is superficially and conveniently explained as a function of systemic racism, white supremacy, and white privilege.  Today, sadly, it’s exceedingly tough to dispute this narrative because difficult and honest conversations about race are silenced by the threat of being labeled a racist.

Emotions are running high now.  But implementation of reforms must be based on facts and root causes – not slogans.  Juneau’s elected assembly was wise to pull back and delay consideration of an all-powerful and unelected “systemic racism” committee that would review every city ordinance or resolution prior to enactment.

Any reforms, whether in policing or elsewhere, can only be accomplished through public dialogue that remains measured, respectful, and open to all views.

Win Gruening retired as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in 2012. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is active in community affairs as a 30-plus year member of Juneau Downtown Rotary Club and has been involved in various local and statewide organizations.

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Latest comments

  • Excellent read! Thank you, Win!

  • I agree with the tone and sentiment of this article. It is well written and thoughtful, and I hope it reaches many people because this is the kind of balanced narrative that we need to get out there.

  • His best, by far. He even appeared to hint at the possibility racism may run deeper than only in the police and justice departments in our country – the elephant in the room.

  • Yeah. Don’t resist arrest. Don’t drive drunk, or on drugs. Don’t fight the cops or try to take their weapon. Drop any attitude or chip you have on your shoulder. Do exactly what this over stressed public servant asks you to do. He puts his life on the line daily. Respect what he does. Respect the rule of law.

  • quote: “…it’s exceedingly tough to dispute this narrative because difficult and honest conversations about race are silenced by the threat of being labeled a racist,” couldn’t be said better, Win.
    It would seem wise if in a room “one day” where folks are looking for answers rather than screeching about their pet victim issue, we could have a couple of rules for the group that too often forgotten or not even known in today’s “civil” conversations.
    I’d start with, “As soon as you go into ad hominem (attacking the person instead of the idea), you get one more chance before you must be silent for the day. OR, as soon as you generalize an entire group (all police, or all white people “always” or “never”), you again, get one more chance. Then you sit down quietly for the rest of the time.
    That could be a start.

    • I’m not convinced the cops did anything wrong. The first guy was on drugs, resisted arrest, had an underlying health condition, was getting enough air to speak. The Atlanta guy drove drunk, fell asleep in a drive through, fought the cops, tried to flee, crapped a weapon and fired it at police. Each of these cases show that if the perp had done what they were supposed to do, everything that happy afterwards wouldn’t have happened. No they are showing a black guy shooting a gun and cops before the took the wind out of him. They are saying that was a bad shoot, but I think we all know it wasn’t. I’m all for holding these law breakers accountable and fully support the police. I think they do a great job of protecting us law abiding citizens.

  • Calm & reasoned, something we need to see more of in our public discourse.

  • People use the term “systemic racism” quite a lot but I never see it defined or an example given.

    According to Merriam-Webster the definition is: Systemic describes what relates to or affects an entire system. For example, a systemic disease affects the entire body or organism, and systemic changes to an organization have an impact on the entire organization, including its most basic operations.

    So, since Minneapolis has a black police chief, a majority black city council and the state has a black attorney general, pray tell how are they suffering from systemic racism? How is any police department in any major city suffering from systemic racism?

  • To Win Gruening….just sit down and take a breather from your excusing your attitude on the BLM and violence they perpetrate. They are the domestic, violent terrorists of another kind. We need to give more rewards to our law enforcement for the work they do against the perpetrators of the violence on the streets in this state and elsewhere. We need to stand with law enforcement not call them “rogue” cops. Crimes committed should be met with the laws enacted to quell the lawbreakers and take them to courts. Win Gruening is forever thinking of ways to excuse his poor judgment as if everyone wants to follow it. Let’s give our law enforcement raises and make sure they are funded to do a better job each and every day. Reward them for putting up with people like the author of this sick junk. Find another hobby Win Gruening…you are lousy giving the world or anyone reading this, advice of any kind. You make me sick!

    • We’ve seen this all before with the black Panthers and the felon Malcome X. This nothing new. It tool the National guard back then. Might need to knock heads once more.

    • DK, you must have not gotten past the first two paragraphs. There are no excuses provided for lawbreakers of any kind. Try reading it over again.

  • Marxists announced their plans. It was revealed decades ago that once the education system was controlled, race and other issues like anti-semitism would be easy issues to use to cause upheaval. IN THEIR OWN WORDS. If one pointed this out they would be branded all sorts of things, from racist to far right wing nut job to conspiracy theorist. When will it be a bullet to the brain? I just heard somewhere that the Chinese government kills a higher percentage of it’s own citizens than any other country. This is considered news? People like the author are afraid to call a person or a group Marxist, or Communist even if they self identify as such. Is it ignorance or fear?

  • DK, I do not understand your point of view. Are you saying Win is the problem?

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