A Call for Control

The past year has made increasingly clear the levels of impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officials across the country. Only after national outcry do officers ever seem to see significant legal or social repercussions for their actions, and even then the trial period is often lengthy and controversial.

When a human enacts violence against another human, we have a judicial system set up to determine guilt and sentencing. We have an obligation as a “free society” to subject our citizens equally to that system, and hold each individual accountable for their actions and inactions.

Here in Rochester, we’ve experienced repeated instances of abuse and brutality at the hands of those sworn to protect us. From the death of Daniel Prude to the unreasonable arrest of those protesting the eviction of school teacher Clianda Florence-Yarde and her young children.

More recently, a nine-year-old girl was cuffed, pepper sprayed and forced into the back of a police vehicle during a serious mental health episode. Repeatedly, the actions of the Rochester Police Department have been condemned by local, state and federal officials and activists.

So often, this brutality is directed toward people of color. Yet we still see, even on campus, many people rising up and claiming “Blue Lives Matter” in support of these officers and those that defend and cover up their actions.

But in order to fight against police brutality, we must subject all officers and the system they operate within to scrutiny. We must reevaluate what it means to protect and serve, and how we respond to different crises.

New York State has mandated every city within the state to reevaluate their policing, and to do so with public access and involvement. Rochester, at the time of writing, has failed to do so, nor are these meetings recorded. The city’s Police Accountability Board has demanded these meetings be opened to the public. Decisions are being made behind closed doors, and we cannot entrust the people who have enabled the shortfalls of the system to be the ones to fix it.

Many students don’t live in Rochester. Many don’t plan to stay after graduation. But for now, Rochester is our home and we all have a stake in the way we and our neighbors are treated.

We must condemn the blanket protections of police officers and the closed door decision making that enforces these protections. Otherwise, we cannot guarantee change.