Police and Community Need to Work Together

RECEIVED Thu., July 1, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The targeting of APD federal funds to obtain remedial measures that address police misconduct is yet another tactic that divides the city and does not address root issues ["NAACP Targets APD Funds," June 25, News]. This suit focuses on problems in the community between the police and Austin citizens. It is true that there is a history of police misconduct. It is also true that the current police force is made up overwhelmingly of professionals wanting to serve the community well. Still more truth is that it is the community that creates the situations that police have to respond to, often-dangerous ones. Singling out the police force in this situation is an easy target, since the force is paid to enforce the law. Yet citizens, and groups representing citizens, must take some responsibility, too. Someone in the community knows when a citizen is driving a stolen car; someone and some health agency knows that a woman estranged by her family and not receiving proper medical care can present a danger to herself and others; someone knows when a person is selling stolen goods in the neighborhood as "inventory overages"; and someone knows that having four parents to supervise a party of several dozens teens is not sufficient if they are overflowing outside the home. What did we do as a community before it escalated to dangerous situations? Ignore it? Too afraid to get involved? The community and the police force must come to the table to talk about solutions, not focus on problems. I recently attended a community meeting where there were members of the cloth in attendance. I didn't hear once in that meeting an offer of forgiveness. Blame is usually a facile action. Solutions require more work, energy, and ownership. Lawsuits and protests divide, a community working for solutions unites. The community must help the police. The police must assist the community. Both bodies must be held accountable.
John Villarreal
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