I put up this post because many of my conservative friends cannot believe that abuse by the police in our country is a systemic problem. It is important to note that because the excessive use of violence is systemic nationally does not mean that every local police force is guilty of this. I believe that we are very fortunate here in Saratoga Springs to have leadership in our own Police Department that is committed to opposing racism and to a program that champions restraint. We also have a City Council that supports this.
In 2004 the Kenosha, Wisconsin police shot Michael Bell, a twenty-one year old white youth, point blank in the head in front of his mother and sister.
After a two day review, the Kenosha Police Department and the District Attorney exonerated the police officer who shot Michael Bell.
Michael Bell’s father, Michael Bell Sr. had been a career fighter pilot who saw combat in two wars. Mr. Bell Sr. tells the interviewer, “It was really hard for me to believe that a uniformed person would do that.”
After funding an independent investigation, Mr. Bell Sr. sued the city of Kenosha over the death of his son and won a $1.75 million dollar settlement. He used that money to mount a statewide campaign to reform how police abuse is investigated. In 2014, some ten years later, Governor Scott Walker (a conservative Republican) signed the legislation.
People who have followed my blog will know that I was harshly critical of the handling of the investigation of Darryl Mount’s death under Police Chief Greg Veitch. It is regrettable that the mishandling of the investigation cast a pall over our local department. I believe that the current leadership would have followed proper procedure.
This interview with Mr. Bell Sr. is deeply moving. I hope people will listen to the interview and come away, as I did, both appalled by the actions of the Kenosha Police and grateful that our community has radically different leadership at both the Police Department level and the Council level.
There are many dedicated police officers who share my outrage over the too common failure of police departments to prosecute those who abuse their authority. It is essential that this country face some hard truths if we are ever going to bring about real reform.