The shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer, is disturbing and of national concern. If we are honest with ourselves, we recognize what happened that fateful night in August could have happened anywhere in these United States. It could have happened right here in Washington, DC. To illustrate, blacks are, on average, 4.2 times more likely than whites to be killed in police shootings. Even more, federal data show that of 1,217 deadly police shootings between 2010 and 2012, black males between the ages of 15 and 19 were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million. For white teenagers, the rate was just 1.47 per million.
The shooting forced society as a whole to hold up a mirror and engage in an honest and candid conversation about policing in communities of color. All of us are connected and no city, or police department, or citizen is operating in a silo. Justice being served in this case does not begin and end with the indictment of Office Darren Wilson, as some may think. It begins and ends with you and me. Michael Brown’s death would truly be in vain if we do not learn from it and move forward accordingly.
I will not be so bold as to dictate what exactly moving forward entails. I will offer, however, that we must redouble our efforts to establish meaningful public policies that advance racial justice. Further, we must recommit to enhancing police-community relations and building greater trust between law enforcement and the citizens that they serve. I am deeply committed to working with the community and our law enforcement partners to move forward, together.
As is said, doing the right thing is easy. Knowing what’s right is the hard part. Even with this, I am hopeful that what’s right can be done in a certain spirit: thoughtfully, calmly and with passion. Not reactively, hastily or with aggression. We all have witnessed the clashes between protestors and police. Perhaps these two groups can ultimately realize their ends are not so far apart, even if the means are.