Op-ed by Rev. Michael Vaughn –
Well here I go again and I’m sure to get some additional “unkind” comments about this article, but I guess that is the price of having an opinion that you are not afraid to share and don’t really care if it goes against either the majority or what folks believe that African-Americans should think. Recently the Monroe County Legislature passed an Anti-Harassment Law. This law protects first responders; police, firefighters, emergency workers, from being subject to behavior that can be considered an annoyance or harassment.
When you look at this law one has to ask why do we need a law to codify what should be mature, respectable behavior towards folks coming to help resolve a dangerous and potentially life threatening situation, but here we go. I do find it interesting though that some of the people that argue that there are already laws protecting first responders still thought we needed a Police Accountability Board (PAB), when there are laws and policies to deal with corrupt police officers. However, that was the subject of my last column.
Unlike those that argue against me, I am trying to be consistent in my opinion here. I do not believe that we need another law to protect first responders (NOTE: while the law is for first responders, I am going to spend the rest of the article dealing with police) from harassment (just like I don’t believe that we need a PAB). In our society we are too quick to pass laws or establish more bureaucracies instead to being committed to what we already have on the books. How much better off would we be if we just enforced the laws and policies that are already in existence? With the passage of this law the normal group of folks have found something to become agitated about. I say, chill-out! We need to stop having such emotional reactions to everything that takes place in our society and determine that we are going to have passionate, logical solutions to the issues that face us. Just like the PAB this law most likely will be deemed unconstitutional and we won’t have to deal with these wasted efforts. My thoughts are how about we deal with the root issue; the police and the community. Praise God for Clergy on Patrol; we can start there to continue the dialog between police and the community with the clergy not acting as an accelerant for fanning into flames the emotions of the community but acting as the bridge between the police and the community.
If we can help the community understand that all police officers are not bad and help the police department publicly and as quickly as possible punish those “bad apples” that will go a long way to heal the wounds. If we can begin to heal the wounds, police officers will not have to be concerned with being harassed. The men and women of God need to find the balance between supporting the community without demeaning the police force. The community needs police officers (and first responders) and police officers (and first responders) need a community that respects them. We have to stop playing politics and jockeying for position. There indeed is a problem that we face and I believe that some of the initiatives that the mayor has undertaken are awesome (e.g. Clergy on Patrol, Prayer, etc.), we have to build on them!
Shame on the Monroe County legislature for ramming this law through but also shame on local activists for making this situation much larger than it needs to be. We need to “chill-out” and spend our limited energy to continue to forge relationships between the police department and community. If we can do that, the need for a PAB and the anti-harassment law go away, which in the end, is really what we want!
Rev. Michael Vaughn currently serves as senior pastor at New Wineskin Church in Rochester. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)