“Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all. It is merely a sentimental affection, little more than one would have for a pet.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As marchers crossed the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, they were met by police in riot gear. The very people who should have protected them oppressed them. Historically the police were used to track down and return runaway slaves, suppress voters and enforce Jim Crow laws.
Nationwide police have not always been on the right side of justice. The image of police officers thoughtlessly using the law is seared into the memory of the oppressed. My own mother, a young Jewish girl growing up during World War II, lived the reality of oppression. My son-in-law, a newly minted American citizen, initially from Mexico, was detained at an airport where law enforcement demanded to see his “green card.” The UCSD graduate and American citizen offered a California driver’s license and instead an explanation that citizens do not carry green cards.
Where the police have been wrong, we must accept responsibility and apologize for our actions. As a cop, police chief and person who is responsible for this police agency and the policies we enact to manage the organization, I want you to know I am sorry for police actions that caused grievances and incidents of injustice in our profession. I am sickened by the actions of some police officers who abused their position to persecute and tyrannize others. We must tell the truth when we are wrong and take a stand when we are right.
Many of us inside policing are working diligently toward policies that bring greater justice for all people, especially those who have traditionally experienced suspicion or marginalization. Tens of thousands of police officers correctly understand their mission to protect the constitutional rights of all and are willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve equality regardless of one’s race, creed or color. We want our community to see a police force that stands with them.
Jan. 21, at 10 a.m., beginning at Cathcart and Pacific, Santa Cruz Police and the Santa Cruz chapter of the NAACP will again co-host an MLK march in Santa Cruz. Rather than being met by police who viewed the Selma march as a threat, SCPD will march with our community and inch us closer to improving justice. Those who want more than sentimental affection can lock arm-in-arm and walk shoulder to shoulder with us to push Dr. King’s dream forward.
Santa Cruzan’s understand that standing for justice on behalf of the most vulnerable, uplifts all of Santa Cruz. There is not a white or black, poor or wealthy, religious or secular Santa Cruz, but a dynamic community where the very DNA of social justice courses through our collective body. Santa Cruz is a city that stands for those whose voices are marginalized, whose posture is bent by the weight of oppression and are held down by the status quo.
Let this march be a place to go beyond sentimental affection and to move forward toward ensuring there is justice in how we police, create law, hold court, sentence prisoners, provide education and treat the less fortunate. Let’s not see a person by anything other than the unique and beautiful individual God intended. I ask you to come and join the NAACP and SCPD in a march that intentionally and purposefully demonstrates actionable love.
While in jail Dr. King wrote to his fellow pastors. They were concerned that his protest was “untimely.” Dr. King wrote, “Our destiny is tied up … with the destiny of America.” During this time of national turmoil where discussions rage about race, immigration, religion, and walls, I cannot think of a better time to unify in love that satisfies justice. Come. Join us.
Andrew G. Mills is the chief of police in Santa Cruz.