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Accountability for Police by Citizens

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Hello, Southwest Minnesota. I wish I was here to talk to you today under better circumstances, but as we all have been made aware, the precious, irreplaceable life of one of our citizens has been irrevocably lost. George Floyd was senselessly and brutally murdered in the streets of Minneapolis by a group of law enforcement officers, whose job it is to PROTECT the innocent, not execute them.

I wish I could tell you that this was an isolated incident, and that this is not who we are, but as we approach the four-year-anniversary of the death of Philando Castile next month, that would be nothing more than an empty platitude; and we don’t need more platitudes, more empty promises, more what- about-isms; what we need is action, what we need is a meaningful culture shift, and what we need most of all is a willingness to listen to our citizens who are in pain. Every senseless death that has occurred in the fashion of the murder of George Floyd re-opens the wounds of our African American community from the one that came before it, yet our institutions act as if it is the first time every time it happens. If this was an isolated incident, surely at least one of those four officers would have stepped in and save Mr. Floyd’s life, but that is not what happened. This is an institutional, cultural problem.

Before any other cultural changes can take place within our law-enforcement agencies, we have to establish a culture of accountability. It was shocking to me that these officers were willing to commit this horrific action with the cameras rolling, and with a crowd of onlookers surrounding them, with some even pleading for Mr. Floyd’s life. This speaks to a brazen disregard for accountability. They honestly thought that they would get away with what they did...maybe because they have before.

The time for excuses and rationalizations is over. We don’t need to hear that “not all cops are like that,” because we already know that. Do we really think that the grief and indignation of our peaceful protestors and demonstrators is so aimless and ill-informed? We know that the majority of officers are not murderers, racists, and bullies. When our protestors criticize the police, it’s the institution and culture being criticized, not each and every individual! As with any other work-environment, however, it does not take many bad apples to spoil the entire institution, and with an institution as important, and as integral to our infrastructure as our law enforcement agencies, we cannot afford to let this continue. Irreplaceable lives literally depend on it!

What I am proposing is that we establish a committee of elected citizens – not officials, not politicians, CITIZENS, from every precinct in the state, who are tasked with investigating each and every claim of police brutality in their respective area. I would also propose that a special prosecutor be brought in to represent the people in these cases, based on the findings and conclusions of that committee. We cannot continue to leave it up to our law enforcement institutions to hold themselves accountable for their actions. This proposal, however, is only a starting point in the changes that need to happen to end the blatant discrimination and even, at times, persecution of our fellow citizens in our African American community.

It is also the starting point of our communities, as a whole, gaining the power and authority to hold our law enforcement officials accountable. This is where we begin to say “you work for us, not over us.”

I’m Shawna Marshall, and I am running for Minnesota State Senate from District 22. Thank you. (Art of George Floyd by Detour aka Thomas Evans and Hiero who have been working to honor a number of victims of police with their art)

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©2020 Shawna Marshall for MN State Senate.