LETTERS: Education is a vital part of better policing

Editor: My name is Elizabeth Black. I am the daughter of Captain Richard Black, Jr who was killed by the Aurora Police after a man broke into our home and assaulted my nephew on the night of July 30, 2018. During the time since my father was killed, I have focused on trying to heal and find my place in this world again. I started that process by forgiving the officer who did this to my family. So, if you’re reading this: I forgive you for what you did.

Over the past three years, I have spent time understanding the law, how it is applied, statistics, body camera footage, 911 calls, documentaries and I have come to realize that so often the victims are forgotten in situations like my fathers. It’s a shame because the people we lose to violence aren’t just a loss to their families, but the whole world. We will never know what their futures would have held. We are a society that reacts firsts and then asks questions later, instead of just taking an extra second or two to think about things before doing anything. Our sense of morality should lead us all into a thought pattern in which we understand right from wrong. It’s so important to remember it only takes a matter of seconds to ruin yourself or someone else for their entire lives. We should be holding more people responsible for their words and their actions. We should be holding ourselves more accountable for our actions. It isn’t enough to just say we know we can do better, but we need to be better because we are better than our worst traits.

Our justice system is flawed in many ways. Political intervention has led to good things for police reform, but it needs to be deeper than that. It must start with educational institutions. We need to help cultivate a more positive relationship between Aurora citizens and the police. If we teach skills starting in elementary school on how to handle emergency situations and how to interact with the police that creates a sense of security for everyone involved. It is imperative that Aurora Public Schools provides education in life skills like this that could save lives. As an example, if you have an offender that is terrified of the police because he sees nothing but negativity about them in the media, the offender is more likely to become anxious, aggressive, and dangerous very quickly if confronted in any way by law enforcement . Aurora police and Aurora public schools have missed critical points over the past 10 years to encourage respect for the police.

It took an incredibly long time for the Attorney General to get involved after Elijah McClain passed. Once they did, I believed they developed great guidelines for training police moving forward, but there is one incredibly important thing it was missing. It wasn’t the race training. It wasn’t about changing the protocol after an officer involved incident occurs. It wasn’t about the physical or mental fitness for duty. It wasn’t about the firearms training. It’s missing the simplest of things: There is no way to train some officers that all people are human beings with a heart and soul. Of course, I do understand that there are good officers and bad officers. That has historically been the case for as long as law enforcement has existed. Being an officer isn’t easy and it’s a high stress position with relatively little reward, but I really believe if we can use positive reinforcement to create good relationships between Aurora Police and the citizens of this city then we have a chance to make a difference .

We can do this without having to wait on amendments to be made. We can teach courses on basic constitutional rights early on and really get into them instead of just briefly exploring it. This is also where Aurora Public Schools comes back into the picture. If we have an emphasis on civics lessons then we have a higher voter turnout, our children have a better understanding of how the law works and they can learn that their voice matters too. That leads to more productive changes in our society. We can teach our children methods of positive expression so that hopefully one day the violence will lessen. Education is the key to a well-rounded community base. Education can bring trust, respect and understanding to law enforcement in an unprecedented way, and it should not be overlooked. Right now, our children are suffering, our teachers are suffering, and our communities are suffering. Now more than ever we need to come together to have meaningful conversations about change without anger.

—Elizabeth Black, go [email protected]

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