At the risk of seeming out of step with the current flow of public sentiment, we pose this question as Congress and the White House take up police reform proposals:
Why isn’t this taking place in Madison, Springfield and other state capitals rather than the bigfooting, big-mouth Washington crowd?
It used to be—but apparently is no longer—a core conservative principle that federal power is limited and enumerated, with states and municipalities and the people exercising all other authority.
Instead, now we have presidents firing off executive orders willy-nilly with scarcely a thought about either Congress or the states.
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives adopts a bill mandating all sorts of things for state and local law enforcement agencies. The Republican-controlled Senate is considering a less coercive plan, but still brings the hammer by threatening to withhold federal funds from states that don’t do what they’re told.
Let’s make this clear. We have no quarrel with most police reform proposals being discussed in the wake of the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Any use of force—let alone deadly force—should be last resort, deployed to protect and preserve lives. Better de-escalation training for officers, effective restraints on force, along with more use of social services is called for. Improved ways to weed out power-tripping police candidates or those already on the force are needed.
Most importantly, in the current climate, the bright lights must be on equal justice and police interactions with people of color. The fact that a problem exists is undeniable. Society must not allow a return to the status quo once the heat of the moment passes. It is long past due for America to have a reckoning with race about unequal justice and encounters with law enforcement.
But we are skeptical Washington will provide the right answers. Experience shows, more often than not, what comes out of career politicians in Washington is nothing but feel-good political theater. It’s not really about deep, meaningful change. It’s about appearing to care in the crisis of the moment, until it slips away so the comfortable can remain comfortable, and in office.
Change is local. That means states and local governments must act.
And, yes, that is largely the sound of silence people are hearing.
Too few local governments and statehouses are stepping up to take the lead in changing hearts and minds, not just policies.
To the activists, and to those sitting at home with hearts that have been touched by the wrenching scenes of late, it’s time to demand action that matters where you live.
And that’s not Washington.