LNP | LancasterOnline periodically curates readers' letters to the editor on a variety of issues facing the county — and beyond.
George Floyd's untimely death at the hands of a police officer, caught on video, sent a ripple through the United States, and got people protesting despite being in the middle of a pandemic.
Protests have steadily happened in Lancaster County since May 30, and protests are scheduled to continue into the weekend - and beyond.
Readers of LNP | LancasterOnline wrote to the Editorial Board about instances of police brutality, what it would mean to defund the police, whether they agree with protesters, etc. Here are some of the readers' responses.
Editor's note: These are not the full letters from each person, but excerpts. To read the full letter and have more context, click on the person's name, which is green and bolded.
On police power
"Recently, I saw an article in LNP | LancasterOnline about a project that sought to humanize City of Lancaster police officers (“Police as people,” May 26). I know the intent in doing so is to bring the community and the police department closer together, but, in my view, it misses the mark.
Police departments hold too much power. Historically and presently, far too often members of the police act with impunity. And certain members of our communities are much more likely to experience the violence and harm of an unaccountable police force.
... The police department does not need a project to humanize them. Even friendly cops can do bad things. What the department needs is scrutiny and accountability."
"I cannot fathom what it must have been like for either the victim or the helpless bystanders. More than eight minutes.
... Do not tell me that this letter is an indictment of all police officers. It is certainly not.
Rather, it is a plea to rid police departments of rogue officers who believe they have the right to be judge and executioner of anyone they want.
Every time this happens — and it happens way too frequently — we must come to the defense of the thousands of police officers across America who are decent, hardworking, and put themselves at risk for the rest of us every day. It is for their benefit and ours that we demand officers who disgrace the force be held accountable.
So often they are not."
"This country needs a cold case investigation unit for the examination of past deaths of minorities in police custody. I believe some of the police officers still on some of these forces have been committing crimes of this magnitude for years that have gone unaddressed.
There is evidence to be gained by talking to witnesses from each case, especially the other officers on the scene at the time the acts were perpetrated. If you take a look at some recent cases, I believe you can see how complicit some of the other officers were when things got out of hand."
"Having served as a police officer, parish minister and state prison chaplain, I have experienced humanity on many levels. These experiences have taught me that education enables understanding of who we are and strive to be. Education must not only take place in our schools, but also within our police departments on a continuing basis. Police work is challenging and dangerous, and our officers must be supported and appreciated. While this is essential to the fabric of our society, we must redefine the function of law enforcement.
I grew up in Philadelphia at a time when police officers were friends of our community. Officers would spend time engaged with young people and adults, often getting out of their vehicles to do so. It was one of the reasons I desired to join the police department. We desperately need to return to this and other types of community policing.
Police departments should also tone down their military appearance and become more sensitive to historical and present diversity issues. This requires ongoing education. Officers must again become “public servants.” These essential changes, plus having civilians on review boards for police misconduct, will move us in a positive direction. Mutual trust and respect would begin to bear fruit."
On defunding the police
"I’m reading that some anti-fascist groups and their supporters want all the police across the country to be defunded. But then what? Do they think we will all live in peace and harmony thereafter? What’s their game plan after the police are gone? It makes no sense.
Admittedly, the Minneapolis police officer was clearly wrong in what he did. He’s been arrested and will be dealt with. His fellow officers who accompanied him on the scene might also be arrested.
Is this worth all of the already hurting businesses that have been destroyed and the people who have been injured and killed? Have we as a people no sense of decency?"
"Hearing all this news about doing away with police or reducing their budgets is contrary to good common sense.
If there is a problem, fix it. Try better recruiting, better training and better leadership. We also need a better interface with elected public officials who know how to run a good government."
On Lancaster protests
"At around 2:20 p.m. Sunday (May 31), I stood at the corner of Prince and Chestnut streets. Several city police officers stood in front of a group of protesters. Not one protester was physically violent.
The police asked us to move back, and we couldn’t, because of the crowd of people. A police officer grabbed a young woman standing peacefully (captured in a photo printed in LNP | LancasterOnline on Monday) and then two additional officers tackled a young man behind us.
It became chaotic when the police pepper-sprayed the crowd. I was part of a group of Lancaster residents chanting and protesting. The use of the pepper spray was an extreme reaction and aggressive.
I write this to remind you that our police are, in my view, using unjustified force against our community. We have known that for a long time. Unarmed black and brown neighbors have been shot and had Tasers used on them in public shows of extreme force. The past few days are no exception.
Please don’t rely on one narrative about what is happening in our streets right now. This narrative risks letting our police force off the hook for violent actions."
"I am proud of the City of Lancaster’s chief of police and mayor for bending the knee and listening.
We’re on the same side: against police brutality and violence and racial profiling."
"This is a thank-you to the people of Lancaster. For our insistence — and, yes, persistence — that systemic racism be eradicated. All of us are diminished when any of us are disrespected, made fearful, ignored or killed. Serious deliberations about how to implement change must continue. Yes, each individual is responsible for his or her change of heart, mind and spirit. But the momentum and promise of this time is remarkable. "
"Some are shocked by the protests. Why didn’t we have a clue this was brewing? But when law enforcement’s war on drugs is analyzed, it becomes apparent that part of its logic is a war on communities of color.
For generations, black leaders have been pleading for an understanding of this racially charged situation, which is intentionally hidden from white people who live in safe and secure communities, completely clueless as to what is actually happening.
In my view, the mainstreaming of a radical right-wing, anti-black media message (presented as a voice of reason) gives white people reasons to ignore these pleas from black leaders. This intentionally deceptive message has successfully driven a wedge between whites and blacks, allowing racists with power to continue their deceptive dirty work.
... I pray that black Americans recognize their struggle is not ultimately against the police. As a white American, I call on my fellow white Americans (particularly my fellow Christians who listen to the deceptive radical media) to start listening to our fellow citizens of color, to stop passing judgment on what we don’t understand and to stand together with our fellow citizens of color. That’s exactly what the entrenched racist powers don’t want."
"To the Black Lives Matter protesters: If black lives are so important, why haven’t I heard the name of the retired, black police captain who was killed by looters while trying to defend a friend’s store amid a protest? Why haven’t you demonstrated earlier concerning the many black lives lost to murder in Chicago (many killed by other African Americans) in the first five months of this year?
What happened to George Floyd is truly horrendous, and those who took part in it should be made to suffer the full penalty the law allows. That being said, to use what happened to Floyd and not address the aforementioned items seems hypocritical. So again my question: Why?"