The Biggest Barrier to Minority and Women Police Chiefs? Riots for Equality

As the country struggles with unequal application of justice and trying to find ways to make sure the law applies to call equally, one of the most often cited needs is for more minority police chiefs and leaders in police departments around the country that can better understand the issues involved and better relate to minority communities.

As it turns out, one of the biggest barriers to minority police leadership is the current riots that supposedly are demanding ‘equality’ and racial justice.

In the last roughly one hundred days, minority leaders of several major city police departments have resigned or pushed out. In almost every case, it has been because of either criticism over their ‘overly vigorous’ enforcement of the law or because a lack of support from city leadership who told them in some cases to abandon city buildings that we attacked with weapons rather than fight to restore order, or from local district attorneys who simply refused to prosecute people who had been arrested for violence during riots.

Below are just a few of the recent departures:

Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales was demoted to captain on Aug. 6, less than a year after he was appointed to a four-year term as chief by the city’s Fire and Police Commission.

Morales had previously been ordered to publicly explain why the department used tear gas during recent civil unrest, which the Fire and Police Commission viewed as excessive.

Seattle, WA

Carmen Best, the first black woman to lead the Seattle Police Department, announced her retirement Aug. 11 after the City Council voted to cut her salary and that of her command staff while trimming the department’s budget by almost $4 million and reducing the force by 100 officers.

Best and the SPD were criticized for their handling of protests and, specifically, for the use of tear gas and other less-than-lethal crowd-control methods, while rioters attacked a police station, took it over and used guns and armed force to take over portions of the downtown and declare an ‘autonomous zone’ for several weeks before mounting sanitation and medical problems forced the rioters to leave.

Portland, Oregon

Jami Resch, the first woman to lead the department, announced on June 8 she was stepping down as Chief of the Police in Portland amid protests against police brutality, exiting her job only a few months after taking over as Chief.

After her resignation, Portland endured more than 100 straight days of riots and damage estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars (for which Portland is seeking help paying from US taxpayers). Yet the Mayor ordered the police to continually cut back on their enforcement of laws against violence and the District Attorney refused to prosecute and released scores of people that law enforcement.

The situation in Portland has gotten so bad that law enforcement organizations from several neighboring cities have announced they will no longer send help to Portland when asked because the political leadership refuses to enforce laws and so they are putting officers in harm’s way for no reason.

Rochester, NY

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary abruptly announced that he was going to resign at the end of September, as did the entire senior leadership staff of the Department. Singletary had faced criticism after a suspect, Daniel Prude, lost consciousness while struggling during his arrest and then died days later. Singletary said that his long career and long example of personal character were under attack and he would not continue to serve while that happened and the department’s senior staff apparently felt the same way.

Daniel Prude was arrested after running around naked, smashing store  windows and claiming he had covid-19 and was going to infect people. When police arrived, he spit on them. They placed a hood over his head to keep him from continuing to spit on them and wrestled him to the ground as he continued to resist. He eventually lost consciousness while being held down, was rushed to the hospital and died several days later. An autopsy found that he was high on PCP

Dallas, TX

Reneé Hall, the first black woman to lead the Dallas police force, recently became the latest police chief to resign amid protests that have swept the country since the death of George Floyd, the black man who died in May after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.

In one incident, police arrested a number of people who had marched onto a city bridge and stopped traffic, only to charges dropped against nearly all of them.

Hall submitted her resignation the same day the police chief in Rochester, New York, and several other high-ranking officials there announced their departure from the department there.

There are more examples. Can it be that all of those police leaders in all of those cities treat people differently based on their skin color? Certainly that happens. We have seen examples of that and it needs to be stopped and addressed. But is that the case in every last one of the examples above?  Or is it, not that the minority police chiefs are racist but that they are just enforcing the law as they swore an oath to do. And the riots aren’t about equality any longer, they are about lawlessness and mindless violence?

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