By: Mayor Sylvester Turner
I’ve been unable to sleep. Too many lives have been taken, too many families destroyed.
This is a difficult time in our nation’s history. There is pain, hurt and anger all around. Though the recent shootings did not take place in Houston, we are not that far removed. There has been progress on the divide between law enforcement and those they serve and protect since I was a young black kid, but this inexcusable violence on both sides indicates we have a very long way to go. Thanks to the global social media village we live in, society as a whole is only now beginning to acknowledge the severity of the problem. Acknowledgment is the first step.
Houston has not experienced the same kind of violence and uprisings as other cities. We like to say it is because Houston is different. Our diversity does make us more accepting of that which is different. On the other hand, I worry that we may have just been lucky. Regardless of why it has not happened here, we are working hard to get ahead of the problem before a situation causes Houstonians to react contrary to what we expect.
We cannot hold an entire group responsible for the actions of individuals. If an African American, Hispanic, Anglo or Asian commits an act of violence against someone, we cannot blame the entire group. The same would apply to Muslims or Baptists. We also cannot blame all of law enforcement for the wrongful actions of a police officer. That would be wrong. Each individual must be held accountable for his or her actions.
Houston has taken steps to enhance trust between law enforcement and the community. Earlier this year, Houston became the largest city to begin deployment of body cameras for all of our uniformed officers. This is another step; it is not the answer. HPD is also making strides in the area of training. And, the police chief meets regularly with ethnically and culturally diverse community, religious, academic and business leaders, to address issues and concerns impacting their respective communities and connect them with the appropriate contacts within HPD to help resolve their issues.
Yes, Houston is different due to its diversity, but diversity means nothing if we are separate, segregated and apart. Now more than ever we need to pull together and use our differences to gain understanding and find workable solutions to this national emergency. The summer of 2016 cannot continue on the bloody track we’ve witnessed recently. I invite all leaders to join me at the table to work on this. If there is any city that can lead the way in getting it right, it is Houston!