Editor’s note: The following letter was sent by Police Chief James Barber to all officers of the Mobile Police Department on Saturday, June 25.
It is reprinted in its entirety.
I do not normally express my opinion of the state of affairs but these are trying times for the MPD. The officer-involved shooting on June 13, 2016, has led to much controversy and even unwarranted accusations. I wanted all of you to understand that there are those in our community, some in positions of leadership, that choose to use this tragedy as a means to promote their personal or political agendas. That is not only insensitive to the families that have been forever affected by this tragedy; it is an incredible distraction to those of us in law enforcement that risk so much to keep this community safe. I assure you that their motives represent a very small portion of our community and appeal to you all to not be goaded into allowing this nonsense to divide our community but as even more reason to unify it.
These are challenging times for law enforcement in our country. The mistrust between law enforcement and some of the communities that we are sworn to protect has caused civil unrest, the willful destruction of property, and violence, which shares the headlines with the indiscriminate slaying of police officers for no other reason than they wear the badge.
To build on the words of Bill Bratton, the police commissioner from New York City, we must learn to “see” each other for who we are as people. We all need to “see” beyond the color of skin and “see” each other as people from each other’s perspective. We in law enforcement should understand what it is like to be a law abiding citizen that lives in a high crime neighborhood that is under the scrutiny of the police from their eyes. And we in law enforcement should understand what a young man of color feels when he sees a patrol car turn onto his street. But we as a country and as a community should also learn to “see” what the police see through the windshields of our cars as we patrol our neighborhoods.
And we as a country and a community should learn to “see” what the police see within the crime scene tape. If we as a country and a community can truly learn to “see” each other, new thinking will begin. Suspicion will give way to understanding, myths will give way to facts, mistrust will give way to trust, and hatred will give way to respect. For if we truly learn to “see” each other I believe that what we will “see” is our neighbor. I believe what we will “see” are our brothers and sisters in God. And I believe that what we will “see” when we look beyond the color of skin is that we are all more alike than we are different.
I am appealing for all of us to not allow those that seek to divide us to succeed and that we all stop and take the time to truly “see” each other. Let us move forward and not concentrate on the mistakes of the past but rather look forward toward the promise of the future.
Thank you all for your professionalism and the courage that you show every day to do that which is right despite the unwarranted scorn and ridicule that you endure from the very people we are trying to protect. I will share with you the advice that I shared at this year’s awards ceremony. As you get ready for your next shift, shine your shoes and poke out your chest. Stand up straight and lift your chins and be proud that you are Mobile Police Officers because I will assure you that I am proud of each and every one of you and I am honored to be your Chief.
Thank you for your dedication in keeping this community safe and God bless you all.
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