Before we go forward it is important to understand a fundamental truth. The criticism surrounding Chief Allen's remarks are not at all about free speech. That is a complete, pardon the pun, cop out. The Chief is absolutely allowed to exercise his free speech. No one is, or has said, he's not allowed to have an opinion.
What people are critical of is what he said. No one said he didn't have the right to say what he said, they said it was irresponsible, divisive, and inflammatory.
The same First Amendment that protects Chief Allen's right to say divisive rhetoric, is the same First Amendment right afforded to those who protest. If you honor the lives of the fallen police officers, honor the right they were protecting.
And because people disagreed with what Allen said wasn't an affront to Allen's ability to say it. So stop that ridiculous narrative.
Leadership isn't easy and far too many elected officials have gotten comfortable with serving in office and always looking for the path of least criticism. And that is something that plagues our city council. They so often lick their thumb and put it in the air in order to ascertain the political winds and hide that behind "reflecting" as nearly every member of council has said.
Well guess what, sometimes leadership is hard. Sometimes its unpopular. Sometimes you have to be willing to say that thing that isn't popular but is right.
And today our council pandered to the audience that showed up to the city council meeting. This will not be popular, but the reality is that the people that spoke today were mostly white and mostly conservatives. Hell I thought I was watching a meeting of the El Paso Republican Party. Go back and watch the video if you don't believe me.
Every member of council that spoke took the easy way out and repeated all their glowing remarks about the Chief as though what he said didn't happen and wasn't bad for this community. And too many of the city reps and individuals in attendance think that being critical of one cop is being critical of all cops. Perhaps they should've listened to the words of President Obama when he spoke today at the memorial for the Dallas Police Officers.
"With an open heart, police departments will acknowledge that just like the rest of us, they're not perfect. That insisting we do better to root out racial bias is not an attack on cops, but an effort to live up to our highest ideals." - President ObamaAgain, most of the people that were at the meeting were white and conservative so that might inflame them even more. But there
It takes courage to stand up and speak truth to power. The easy thing is to look the other way and make apologies for institutional failures. But some of the most important leaders of the last century showed that strength to speak up for what was right. People like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Dolores Huerta, and Cesar Chavez almost always had to speak up against institutions.
That courage is lost in many of today's leaders. Again, President Obama said it best today:
"When all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights act, We cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid. We can't simply dismiss it as a symptom of political correctness or reverse racism. To have your experience denied like that, dismissed by those in authority...it hurts. Surely we can see that. All of us." - President ObamaCouncil members couldn't wait to turn the page and push everything under the rug because its uncomfortable. And in doing so, they failed us as a community. What they fail to understand is the fact that those that are critical of police are critical because they are almost never held accountable when they are wrong.
No one was even remotely critical of what Chief Allen said today. Not one member of council. Council failing to even speak critically of Allen's obviously wrong statements, and then going so far as too make excuses for them, reinforces the idea that cops are never held accountable. Forget taking any formal action to show that Allen's inflammatory remarks aren't a reflection of the values of this community, this council didn't even have the balls to be critical of his statement in their remarks.
Which brings another part of the President's speech into even sharper focus.
"If we can not talk honestly and openly, not just in the comfort of our own circles, but with those that look different than us, or bring a different perspective, then we will never break this dangerous cycle. In the end its not about finding policies that work, its about forging consensus and fighting cynicism and finding the will to make change." - President ObamaAnd frankly, I felt like President Obama more directly addressed the fundamental failings of Allen's remarks in a more meaningful way than any single member of council has. I felt like he was speaking directly to our LT Governor and Chief of Police and other voices that have made irresponsible and divisive remarks.
"With an open heart, we can abandon the over-heated rhetoric and over simplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just to opponents, but to enemies." - President ObamaWhat council failed to understand today wasn't that people critical of Allen's rhetoric are upset just because they disagreed with it, but they wanted accountability because it was divisive, inflammatory, and potentially put his officers and this community in more danger. That, more than anything, is what many were expecting council to do.
Instead they took the easy way out. To make matters worse, some actually turned against the leaders that had the political courage to stand up, despite it not being a popular move, and speak to their city council about the gravity of Allen's statements. The easy thing for those that penned the letter was to turn a blind eye and let the city (not) handle the situation. It would be easy to hide behind their office and say, well its not my problem. I don't represent the city. Let them handle it.
But knowing this is a law enforcement town, and knowing it is not the politically easy thing to do to be critical of law enforcement, they showed the political courage to face criticism in order to voice their concerns publicly about the rhetoric of Chief Allen.
Its consistent with this quote from President Obama's speech today.
"I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice, more peace." - President ObamaWhat is even more concerning about the Allen is the posture he has with the media and the public, and they way the department is attempting to stifle criticism.
Which is even more ironic when you consider the fact that everyone is tripping over themselves to say that the Chief has the right to express his opinion. He does, but apparently the Department doesn't want people to express theirs if its critical of the chief.
Here's what I mean.
Take a look at this screen shot from the El Paso Police Department's page. I'm quite certain I'll be blocked from it shortly after I post this piece, but there is something interesting you should take note of.
There are now over 700 comments. And wouldn't ya know it, almost none of them are critical of the Chief. I've seen a couple and gone back a couple hours later to check up on them and they are gone.
So much for free speech right?
Here's a look at a couple of tweets that I mentioned the El Paso PD twitter handle.
I'm critical to be sure, but not abrasive or harassing anyone. Wouldn't ya know it, a few minutes later, this happened.
So much for free speech right?
I wasn't alone. Several other people I know where also blocked by PD.
So much for free speech right?
But this next example is probably one of the more egregious examples of the heavy handedness of the EPPD twitter manager. I don't know this person but checked to make sure I had permission to post the tweet that got him blocked by EPPD.
So much for free speech right?
And yet today the Municipal Police Officer's Association President said that PD was open to talking to everyone.
Then problem with all of this is that people are blocked from the page because of their political beliefs rather than bad conduct. What rational reason do they have from blocking dissenting opinion? That they are being bullied by the public?
More importantly, what about the inherent safety issue. More and more people get their news from Twitter. The police department Twitter manager arbitrarily blocks people from potentially life-saving information because they don't like people being critical of the Chief? Is there seriously a policy about this somewhere?
Look, I get it. Sometimes you have to block people because they are just out to harass someone and they can take people away from more important tasks. Hell I used to block Ali Razavi's fake name twitter account because the mostly used it to harass me. I took him out of the penalty box a while back but I certainly see the need to block idiots. But an institution charged with public safety should have a better threshold.
And finally, I really try hard not to feed the trolls but I have to address David K and others like him. David K has a strange obsession with me that is mostly funny. But he and his ilk have been trapped in their echo chamber so long that they think every single move is some politically orchestrated portion of a larger plan. Which is silly because as a friend of mine once said, "there is room for coincidence in the universe".
But it underscores a fundamental truth about David K. He doesn't have any idea what social justice values are has no idea what if feels like to be driven by a sense of justice. When you grow up wealthy and with every advantage in life, of course you have that mentality. But not everything is a political operation.
Sometimes people stand up for what is right. And that God we have people that are principled in leadership positions in this town. I just wish there were more than a couple of them on city council.