Our world is a scary and painful place right now with the pandemic that threatens us all, the renewed calls for social justice sparked by the death of George Floyd, and the horrific results of peaceful protests met by violence.
Our constitution guarantees justice for all, no matter the color of our skin, the religion that we practice, or our gendered identity. Justice is based on an equality of rights, fairness and morality. Our laws ideally reflect our ideas of justice and are created by our elected officials to ensure our safety and must be obeyed by all. Demonstrations in support of social justice across this country highlight issues with our political system that must be addressed, with a national focus on the police as enforcers of our laws.
The police and the Orrville-Wooster NAACP work together to make our community a more just and safe place for all of us. John Clay, the president of the Wooster/Orrville NAACP; Matt Fisher, the chief of police in Wooster; and Scott Rotolo, the assistant chief of police share their positions on the current crisis of social justice in our country. Perhaps if we take a moment to listen to these important community leaders we can work together to ensure social justice for all of our citizens.
John Clay rightly states that "Laws are supposed to be just, fair and equal for everybody; to protect everyone from harm, death and loss of property." He reminds us that "Black people say there has been no justice because the same thing happens again and again" referring to the long history of racial injustice in the United States. Clay argues that "justice must occur when there has been a terrible wrong committed to Black America. There must be consequences for these wrongs and political change." But Clay affirms the positive relationship the NAACP has with the police and cautions us that "Not all police are the same."
Fisher notes, "We [the police] are the most visible force of government, the most visible cog in the wheel of law. We don’t write the laws, but we must enforce what is on the books. Whether we agree or not, it’s our job. What is happening now is not right. … We are outraged by what we have seen. We aren’t like those police — paint any group with a broad brush and it is unfair. It hurts that so many can’t look past that badge. Are we perfect? No, we still have work to do."
Rotolo added, "Law and justice are supposed to go hand in hand, work together. The police are thrust into the middle of enforcing laws. These events hurt us, not just our profession but as human beings too, to see what is happening. We took an oath to make the community safe, to make people’s lives better. We need to work together. We want to help people."
The NAACP was founded by blacks and whites in 1909 to advance justice for African Americans. As the president of this important organization, Clay reached out to the Wooster police to join in a march on Juneteenth, the celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States. The police agreed immediately to participate and to support justice for all in our community.
These community leaders agree that we must all have more compassion for each other; to try to understand the world through the eyes of those different from us. President Barack Obama stated: "Justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other; that my liberty depends on you being free, too." Are we ready to fight for justice together and stand in solidarity with our black and brown brothers and sisters, and with our police? The readers reached by The Daily Record can lead in healing our diverse community.
Pamela Frese holds a doctorate in anthropology. She is a graduate of the Wooster Citizens Police Academy and has been active with the Wooster/Orrville NAACP the past four years.