As I write this, the peaceful protests — sparked by the murder of George Floyd — are continuing and we wonder how long can these protests be sustained before the intensity of the pain dies down, and will we finally see some change in the way our black countrymen and women are treated?

We Georgians saw the brazen murder of Ahmaud Arbery by white men who felt they had the authority to chase him down like a dog. The thought of that terrified young man running for his life in his own neighborhood breaks my heart. Then we saw police officers ignore a dying man’s cries as he begged for breath as they crushed him.

This age of body cams and phone cams has made it impossible to ignore the inhumane treatment our black citizens have been enduring, even decades after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

We’ve witnessed the horror. Now it’s time to bring about change. But how?

I see two major issues at play in these cases, sometimes closely linked, sometimes acting separately: police brutality and racism.

I’ve been watching, reading and listening to see if anybody has a clue how to tackle these issues. Here are some thoughts that may help.

A friend noted that a number of police officers are veterans who served our country well, but were not transitioned well back into civilian life. They were not retrained from being warriors, where the goal is to intimidate and eliminate an enemy, to being public servants who are supposed to keep the peace, to de-escalate rather than escalate the situation. It doesn’t help when the federal government gives or sells military weapons to local police officers.

Police forces and governments, particularly of large cities, need to look at this transition that has been taking place over the past few decades in how the officer on the street views the people he or she is sworn to protect and serve. They should review training methods, and strongly consider psychological evaluations of staff both old and new.

A second goal that can be enacted immediately is to weed out those “bad apples” we keep hearing about. “Most cops are good, there’s just a few bad apples,” we are repeatedly told. What we should be asking is, “What are those bad apples doing on the police force, especially when they have had complaints against them before they finally kill someone?”

Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd with the aid of three other officers, had as many as 17 misconduct complaints filed against him, according to a CNN report. Seventeen. Let that sink in. How many misconduct complaints does an officer need before a supervisor takes note that they have a problem on their hands? In my opinion, those supervisors also should be fired and the police force sued for its complicity in this crime by keeping this man on the streets.

Every police force in the nation should review their employee files immediately and take appropriate action toward those who show gross disregard for their oaths of office.

The police brutality will continue as long as the officers AND their supervisors are not held accountable — criminally and civilly.

How to handle racism? Ideally, I would like to see every racist spend a month living with a black family so they might fully understand these are human beings who love, laugh, cry and contribute to our country. Practically, though, enact that hate crime law here in Georgia — it is long overdue.

Prosecute every racist crime to the fullest extent of the law. Prosecute those people in authority who sweep cases under the rug as accessories to the act, and take them to civil court to hit them and the government offices they work for accountable — i.e. hit them in the pocketbook.

This all may strike some as going overboard. But I ask, if it was your white brother, son or father murdered as Floyd and Arbery were, wouldn’t you want everyone involved from the bottom to the top held accountable?

NOTE: I used “murder” without the qualifier of “alleged” because this is my opinion, and not a news article. In my opinion these men, and many more men and women, were just plain murdered.

Amy Knowles is the former night editor and editorial page content manager for the Rome News-Tribune.

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