Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2020 / 14:00 pm
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington called for police reform in a virtual town hall event on Tuesday, saying that fear of law enforcement officers among African-American and other minority communities is an indication of the need for ongoing conversation about policing.
The leader of the Washington archdiocese, which includes much of Southern Maryland, said that social media posts allow negative interactions with police officers to garner widespread attention, even while most law enforcement officers are committed servants of their communities.
“The image is often skewed,” said Gregory, “that the police community is dominated by rouge officers, and that’s not true.” The archbishop noted that the vast majority of officers are “wonderful, generous, and dedicated guardians of public safety.”
Nevertheless, Gregory said, real reform of police policy is needed, as other participants in the town hall emphasized the need for police training and resources to address mental health crisis response.
“Until we can get to the point where a young Black kid, a young Black man, can feel safe when he’s encountering a police officer, we’ve got to talk,” Gregory said.
The town hall was hosted by the Maryland Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic bishops.
“Here in the state of Maryland, we are not having conversations about defunding the police,” Delegate Darryl Barnes, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said during the event.
“But we are looking at ways in which we can reallocate funds for mental health training and counseling that the police department should not be doing but other subject matter experts in those fields.”