Oak Park’s police department is not perfect. And no one who works there would claim it is. But it is an imperfect leader in the complicated issues of race and policing, community policing, de-escalation of encounters with citizens and strong recognition skills when individuals with mental health issues get caught up in tense or criminal circumstances.
That has been a generation’s work, going back to Chief Joe Mendrick and each internally promoted chief since then.
So we are not surprised to see our police department sign on to a comprehensive list of shared principles related to diversity and anti-discrimination efforts just put forward jointly by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois NAACP State Conference. With promises to value the lives of every person, to reject discrimination based on race, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, disability, to make departments more diverse, to deepen relationships in the community, this proviso gives life to virtues we value. And it gives the lie to the simplistic screed that police officers are always in the right and must always be defended. Their jobs are too complex to always be right. Valuing accountability is the essential step to supporting our officers.