An apology for the role police officers played "in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color" issued by the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police quickly drew mostly positive reviews from advocacy groups and other top cops.
IACP leader Terrence Cunningham, speaking Monday at his group's annual conference, said laws adopted at the federal, state and local level in the past required officers to perform "unpalatable tasks" such as ensuring legalized discrimination.
"While this is no longer the case, this dark side of our shared history has created a multigenerational, almost inherited, mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies," Cunningham said.
He said most of today's officers had nothing to do with those practices and find it difficult to understand the inherent mistrust felt by many minority citizens. Work must be done to build trust, he said.
"For our part, the first step in this process is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color," Cunningham said. "At the same time, those who denounce the police must also acknowledge that today’s officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past. If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who heads the New York-based National Action Network, welcomed the apology. NAN issued a statement saying Sharpton "will urge officers around the United States to back his words up with action and legislation to protect communities of color from the onslaught of police misconduct that has disturbed the country."
The NAACP's Legal Defense Fund tweeted the apology was a "Good 1st step. Some next steps: require anti-bias training; discipline officers who engage in bias policing."
Delrish Moss, who took over as police chief of Ferguson, Mo., in the spring, also was positive. Ferguson made international headlines two years ago when police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown on a Ferguson street. The shooting set off a wave of protests across the nation.
Moss, who is black, told the Associated Press he had negative encounters with police when he was growing up.
“There are communities that have long perceived us as oppressors, there are communities that have long perceived us as the jackbooted arm of government designed to keep people under control, and that’s one of the things we have to work hard to get past,” Moss told AP. “I’m glad it’s being addressed (by the IACP) because the only way to get past it is to first acknowledge the existence of it.”
Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, was more begrudging. He released a statement saying apologies don't address underlying issues such as urban decay, unemployment and homelessness.
"Seeking workable solutions to issues that affect us all so directly is a much more worthy endeavor, one which will do far more to foster goodwill and understanding between law enforcement and the community at large," Canterbury said.
Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, called Cunningham's statement "asinine."
“Our profession is under attack right now and what we don’t need is chiefs like him perpetuating that we are all bad guys in law enforcement,” Kroll told AP. “I think it’s an asinine statement. … We’ve got officers dying on almost a daily basis now because of this environment, and statements like that don’t help.”