Terrence Cunningham, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), apologized on behalf of police officers for their role in eroding the sense of trust between police and minority communities at the organization’s annual conference Monday in San Diego.
“There have been times when law enforcement officers, because of the laws enacted by federal, state, and local governments, have been the face of oppression for far too many of our fellow citizens,” Cunningham said, according to a press release.
That “dark side of our shared history,” Cunningham said, has created a deep mistrust of police in communities of color.
Cunningham called on law enforcement 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.” But he also said today’s officers are not to blame for past injustices.
“If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them,” Cunningham said, adding that he hopes “by working together, we can break this historic cycle of mistrust and build a better and safer future for us all.”
Cunningham’s remarks come at a time of heightened focus on law enforcement’s relationship with community members, especially minorities. Cunningham did not mention any specific incidents but called it a “challenging time for policing” and said that “events over the past several years” have undermined the public’s trust.
According to The Associated Press, Cunningham received a standing ovation for his remarks.
DeRay McKesson, the co-founder of Campaign Zero, a group that advocates for criminal justice reforms with a goal of ending deaths by police, told the AP he wants to see Cunningham’s comments backed up by “deep, structural changes to policing and the criminal justice system.”
Cunningham has led the Wellesley Police Department for 16 years, and has previously served as the president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police has some 20,000 members worldwide.
Laura F. Nixon