The president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police yesterday issued a formal apology to the nation’s minority population “for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color ” the Washington Post reports. Terrence Cunningham, the chief of police in Wellesley, Ma., spoke at the IACP convention in San Diego. His statement came as police executives grapple with tense relationships between officers and minority groups after high-profile civilian deaths in New York City, South Carolina, Minnesota and elsewhere, the sometimes violent protests that have ensued, as well as the ambush killings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Top police chiefs have long recognized the need to maintain good relations with communities, of all races and not allow an us-versus-them mentality to take root, either in their rank-and-file officer corps or in the neighborhoods where their citizens live. Cunningham’s comments are an acknowledgement of police departments’ role in exacerbating tensions and a way to move forward and improve community relations. “Events over the past several years,” Cunningham said, “have caused many to question the actions of our officers and has tragically undermined the trust that the public must and should have in their police departments…” He said the “dark side” of police history has created a multigenerational — almost inherited — mistrust between many communities of color and their law enforcement agencies.” Jeffery Robinson of the American Civil Liberties Union called Cunningham’s statement “a very significant admission” that is “long overdue.”