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Let’s not undermine BLM

By RICHARD GIARDINO

Fulton County Sheriff

Having served for 40 years in the criminal justice system, as a defense attorney, an elected district attorney, county court judge and currently as the sheriff of Fulton County, I offer some thoughts on the current situation. I presided over 200 jury trials as a judge including numerous homicide cases.

The color of the accused or of the deceased shouldn’t matter. The deceased person’s family is traumatized and a part of each of them dies with their loved one. I have presided over cases where whites were convicted of killing whites, where blacks were convicted of killing blacks, where whites were convicted of killing blacks and blacks were convicted of killing whites. The vast majority of whites who have been killed, have been killed by whites and the vast majority of blacks, who have been killed, have been killed by blacks.

As a young black male, the greatest threat of a felonious death comes from other young black males, not the police. Fifty percent of those identified with killing a police officer are white and 40 percent are black. Unarmed blacks killed by police are the smallest category of deaths. Unfortunately, these facts perpetuate the distrust between police and the minority community.

We need an honest dialogue on race relations in America, focused on solutions. Since 1619, when the first slaves were brought to America, there has been racism. This conversation will be extremely uncomfortable for most people. The proverbial “race card”, must be off the table, as it always inhibits true dialogue.

The public shaming and firing of people who simply express their First Amendment right to voice their opinion that “all lives matter”, does nothing to allow for a dialogue. Whites need to be educated on why “All Lives Matter”, while true, undermines the intent of “Black Lives Matter”. “BLM” is in reaction to the deaths of blacks by law enforcement. The BLM movement is similar to the 1960s “Black is Beautiful” movement. “Black is Beautiful” was started to counteract the white cultural notion that blacks were less attractive than whites.

A true dialogue must include a discussion of both prejudice and racism. It is wrong to make broad generalizations about blacks based on our prejudices or implicit bias, or the conduct of a few. It is also wrong to make broad generalizations about the police because of a few bigoted, morally corrupt individuals who shouldn’t be police officers.

Like most Americans, I was repulsed by the killing of George Floyd. I immediately and publicly condemned the police officer’s actions and stated that he should be charged with homicide. He would be entitled to all his trial rights, including the presumption of innocence and being proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I supported and stood with peaceful protesters. I condemned rioters who created and took advantage of the chaos.

A fair discussion about police conduct must include a conversation about why it is important to comply with a routine arrest by police and not to resist, resisting only escalates the situation. This is not blaming the suspect, it is just good advice whether you’re white or black. I have been stopped a number of times by police while driving, like most whites, I have never wondered if it was because of the color of my skin. If I were black I would wonder everytime.

Knee-jerk passing of sweeping legislation, without a thorough review and without input from professional law enforcement officers, undermines BLM. It further divides us with the perception that it is the rioters that are being rewarded, not the thousands of peaceful protestors.

I leave you with this thought: A loved one is involved in a tragic accident. Police, fire and EMS respond. They do their jobs and save your loved one. They do so without regard to the religion, race, gender or the political affiliation of the injured person. Likewise, do you give any thought to the religion, race, gender or political affiliation of the persons who saved your loved one?

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