More than ten years ago, when I was working for the federal government in Chicago, I noticed a police car following closely behind me on the road. I made sure I was at, or below, the speed limit while the cops trailed me for another two miles before pulling me over. At my window, they asked whose car I was driving, and when I told them it was mine, they questioned how I could afford such a car. I was cuffed and placed in the backseat of the squad car while they ran my license and searched my car without permission. Eventually, they allowed me to leave.

It was a horrible incident, but one I was prepared for — black parents often tell their children to be ready for these kinds of interactions — and I feel blessed I made it out alive.

In the weeks since George Floyd’s murder, protests have occurred in all 50 states, as well as across the world. While some protesters, like Antifa, certainly have other agendas, please make no mistake about it: The core of these protests is to demand genuine change in how our police interact with black Americans.

Some of my friends on the right see this only as an attack on law enforcement and sanction of lawlessness, and I can assure you this is not the case.

As a black conservative, one who believes in the essential ideals of law, self-determination, and justice, such reform is urgently needed. And the many voices now insisting for legitimate change to a system that has historically targeted and abused African Americans is warranted. Demanding our law enforcement be held to a high standard is not an attack or a zero-sum game; it’s the opportunity for real and positive transformation.

As the former spokesperson for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives from 2016 to 2018, I had the honor of serving with law enforcement at the highest levels. The leadership of that organization has, for years, been advocating for change via race sensitivity training, the increased recruitment of African-American officers and national use-of-force guidelines, as well as many other policies to help prevent another George Floyd tragedy from ever happening.

Breonna Taylor (left) was shot eight times by Louisville police after officers forced their way inside her home and Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot in Georgia while jogging.
Breonna Taylor (left) was shot eight times by Louisville police after officers forced their way inside her home and Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot in Georgia while jogging.Courtesy of Family of Breonna Taylor/AFP via Getty Images; facebook

Situations like the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have been occurring in our communities for decades. Examples from my hometown of Chicago include Jon Burge, a former police commander indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges related to the systematic torture of mostly black suspects in police custody from 1972 to 1991. Burge had tortured more than 200 suspects and forced confessions to crimes they didn’t commit, costing Chicago and the state of Illinois more than $100 million in police brutality settlements. Over the two decades this occurred, the suspects, most African Americans, were not believed by other authorities or the court of public opinion; just as many other black people have been shouting about their experiences with law enforcement and not believed until very recently due to the phenomenon of cellphone videos.

Two Supreme Court decisions in the ’80s — Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor — established the framework for determining when deadly force by the police is acceptable, including incidents where the officer considers his or her actions to be “objectively reasonable” at the time. These rulings have invoked anger and resentment by many, especially members of the black community. As many of us see, these decisions have allowed some police officers to escape accountability in many cases where an unarmed black person has been killed by the police. Therefore, reform is desperately needed.

Most Americans agree. Nearly 7 out of 10 Americans believe Floyd’s death is part of a broader systemic problem, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll. George Floyd’s murder has moved beyond national conversation into legislative action, causing both parties in Congress to offer bills on police reform.

Former Police Commander Jon Burge, was brought up on charges related to the systematic torture of mostly black suspects in police custody from 1972 to 1991.
Former Police Commander Jon Burge was brought up on charges related to the systematic torture of mostly black suspects in police custody from 1972 to 1991.Tribune News Service via Getty Images

If the draw of human justice and/or saving lives isn’t enough for you, as a fiscal conservative, reform is necessary because there’s a cost to police brutality. In 2017, New York City paid a record $302 million for police-misconduct lawsuits. Other cities are also paying millions in lawsuits, which raises taxes on the residents of these areas. This money could be far better spent on police training, race sensitivity education, recruiting more African-American cops, and community outreach, where large police departments send officers into the community to build relationships with local leaders and organizations — all critical ingredients to success. Some are foolishly calling for defunding police departments across the country, a move many liberals support and are actually implementing. I disagree, especially when departments need our financial support now more than ever to achieve the very changes we’re demanding.

Since I was pulled over more than a decade ago, I’ve had encounters with police across the country, some very positive, others not so much — but still, I believe the overwhelming majority of police officers are good people who put their lives on the line every day for our protection. It is fair, and obligatory, to demand transformation in racial justice while we also support those tasked with fulfilling that change.

Gianno Caldwell is a Fox News Political Analyst and the author of “Taken for Granted: How Conservatism Can Win Back the Americans That Liberalism Failed” (Crown Forum), out now.

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