Issac Bailey

Group should honor Myrtle Beach area police, but justice reform need remains

Grand Strand police officers will be honored this summer by a group of residents hoping to show appreciation for the difficult job law enforcement officials commit to every day.

Given the recent headlines that have millions of Americans protesting and questioning policing tactics, it’s a welcome, even necessary gesture.

I’m just hoping it doesn’t become another escape hatch, yet another way to postpone the long-overdue examination of our country’s criminal justice system, which begins with how we are policed.

“This event helps build a bridge in understanding between law enforcement and the community to acknowledge and honor local police departments [and] reinforce the narrative that we are all in crime prevention together,” said Myrtle Beach community activist Bennie Swans, one of the group’s co-chairs and organizer of the annual Martin Luther King Day Jr. breakfast. It’s about “good people coming together to reinforce that there is no contradiction in wanting to support local police departments and good police services that speaks to temperament, fair and just treatment for all citizens.”

The group, which lists 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson as an honorary chairman, includes Horry County Chairman Mark Lazarus, Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes and Rep. Nelson Hardwick among its supporters. It has scheduled a 12:30 p.m. press conference for Monday at Sole Italian Restaurant to announce plans for the event, which is slated for June 12 at Pine Lakes Country Club. Kelvin Washington, a U.S. Marshal for South Carolina, is listed as the keynote speaker.

Each area police department will receive a plaque to “reinforce the narrative that we appreciate our police officers in their daily pursuit of providing safety to all residents and that our community stands with them,” Swans said. “Clearly there has been no period in recent history where law enforcement has faced such a barrage of incidents that have shaken the public trust of police departments throughout our nation. There seems to be a lack of communication between the police and certain groups, and the public wants to see a Grand Strand community that works together to promote harmony, dignity and respect.”

We are in a time of much angst. For the Myrtle Beach area, it began last May with the violence that erupted Memorial Day weekend, and has continued with the anticipation of this year’s event, the public safety planning for which has been underway for months.

The national narrative about policing hit close to home a few weeks ago when a North Charleston police officer was caught in a bystander’s phone video shooting a man in the back multiple times.

Police have been under the microscope as they have never before.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those who choose to wield the power society has granted law enforcement officials should be questioned, should be challenged, should be made to account for their actions, even if the conversation gets muddled and sometimes over-bearing.

There is no contradiction in supporting good police work while insisting that we keep long overdue reform top of mind.

Hardworking police officers should be appreciated.

But the uncomfortable public conversation about policing must continue.

Contact ISSAC BAILEY at ibailey@thesunnews.com or on Twitter @TSN_IssacBailey.

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