By Chuck Hughes
The word that resonates throughout all of the madness occurring in our nation today is conversation. An open and honest dialog is the most difficult thing to achieve even here in Northwest Indiana. We all seem to shy away from facing our own inner demons.
First let me make a few assertions. Black people discriminate against each other and yes white people do discriminate against blacks. There is black on black crime and proportionately more white people kill white people than do blacks. So now let us proceed from the vantage point that there is no need to assign blame because we all have responsibility in where our world is currently today and we all have equal responsibility to make America the land that we purport it to be.
I want to share my thoughts about a subject that I have a great deal of knowledge and experience about. I want to weigh in on the public safety debate that is currently taking place. Am I qualified to do so? I worked 34 years as a member of the Gary Fire department assuming several ranks and titles. I was the public safety chairman for the Gary City Council on several occasions. I served first as Vice Chair and later as Chairperson for the National League of Cities Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee.
As a retiree today I greet Fire, Police and EMS personnel as heroes wherever I encounter them. No one respects what they do in the performance of their duties any more than I do. I was one of them for a long time. But anyone who has worked in public safety realizes that not everyone who takes the oath lives up to the principles of the position. Most do. But no one is above responsibility and accountability. Even facing inherent danger does not absolve one of guilt and responsibility to perform your job in a lawful and compassionate manner. Is there citizen responsibility to comply with the commands of the officers and not put the officer in a difficult position? Absolutely.
We often hear of the code of silence that exists on some departments. When that is allowed to be part of the fabric it unfairly maligns the majority of good officers. With the presence of advanced technology such as cameras and cell phones, entire departments are labeled as crooked and dirty. Well-meaning officers have a responsibility as do the public to see something and say something. Good deeds performed by public safety employees do not often make it to CNN or burn up the internet. When you take the job you are mindful of the positive aspects that seem unappreciated. You only receive notoriety when one of your members behave outside of the very law that you swear to uphold. That is so unfair to the other 90% + who are dedicated to serving the community.
As a nation, as a state and as a city, we are better than that. Both public safety and the community are dependent upon each other. In fact each is indispensable to the other. It starts with an open conversation. Next there has to be mutual respect. It is the job of the public safety employee to protect the people but we must understand that they are people too.
So when we pledge allegiance let us not simply honor the symbol but let us respect our neighbors. Remember that “Community Civility Counts.” # Together We Win!
Charles “Chuck” Hughes is Executive Director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce