Empathetic humanity is the route to police reform

As with most of you, I have struggled with the extremely disturbing images of the killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of several Memphis police officers.

Baltimore is no stranger to this sort of violence.

The killing of Freddie Gray in 2015 shook Baltimore to its core. In some respects, Gray’s death placed Baltimore at the tipping point of the Black Lives Matter movement, which would find its political voice in the 2020 presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

But in watching the video of the African American police officers who beat and kicked Tyre Nichols, we are confronted with this question: Do Black police officers value Black lives?

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In earlier eras, African Americans looked out for each other because the larger society was either overtly racist or instituted legal barriers of discrimination that did not allow for equal protection under the law. The gains from the Civil Rights Movement brought people of color and others who faced discrimination protection under the umbrella of justice.

Perhaps the question is: What if there is a problem within the foundation of our larger society?

Most of the conversations stemming from Tyre Nichols death have revolved around increased police training or implementing policies to mitigate the violent actions of police officers in our communities.

But central to the concerns raised about 21st century policing just might be an absence of teaching how important each individual human life is. Is the loss of instruction of empathy partly to blame for the horrific killing of Tyre Nichols? How can we expect police officers to value the lives of the people they interact with — at traffic stops, for example — when they have not been taught such a basic truth? Should we expect this training in empathetic humanity to be taught and mastered in the police academy or ongoing professional development?

These are especially important questions for people of color. In a place like Baltimore, one would expect an officer of color to be at least sympathetic to a fellow person of color, or even perhaps a positive advocate in interactions between their fellow officers and people in the community. But what if that is not the case? Does that absence of an advocate necessitate an unavoidable negative and possibly life-threatening experience?

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Recent police recruitment policies in Baltimore City and surrounding jurisdictions have sought to increase people of color to better represent the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. Meeting demographic goals in recruitment and hiring is not equal to finding people who have a heart for service. It is up to our society and its leaders to teach our children and our neighbors to teach empathetic humanity in valuing the lives of their fellow human beings.

Tony Campbell, Towson

Tony Campbell is a political science faculty member at Towson University.

Maryland needs to fully implement paid family and medical leave law

Maryland’s paid family and medical leave law can deliver very significant benefits to families. As a physician for 45 years, I am eager to see the full and equitable implementation of this program as soon as possible.

Following an illness, an injury or a surgery, patients need a critical amount of time to heal. Too often, adequate time and support are not available because caregivers can lose their wages or their jobs altogether. I have seen, firsthand, the struggle of working parents to provide extended care for their children with chronic conditions when their paycheck is sacrificed.

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Similarly, working Marylanders with older parents often must choose between caring for their loved one with dementia, a stroke, cancer or another serious illness and losing their income, even temporarily. Also, as a physician and mother, I understand the special need for new parents to spend time bonding with their infants so mother, father and child can experience better health outcomes.

With paid family and medical leave, Maryland can put all our families and our communal wellbeing at the forefront of our priorities.

Dr. Sally Pinkstaff, Baltimore

Dr. Pinkstaff is an endocrinologist and a member of the Committee to Protect Health Care.

Lutherville/Timonium redevelopment must rely on facts, history

Lutherville/Timonium redevelopment plans must be based on the area’s history and facts about such issues as zoning, the president of the Lutherville Community Association says. (Courtesy of Maryland Transit Administration,)

The Banner on February 1 published two letters from readers who apparently live and/or work 15 to 55 miles from Lutherville Station. I see inaccuracies in their statements, so, let’s focus on the facts.

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This property is next to the Light Rail line, just as it has been next to the same North Central train gauge tracks since 1858. The property and all of Lutherville is within the Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) as defined in 1967. It’s not so much a development line, but a line defining where public water and sewer is provided.

Lutherville was settled in 1852, and most of the homes in the Lutherville Community Association, if not from the historic period, date to the 1950s, long before the URDL was even contemplated. In 1852, it was built as a summer retreat, a hamlet away from Baltimore City. Lutherville has a Community Conservation Plan approved by the Baltimore County Council and a National Historic District designation.

As for transit, this area already has a significant transit infrastructure, but there is no level of ridership that justifies pairing another Light Rail system one block away. What is warranted are numerous transit technology improvements and smaller infrastructure improvements along the existing Light Rail line to provide express service to key destinations. We support that as well as many specific improvements to the existing transportation systems in our area.

As for apartments, we as a community embrace apartments. We have several apartment complexes within our borders. They are our neighbors and our friends. But what is different here at Lutherville Station is that it is zoned as commercial and has been since before 1950. Our parents and our families bought and built here with that understanding.

So those arguing against apartments are doing so because this a commercial property. It is not zoned for anything remotely residential. The developer has not been suggesting anything in line with the current zoning.

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So, before you judge us, please consider the facts.

Pamela K. Shaw, Lutherville

Pamela K. Shaw is president of the Lutherville Community Association.

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