As president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Wellesley Police Chief Terrence Cunningham makes lots of official statements. In recent months, he has issued statements about the 9/11 anniversary, police-related shootings and incidents in places as far away as Bangladesh and Turkey.
But it was his statement — and apology — this week on behalf of police officers for historical injustices that is really getting attention.
During the IACP Annual Conference & Exposition in San Diego, Cunningham remarked:
“I would like to take a moment to address a significant and fundamental issue confronting our profession, particularly within the United States. Clearly, this is a challenging time for policing. Events over the past several years have caused many to question the actions of our officers and has tragically undermined the trust that the public must and should have in their police departments. At times such as this, it is our role as leaders to assess the situation and take the steps necessary to move forward.”
He continued during his talk to reference “darker periods” of policing history and said: “For our part, the first step in this process is for law enforcement and the IACP to acknowledge and apologize for the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.
At the same time, those who denounce the police must also acknowledge that today’s officers are not to blame for the injustices of the past. If either side in this debate fails to acknowledge these fundamental truths, we will be unlikely to move past them.”
Cunningham’s talk has been picked up by media nationwide, including the Washington Post and Teen Vogue. Locally, the Boston Herald’s headline reads: “Wellesley chief rips ‘dark side’ of police history.” An Associated Press story picked up by the Herald is headlined: “Reactions are mixed to Wellesley police chief’s apology.” And this take from the New York Daily News: “Police chief’s apology shows Colin Kaepernick protest is working.“