As the nation's top news stories have recently shown us, our country is dealing with more and more racial division. Because of this, law enforcement personnel are faced with unique — and often violent — situations in which they must protect individuals on both sides.
Critics say both Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police stood on the sidelines Saturday as skirmishes erupted between white nationalists and members of Antifa, a broad movement of left-leaning groups. The two groups confronted each other in Emancipation Park with shields and pepper spray.
It wasn't until police declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency that police ordered the gathering to break up and scattered the crowds throughout the city.
In the aftermath, many of the white nationalist rally goers and the counter protesters agreed on one point — that the police did not do enough to prevent the violence as the crowds grew and tensions flared. Law enforcement officers must be able to recognize potentially violent situations before they happen and act preemptively to stop them. This includes having enough staff present so that they are not outnumbered.
Planning is one thing, but when you’re in the eye of the storm law enforcement needs to discourage confrontation. To not do anything, hoping that eventually both sides will disperse, is just asking for trouble.
Charlottesville is an example of what happens when various offices and agencies don’t work together. You have the mayor, city council, police chief and even the governor’s office all saying more could have been done but deflecting the blame. These entities must share the responsibility and realize that they are all on the same team.
Also, more needs to be done between the police and the communities they serve. Whether it's Charlottesville or Baltimore or Charleston or Ferguson, there is a dire need to have community re-engagement between local citizens and officials nationwide. Communities and its citizens need to work together and not against one another.
It’s true that bigger cities like New York or Washington, D.C., have more experience in these kind of matters and may have handled a situation such as what happened in Charlottesville differently. That being said, every municipality and city and town around the country needs to learn from what occurred in Charlottesville and ask themselves some tough questions, such as whether they are prepared and, if not, what they need to do to make sure they are.
History teaches us to learn from our mistakes. Let’s hope that other cities in America took note of what occurred in Charlottesville so that we avoid such senseless violence in the future.