If you needed a refresher on your high school civics classes, Nashville police Chief Steve Anderson has you covered. Anderson posted a message Friday on the city's government website intended for the Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County on how well the city has been handling the protests and demonstrations over Ferguson, Missouri.
In the post, Anderson included a letter from one citizen, along with his incredibly thoughtful response that included the simple but often overlooked fact: "The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people — for all people."
The original letter: A decidedly pro-cop citizen wrote to Anderson to express his "frustration and outrage at how the situation of these protesters is being handled in Nashville," saying that when protesters' marching shuts down the interstate, "Instead of at least threatening to arrest them, they were served coffee and hot chocolate," adding, "I don't feel that is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It sends a message that they can do whatever they want and will be rewarded." The concerned citizen also wrote that he feels Nashville has become less safe and is worried about his family and his son.
The amazing response: While Anderson could have probably ignored the letter, he took the time to smartly and poignantly deconstruct the man's thoughts, item by item and address his concerns. Here are some highlights:
1. Anderson addresses the man's feeling that his opinions represent a "majority" and urges him to consider other points of view:
"It is only when we go outside that comfort zone and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don't agree with that we can make an informed judgment on any matter. We can still disagree and maintain our opinions, but we can now do so knowing that the issue has been given consideration from all four sides."
2. In offering an explanation as to what the man should tell his son about respecting police officers:
"First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people — for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views."
3. And in offering other lessons the man might teach his son:
"Nashville, and all of America, will be even more diverse when your son becomes an adult. Certainly, tolerance, respect and consideration for the views of all persons would be valuable attributes for him to take into adulthood."
A powerful message: As thoughts of "us versus them" mentalities vis-à-vis law enforcement and protesters creep into the national dialogue, Anderson was right to remind this citizen of the role of the Nashville police force, or any police force for that matter. They are not some kind of goon squad that goes after troublemakers or people who try to incite change, especially when they do it peacefully, which, as Anderson pointed out, has been the case so far with all demonstrations in Nashville.
Read the full letter below: